European Commission presents new EU budget proposal and Recovery Plan for Europe

On 27 May, EU Commission President von der Leyen presented the European Commission’s updated proposal for the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027 as well as for a European recovery instrument after the COVID-19 pandemic.

New priorities that emerged in the light of the corona crisis and a lack of agreement among EU member states had made it necessary to revise the budget originally presented by the Commission as early as May 2018. The work programme for 2020 was also adjusted (see infobox).

In addition to the regular 7-year EU budget of 1100 billion euros, the Commission proposes a new recovery instrument called NextGenerationEU, to be embedded in the EU budget and endowed with 750 billion euros. The budget estimate for the new EU budget proposal is lower than the Commission’s original proposal of May 2018, but higher than the proposal made by EU Council President Michel in February this year.

With the recovery plan, we are turning the immense challenge into an opportunity (…): The European Green Deal and digitalisation will boost employment and growth and promote the resilience of our societies and the sustainability of our environment.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on the new budget proposal

What does the new EU budget proposal mean for education and research?

The current Commission proposal provides for a significant increase in the Erasmus+ budget compared to the current programme generation, but falls short of the original proposal of May 2018. The EU Commission currently proposes 24.6 billion euros (in 2018 prices) or 27.89 billion euros (in current prices) for the Erasmus+ programme.

These are 1.8 billion euros (7%) less than in its budget proposal of May 2018. A tripling of the Erasmus+ budget, as demanded by the European Parliament and supported by Commission President von der Leyen when she took office in autumn 2019, seems thus becoming less important in the current discussions.

The new budget proposal provides for additional resources for EU research cooperation. The budget of the Horizon Europe programme will be increased to a total of 94.4 billion euros (in 2018 prices) or 105.8 billion euros (in current prices), in particular to support research and innovation activities in the fields of health, climate and digitalisation.

The amount is made up of 80.9 billion euros from the long-term EU budget and an additional 13.5 billion euros from the recovery plan. This represents an overall increase of 10.9 billion euros compared to the 2018 budget proposal.

What happens next?

The Commission aims to reach a political agreement among member states on the new proposal before the summer break in order to reach an agreement with the European Parliament on the budget and on sector-specific EU programmes in autumn 2020.

In general, a majority of MEPs supported the Commission’s proposal for the new budget and recovery instrument. However, the committees responsible for education and research have highly critised the sector-specific approaches. The chair of the Committee on Education and Culture described the budget for Erasmus+ as “deeply disappointing”; the Research Committee described the proposals for Horizon Europe as “not enough”.

The adjusted Commission work programme 2020

The updated timetable of the 2020 work programme foresees the following changes in education and research:

  • The updated Digital Education Action Plan (DEAP) and the updated Skills Agenda for Europe will not be presented until the 3rd quarter of the year. The DEAP is not expected to be published before the summer break.
  • The Communication on the Future of Research and Innovation and the European Research Area is also postponed to the 3rd quarter of the year.

To the Commission communication on the adjusted work programme
To the adjusted Annex I of the work programme

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