The European Commission released estimates on Wednesday saying that delays in implementing the EU’s next research budget, Framework Programme 9, would result in the loss of more than 12,000 jobs, including 5,000 research jobs lost each month.
Negotiations for the next long-term EU budget, known as the multiannual financial framework, will soon be underway. The European Commission hopes to agree the next budget, which spans from 2021 to 2027, by European Parliament elections in May 2019.
However, the commission has raised concerns that the process will drag on. Negotiations to agree the 2014-2020 budget lasted more than 18 months, with the budget finalised only in December 2013. As a result, there were delays in both investments and support for “much needed projects and reforms,” according to the commission.
This year, EU leaders face the added challenge of filling a budget gap of more than €12 billion resulting from the UK’s departure from the bloc. To help make up for this, the commission wants to increase member state contributions of EU gross national income to between 1.1% and 1.2%. Contributions are currently 1% of combined gross national income, which is on average only one 50th of the amount European residents pay in income tax.
Even if taxpayer contributions are increased, spending cuts may still be necessary in several areas. The commission said it does not plan on decreasing the budget for research or the Erasmus student exchange programme. However, EU agriculture and cohesion policies, which together comprise 70% of the current budget, could face significant cuts to make room for increased spending on immigration controls, security, and defence.
The commission warned of the impact delays in agreeing the budget would have, noting the high opportunity cost. New programs would not be launched on time, making it more difficult to achieve their goals. Delays would also have economic impacts and could slow the momentum of economic recovery.
“Delays have real consequences for people,” said the commission. Funding and program implementation delays in the next research framework programme could cause a loss of 5,000 research jobs each month (3-4% of all EU research jobs), with 7,000 jobs lost in the wider economy. Over the same period, more than 200 research publications would be lost, including around 100 high-impact articles, according to the commission’s estimates.
Research is not the only area that would be affected. EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that delays in selecting projects would mean “more than 100,000 EU-funded projects – in key areas like business support, energy efficiency, health care, education and social inclusion – would not be able to start on time, and hundreds of thousands of young people would not be able to benefit from an Erasmus+ exchange in 2021.” Large-scale infrastructure and space projects, such as Rail Baltica and Galileo, would also be significantly impacted by delays.
Next Friday, EU leaders will meet to discuss their priorities for the budget and identify areas of mutual concern. After “intensive consultations” with the European Parliament, member states, and the public, the commission will present its proposal for the budget in May.