Heads of state meeting in Brussels approved the changes on February 1 after Germany rejected the Commission's proposal to add 100 billion euros to the EU's multi-annual budget. The deal unleashes a 50 billion euro aid package for Ukraine
The budget of the Horizon Europe R&D program will be cut by 2.1 billion euros and will stand at 95.5 billion euros. At the same time, the Union's military research budget will be increased by 1.5 billion euros. The cut in funding for the research program is part of €64.6 billion in changes to the EU's multi-annual budget to deal with the rising costs of supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia.
Most of that sum, €50 billion, will go to Ukraine, but the EU also needs more money for migration and border management, foreign aid to other neighboring countries, and an extra €1.5 billion in cash for the European Defense Fund (EDF), the EU's main R&D fund. military technologist.
EU leaders agreed that they will continue to discuss issues related to defense technology at their next meeting in March.
Another part of the cut will be used to increase the Union's capabilities by building the Strategic Technologies Platform for Europe (STEP), a new mechanism for targeted investments in deep-tech, cleantech and biotech. This is to ensure that the European Union can compete with the USA and China in these areas.
The budget agreement had been on the table since December, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban then wanted to include a clause in the aid package for Ukraine that would have given Hungary a veto on aid payments to Ukraine every year. Instead of a veto, EU leaders persuaded Orban to agree to an annual review of the aid package.
The agreement is positive for Ukraine, which is having difficulty fending off Russian attacks, as its internal resources are dwindling and aid from the West is stalled due to political opposition in Brussels and the US.
The budget cut comes amid repeated warnings from the research community and the European Union's research commissioner, Ileana Ivanova. In a recent hearing at the European Parliament's Industry and Research Committee, Ivanova said that Horizon Europe's previous program, Horizon 2020, is severely underfunded and needs an additional €159 billion to fund all the quality proposals already approved under it.
In the meantime, talks are already starting regarding the follow-up program of Horizon Europe, FP10, which should start in 2028. Some MEPs called on the Commission to propose a budget of at least €200 billion, while European Research Council President Maria Leptin said the budget for FP10 should be at least double that of Horizon Europe.
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