Earlier this week, the European Commission presented its new budget proposal of €1,100 billion, along with a €750 billion reconstruction programme to help deal with the impact of the coronavirus. The budget also includes €94.4 billion for Horizon Europe. According to the Commission, this money should be spent primarily on health research, on ‘resilience in Europe’, and on the digital and green transitions.
At the start of this year, shortly before the coronavirus reached Europe, the European budget was already the subject of some tough talking in Brussels. Back then, the European Commission was already proposing to earmark €94 billion for Horizon Europe, as well as 1.11 percent of GDP for the entire EU budget.
But the ‘stingy four’ - the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark - opposed spending any more than 1 percent of GDP on the EU. There were already fears that the Horizon Europe budget would be whittled down to a much lower €75 billion.
So what now?
The question is how the Netherlands will respond to the new budget proposals. Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra had previously announced his own recovery programme proposals for member states hit the hardest by the coronavirus. It is not inconceivable that the Netherlands will dig its heels in once again.
Dutch MEP Lara Wolters (Labour Party) believes that in Horizon Europe, the European Commission is correctly prioritising health, the digital transition and the climate crisis. The role of research and innovation will be crucial in these areas, she believes. ‘I’m pleased to see the European Commission taking the first step in this area. And when it comes to research and innovation, the Netherlands traditionally benefits more than most from European funding. I hope the government will recognise this and spare the Horizon programme.’