Stratmann on the EU budget: “Priority for research is a positive signal”

May 04, 2018

The fact that the EU budget is set to grow in future despite Britain’s withdrawal, is unpopular as it puts even more strain on the other member states. From a science perspective, the basic structure of the financial plan is to be welcomed, according to Max Planck President Martin Stratmann. After all, less money is to go to funding agriculture, and more is to be invested in student exchanges, research and innovation — in brief, the future. Here is the exact wording of the statement:

Martin Stratmann

“The EU finds itself at an historically difficult hour and for that reason, there is enormous political pressure on the future EU budget as a central instrument for determining future political priorities. On the one hand, due to Brexit, the annual contribution of the United Kingdom of around 14 billion euros is missing on the revenue side and will have to be made up by payments from other member states — Germany in particular. In view of the global situation, there are also new priorities on the expenditure side such as defence, border controls, migration and the fight against terror. And as if that were not enough, a new nationalism in important member states is straining pan-European solidarity. Why pay for faraway Brussels?

In view of this overall situation, the proposal from the EU Commission for a multiannual financial framework of the EU is certainly bold. Only two budget items are set to receive more money. As a result of doubling “Erasmus+” to 30 billion euros, more young academics will be able to travel through Europe and make new contacts. And increasing funding for the research framework programme by around 30 percent to almost 100 billion euros is a tribute to the importance of research and innovation in times of global competition for knowledge and technology. So we are investing in the future — and this in a visible manner as traditional areas such as agricultural subsidies are being cut.

The political process will show whether the EU Commission is too ambitious with its 1.2 trillion euro budget for the years 2021 to 2027. There is some reason to believe that the member states will impose a cap here — in some cases, perhaps, more in an effort to protect the European Union in view of divergent forces. But even if expenditure rises less steeply, the prioritization of research and innovation adopted by the EU Commission is crucial. In the new research framework programme which is now the ninth of its kind, the focus is to be on efficient structures and a consistent orientation towards excellence. In the European Research Council (ERC), the flagship of European research funding, applications evaluated as excellent are already failing to gain approval. A significant portion of the funding increase for research planned by the EU Commission should therefore go towards the ERC’s budget. There is no shortage of ideas and scientific excellence in Europe, but there is a lack of corresponding funding.”

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