President. – The next item is the report by Mr Böge, on behalf of the Committee on Budgets, on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council amending the Interinstitutional Agreement of 17 May 2006 on budgetary discipline and sound financial management as regards the multiannual financial framework, to address additional financing needs of the ITER project
Reimer Böge, rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, a majority of this House wants to give ITER, the international nuclear fusion project, a chance. This international project is led by the European Union, and Council has granted it EUR 6.5 billion up to 2020 as the EU’s contribution – representing 45% of the total funding. This EUR 6.5 billion includes additional financing needs of EUR 1.3 billion, and that is what we are concerned with now. I must state that I hope that ITER will now continue with improved project management. At the same time, however, this House insists that other priorities in research and innovation are not sacrificed as a result of the additional financing needs of ITER.
Over the past year we have not succeeded in finding a solution, in reaching a compromise on the additional financing needs. We have quite rightly separated the 2012 budget procedure from the resolution of the ITER question. In the second round the trialogue reached a conclusion, which was firstly to take EUR 100 million from ITER’s budget lines in the 2012 budget and secondly to revise the ceiling for Heading 1a upward by a total of EUR 840 million in 2012 and 2013, and in return to decrease Headings 2 and 5 by the same amount. That is relatively uncontroversial.
After significant struggles we then agreed on the following wording: that a third tranche of EUR 360 million should come from transfers to be made in the 2013 budget within the ceilings of the financial framework. The text of the trialogue conclusions states that this allows all the options open to us under the Financial Regulation and the Interinstitutional Agreement, without requiring a revision.
So far, so good. The Committee on Budgets approved the trialogue conclusions by a large majority. Unfortunately, I have to report that at yesterday’s decision by the Permanent Representatives Committee, six Member States – Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom – then added that they regret that it is not specified where the funding for 2013 is to come from. Let me quote in English:
‘With regard to the draft budget 2013, the Commission is therefore asked to determine the required appropriations for ITER without using the negative reserve, the flexibility instrument or margins’.
rapporteur. – (DE) This is a highly provocative statement. It is not a clever statement; it is politically stupid and brash. It amounts to nothing less than a pre-emptive blocking minority in the Council which breaks and destroys both the spirit and the substance of the compromise reached right at the outset. We had not banked on that. We will have to talk about it again immediately after the debate in the Committee on Budgets.
I would recommend to the groups in this House that we vote in favour of the report on the revision – that we stick to the agreement. At the same time, however, I would say that we are only in a position to guarantee the EUR 360 million for 2013 if, as regards the draft budget for 2013, the Commission acts strictly on the basis of the trialogue conclusions and does not eagerly go along with this blocking minority in the Council. We can only guarantee the EUR 360 million if the Council is willing and able to act on the basis of the trialogue conclusions, making full use of the provisions laid down in the Financial Regulation and in the IIA. Parliament needs to nail its colours to the mast. We must put an end once and for all to the way in which some parts of Council treat Parliament and are not prepared to conduct substantive and budgetary discussions. That is why Parliament must make a stand tomorrow.
Maria Damanaki, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, dear Members of Parliament, after more than eighteen months of discussions, the Commission welcomes the political agreement finally reached by the European Parliament and the Council on the financing of the experimental reactor ITER in the years 2012 and 2013.
This is the second piece of good news in the last few weeks as far as the EU budget is concerned. On 1 December, Parliament adopted the 2012 budget, including part of the additional amount required by ITER. This week Parliament is asked to agree on almost a billion euro increase in the expenditure ceiling of Heading 1a, under which ITER is financed. The proposed revision of the current multiannual financial framework will provide the fresh money necessary to cover most of the additional financing needs of ITER in 2012 and 2013.
The fact that Parliament and Council are able to take such important decisions, despite the current difficulties in national public finances, is a sign that Europe can and does work. So let us focus on this, let us move forward even in difficult times to promote projects that are expected to have a significant impact for the future of next generations.
I hope that we can stick to the agreement found on the financing of ITER, which takes into account the concerns of both arms of the budgetary authority and strikes the right balance between fresh money and funds available within the existing expenditure ceilings. The decision to revise the current multiannual financial framework provides certainty to the funding of ITER and enhances the credibility of the Union vis-à-vis its international partners participating in the ITER project.
I would also like to say that the Commission will take on board the statement made by the rapporteur. We have to reflect on that and I think we can come up with a fruitful proposal relating to the upcoming 2013 financial prospects of this project.
I would like also to say that we understand the concerns of some Member States, but we have to stick to this agreement now and see what will happen in the future. In this regard, I would like to thank in particular the rapporteur, Mr Böge, Mr Lamassoure as Chair of the Committee on Budgets, as well as the Polish Presidency for all their efforts to achieve an acceptable compromise. Let us stick to this compromise in the name of the EU’s general interest and in the spirit of loyal interinstitutional cooperation. I am confident that this House will give the deserved support to the resolution proposed by your rapporteur.
Amalia Sartori, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. – (IT) Mr President, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, I too would like to say how pleased we are with the agreement that has been reached.
This opinion was adopted in committee by a large majority. I therefore hope that the agreements will also gain the broadest possible support in this Chamber tomorrow.
The issue of not touching the funds allocated to the Seventh Framework Programme and to research, which was put forward very strongly in committee, met with an agreement that I think safeguards everyone’s interests. At the same time, this approach means that the European Union does not lose trust and credibility and will also remain an international partner, making the most of the investment that has already been made.
Nuclear fusion is a huge challenge for the research community and the energy sector, and Europe will continue to play its part in addressing this challenge.
Monika Hohlmeier, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Ms Damanaki, ladies and gentlemen, firstly, the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Budgetary Control have both paid great attention to ensuring that in future the ITER project will be well managed, its finances will be monitored, its funding will be properly evaluated and the financial increases will be kept within reasonable bounds. However, I believe it is a major problem, in the case of a project established jointly by the Member States, which the Member States have decided on in the Council, when the Council opts in the same breath to increase research funding and extend the financing available for research and this results in cuts in the Seventh Framework Programme for Research, in order to make more money available for ITER. This was not what was originally decided on by the Member States.
Agreement was reached in the trialogue and my admiration goes to the rapporteur who showed the patience of a saint in attempting to ensure that progress was made in the negotiations. I would like to know how we in Europe are supposed to improve our global reputation when we demonstrate that we are lacking in unity and unable to agree in the context of a large international project. Making a note of this kind in the minutes about an amount of EUR 360 million, which retrospectively calls into question a joint compromise reached in the trialogue, is a simply disgraceful way of presenting ourselves to the rest of the world.
We should see ITER as a really important project and Parliament is prepared to do this. However, in this case the Member States need to make some sensible proposals on financing the decision that they have reached, without once again interfering with the field of research.
IN THE CHAIR: DAGMAR ROTH-BEHRENDT Vice-President
Ivailo Kalfin, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (BG) Madam President, I would like to say that the agreement on providing the ITER project with additional resources for the next two years was an extremely tough decision. I wish to congratulate both the rapporteur Mr Böge and the Polish Presidency for helping us reach this agreement which, I will repeat, was very difficult and involved making a few compromises.
I know that various views are held in Parliament about this project and its future. However, this is one of the major, promising scientific projects which may produce a scientific breakthrough and, more specifically, in the energy sector to which the European Union has already made a commitment.
We must be frank about this: such a large scientific project cannot be funded without the European Union making a firm, long-term financial commitment. We reached a fair, acceptable consensus on a few points: the need for an additional EUR 1 300 million; funding of EUR 940 million in 2012. However, the EUR 360 million in funds for next year, 2013, remains to be clarified.
I wish to say in no uncertain terms that we will stick to what we have agreed with the Council under the terms agreed in the joint text. I do not accept what is stated in a unilateral declaration from six Member States, that these funds be provided only by redistributing funds for promoting competitiveness. I want to say to the Commission now that, if it proposes such a budget for 2013, it will be a mistake and it will not be accepted.
IN THE CHAIR: RAINER WIELAND Vice-President
Carl Haglund, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I want to start out by thanking our excellent rapporteur, who has worked persistently on this complicated dossier. The outcome is as good as it can be at this stage.
Let me say very clearly also, in the light of what has been said already concerning some voices within the Council, that, if there are those in the Council who find this agreement reached in the trialogue some weeks back unsatisfactory, there are also many in Parliament who find this solution very unsatisfactory.
I am one of those who feel that this is the best solution that could be found, but it does not make the outcome in any way satisfactory, because we are still going to start redeploying money from Heading 1a, and mainly from the framework programme for research to the ITER project. This is something that Parliament has stated very clearly is not its desire, both in its report on the ITER issue itself, only two part-sessions ago, and also in the Committee on Budgets, in my opinion on the Euratom Treaty, which addressed the issue.
So this should be taken into account by the Council. A compromise is a compromise and this is a fair deal reached in a difficult economic situation.
The Polish Presidency has done a good job, together with our rapporteur and others, in negotiating to find an agreement that is reasonable. We should stick to it. There are no other options. If this deal does not hold, then we are going to have a very hard time finding a deal that will be feasible.
Also, in the light of the fact that the framework programme for research is a programme that is implemented to almost 100%, with huge requests for funding under Heading 1a, and this is also the sector of the budget that is actually driving growth in Europe, we should use all the money available under Heading la for the initial priorities foreseen in the initial MFF, where ITER was not foreseen. This is why we cannot redeploy more than this deal foresees and why we should stick to it.
Helga Trüpel, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Ms Damanaki, ladies and gentlemen, we in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance in this House have two reasons for voting against additional funding for the ITER nuclear fusion reactor. In our view, it is a high-risk technology, because radioactive tritium is needed to provide the heat for the fusion process. Particularly in the year following the Fukushima disaster, the European Union should be doing everything in its power to phase out this type of high-risk technology, rather than developing it further.
However, we do not claim to be able to assess whether the project will be a success. This is an open question, but there are, of course, legitimate doubts about whether it will actually be as successful as the majority of its supporters here are always saying. The problem primarily concerns the additional financing. We have just heard that in the 2012 budget EUR 100 million will be taken away from the Seventh Framework Programme for Research, in other words, from other important investments in research. For 2013, the funding is once again completely unresolved. I can only agree with Mr Böge that the Council has behaved in a completely unfair way and this makes the fundamental attitude of six Member States clear. They are only interested in redistributing the European budget and are obviously no longer willing to admit how important the Europe 2020 strategy is for the European Union and no longer prepared to put their money on the table and invest in new competitiveness.
In particular now, following the outcome of the conference in Durban, it must be obvious that we need to invest in low-carbon technologies which will enable us to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions in a few years, which focus on renewable energy and which are genuinely able to take the European economy forward in this respect. However, that is exactly what is not being done with the ITER nuclear fusion reactor. Instead, urgently needed money is being taken from the area of new competitiveness and spent on the reactor, despite the fact that no one knows whether this project will ever be successful. From a green perspective, this is a case of setting the wrong priorities and, therefore, we will vote against it.
Lucas Hartong (NI). – (NL) Mr President, today is the umpteenth time that the ITER project has come up for discussion. Let it be clear that the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) is not opposed to nuclear research. Moreover, the ITER project is useful for international business and Dutch companies are amongst those who benefit from it; which is a good thing. It would be very difficult for any single Member State to fund a project such as ITER on its own and that is why we are, in principle, in favour of the global financing of this project.
However, what does worry us is the continuing cost overrun for ITER. As much as an additional EUR 1.3 billion over the next two years. For this reason, the current financial framework needs to be reviewed – a process which has been described here as a ‘revision’. The PVV believes this to be a rather peculiar state of affairs, because a unanimous vote in the Council is required before this revision can be approved. We have had a great deal of debate about the specific conditions for additional funding for the ITER project, but the issue of whether or not such significant additional funding will be accepted by the Netherlands, one of the EU’s Member States, remains, in our view, very much open to question.
As far as the PVV is concerned, ITER demands significant sums of money. However, the sheer magnitude of the amount, without the prospect of any firm agreement that future ITER funding will stay within limits, is the reason why we will be voting against the Böge report and against the rising costs of ITER. Please note, Mr Böge, that the Council has the final say in this. Which is just as well!
Salvador Garriga Polledo (PPE). – (ES) Mr President, we sometimes forget during the debates that we are all Europeans, all the Council members and the representatives of the European Parliament; we all want the same thing. It is supposed that we all want the same thing, which is the development of the European Union and, in this case, the pursuit of such a long term and important project as the funding of an experimental fusion reactor that can completely change the energy outlook in Europe.
I am now speaking to you as the rapporteur of the European Parliament report on the next financial perspectives. In this report, we already made a request that large projects, such as ITER, keep their accounting within the structure of the next financial perspectives to avoid the problems we are currently facing with ITER. Under the European Parliament proposal, this debate and these unilateral declarations made by the Council would not have occurred.
I can easily understand the financial restrictions that are placed on the Member States, how can that not be the case if we are part of the Member States? However, we are part of the European institutions, and accordingly, the agreements are there to be fulfilled. We have just come out of a trialogue in which it was evident that the funding for ITER in 2013 cannot occur solely through the redeployment of the category corresponding to research and development, but rather the remaining budgetary tools provided by the Interinstitutional Agreement will have to be used.
We don't prejudge what they are, nor what they should be, nor how much. What we want is to keep the debate open and any kind of unilateral declaration, such as has been made by the Council, goes completely against what Parliament has done for the 2012 budget, that is, being reasonable, open and, in particular, open to dialogue with the other institutions.
Edit Herczog (S&D). – (HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to congratulate the rapporteur, as well as the majority of the Groups in Parliament, on accomplishing this compromise with the Council through joint efforts. This is a major step forward compared to last year. Parliament has always expressed clear support for a knowledge-based economy and the Innovation Union, and this solution definitely follows that path. It is very important to us that a project which simultaneously promotes a knowledge-based economy, a new type of energy economy and a carbon-reducing solution is finally put in its proper place. We consider it crucial that we maintain this course under the next budgetary framework as well.
Knowledge must take priority over austerity. Austerity implemented at all costs will never lead the European Union to success by itself. I, too, regret that six countries formulated separate opinions. I sincerely hope that in the next financial year it will not be the competitiveness chapter from where we draw away funding.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Michèle Rivasi (Verts/ALE), Blue-card question. – (FR) Mr President, I would actually like to inform my fellow Members, since we were there with Ms Herczog in Cadarache, that the ITER project is not insured. Since we are trying to keep the ITER budget under control, I have asked the question twice, and I have been told: ‘But it is not …
(The President asked the speaker to ask her question)
Please can you explain why the ITER project is not insured? Who will pay if there is an accident? Will France alone have to pay? As it is an international project, I would have preferred all the states to contribute.
Edit Herczog (S&D), Blue-card answer. – (HU) Mr President, Parliament’s position in this regard is perfectly clear: we support the Community method in research and development. Here, too, we support the Community method over intergovernmental agreements. This is also our message from here to the Council: Community method with European Parliamentary decision.
Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE). – (PT) Mr President, firstly I should like to congratulate our colleague, Mr Böge, on all the effort he has made and the results he has achieved at the end of a complex process relating to the continuation of the ITER project. ITER is the largest international project of cooperation on scientific research, involving research centres and universities, and is of enormous importance for scientific development.
I welcome the agreement reached on ITER’s funding needs. However, I would stress the concerns expressed by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, and by Parliament in general, relating to the source of funding; that is, funding ITER without affecting the Framework Programme for Science and Innovation of the Seventh Framework Programme.
I would also draw attention to the various mistakes made in the past in the management of the ITER project. Careful and responsible management needs to be ensured in future. I therefore call for an efficient management system to be set up, to ensure that all the requirements for the efficient running of the ITER project are met.
Eider Gardiazábal Rubial (S&D). – (ES) Mr President, ITER is one of the projects of greatest magnitude for the European Union, not only for its scientific importance, but also for the amount of investment that is required.
We have shown our support for this project in the European Parliament on many occasions; we have always been available to both the Council and the Commission for finding the best solutions for this funding issue that has been raised, and there have been several misunderstandings with the Council, but it appears we have finally reached an agreement.
With a lot of will and, in particular, engineered accounting, during the 2012 budgetary negotiations and the trialogue on 1 December, we have found a way to fund that extra EUR 1 300 million so that ITER can continue.
However, it appears that six countries want to turn the screw even further and have signed a unilateral declaration for the EUR 360 million for 2013 to be funded through cutbacks in other programmes.
Firstly, they wanted cutbacks in the Seventh Framework Programme, which was blocked by Parliament as it was clearly connected with the Europe 2020 strategy. Do you recall that strategy? It appears that sometimes, when it comes to money, the existence of this strategy is forgotten. Now, again, they want to propose cutbacks, or rather demand them. Where are these cutbacks to be made? Does it not matter from which programme? It appears that the Council does not mind.
It is the case that their strategy is not even to allocate an additional euro: that is the only strategy that the Council knows how to defend. The only strategy we are going to defend is that no programmes can be cut back to fund ITER.
Barbara Matera (PPE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the ITER project is of international strategic importance to the European Union, which has taken a leading role in this vast research project to guarantee future energy supplies, alongside other countries such as the United States and Russia.
The final agreement on this important project is a victory that aims to secure the continuation of ITER by providing funding for the period 2012-2013.
After a series of complex negotiations in the trialogue, Parliament scored a major success by getting agreement for ITER to be financed with new money secured through a revision of the multiannual financial framework to raise Heading 1a by EUR 840 million, while the remaining EUR 360 million will be made available from within the 2013 budget.
The importance of this agreement lies in the fact that it avoids financing ITER by redeploying funds from the Seventh Framework Programme or from Heading 1a, which are key headings for pulling the European economy out of crisis and which under no circumstances should be jeopardised.
I therefore hope that my fellow Members will vote unanimously tomorrow to support this project, which is crucial for the whole European Union.
Estelle Grelier (S&D). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I find it hard to celebrate the fact that we have reached an agreement with the Council on financing the extra cost of ITER.
The point of these discussions (which muddied the negotiations on the budget) was not simply to find a solution for ITER. The main issue was, in fact, to deal with the underfunding of the European Union budget, which has become a structural problem to the extent that we are now in a position of questioning whether or not the EU has the capacity to honour its international commitments.
The ITER project is yet another illustration of the fact that the EU budget is not adequate to meet either the EU’s ambitions or our strategies. The reason that ITER has become, and will continue to be, one of the greatest sources of ongoing tension between Parliament and the Council is that Member States are demanding ever more from the European Union on the project, but are not willing to bear the financial consequences. By tinkering around the edges, and proposing short term solutions for funding these increasingly costly major projects, Member States are jeopardising the Union’s capacity, from 2013 onwards, to afford the tasks for which it is responsible.
For the period 2014 to 2020, by deciding to remove the ITER and GMES projects from the next financial framework, even though they were both established as research and development projects by a majority vote, the Commission is admitting that it is actually unable to guarantee that the financial resources will be there to meet our responsibilities. This is a serious admission of failure and incapacity.
The Union does not have the wherewithal to abide by its international commitments, and yet research, innovation and energy are among the major aims of the 2020 strategy, along with employment, sustainable development and growth. Pitting these different priorities against each other is not the way to …
(The President cut off the speaker)
Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D). – (RO) Mr President, the proposal for an amendment of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2006 to address the additional financing needs of the ITER project is in line with the Council decision concerning the Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community for nuclear research and training activities (2012-2013), on which we voted in the last part-session.
At the trialogue meeting, Parliament, the Commission and Council agreed to bear the additional cost of EUR 1 300 million for the ITER project in the period 2012-2013 as follows: EUR 100 million already included in the 2012 budget, EUR 360 million by way of a commitment appropriation for 2013, and an increase in the ceilings for the commitment appropriations under Heading 1a of EUR 840 million.
Therefore, on the basis of the knowledge base provided by the European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy, the ITER experimental nuclear fusion reactor which is being built in Cadarache in France could form the basis for the future generation of experimental fusion reactors, and Europe could become a world leader in the construction of such reactors.
Christian Ehler (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, firstly, I would like to thank Mr Böge on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy for his attempts over almost two years to reach a compromise on financing ITER. Even in the light of the Council’s irrational actions, the proposal that he has submitted to us for tomorrow still represents an attempt to find a solution.
However, there are two things I would like to point out. One is that I myself took part in the trialogue negotiations. The Council’s arguments in the trialogue in response to the point made by Parliament that the budget line for ITER was not adequate amounted to a desperate plea for a compromise on this subject in the Seventh Framework Programme for Research. We specifically stated in the trialogue that the surplus costs could not be paid from the first pillar. Therefore, the Council fell into this problem with its eyes open.
As a consequence, for us this can only mean one thing. Horizon 2020 needs its own budget line for the major European research projects, including ITER, Galileo and also Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES). We are now calling on the Commission not just to play a role in the dispute with the Council, but also to take independent action for the future.
Michèle Rivasi (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, I would like to raise two points that I feel are important. When we talk about generating electricity using this fusion, rather than fission reactor, we are talking about starting in 2100. Therefore, it is not really the most important priority at present.
Secondly, people have been talking about keeping the budget under control, and I completely agree. The only problem is that in 2006, the budget was EUR 5 billion, whereas in 2011 it is EUR 15 billion: in other words, three times higher. On top of this, because of Fukushima the Japanese are now saying they will not be able to meet their commitments in two years’ time. This means that ITER will be delayed by another two years.
A third factor, which I mentioned a few minutes ago, is that this is the first time that a facility like ITER, which entails certain risks, primarily of disruption – and I would invite you to read the studies that have been written on the subject – has not been insured.
Why will the Indians, the Chinese and the Russians not insure it? It is because they do not want to increase the ITER budget any further. We are therefore setting ourselves on a collision course, and it would be better to stop now, rather than pour billions into a project that supposedly will be ready by 2100. For this reason, it is time we put an end to ITER.
Jaroslav Paška (EFD). – (SK) Mr President, the European Commission has asked us to revise the Interinstitutional Agreement as regards the Multiannual Financial Framework, in order to provide additional commitment appropriations of EUR 1.3 billion from the EU budget for the ITER project in 2012-2013. According to the documents submitted, this involves the budget-neutral adjustment of a transfer of funds between individual EU budget headings in the 2012-2013 period. I do not wish to cast doubt on the ITER project or its contribution to the development of knowledge and innovation, but the transfer of such a huge sum of money indicates either poor project planning on the part of senior managers or a superficial job by Commission officials in drafting the relevant budgetary frameworks of the Union. It might be possible to accept such a transfer of funds if justified by exceptional circumstances. It must not become a frequently-applied routine procedure, however, undermining the budgetary stability of the EU.
Dimitar Stoyanov (NI). – (BG) Mr President, a few sessions ago we debated that the ‘Food for Free’ programme would not receive any funding in 2013. The resources which we are preparing to give now to the ITER project can fund this very programme on which tens of millions of pensioners and other socially deprived Europeans depend for the next five years.
The ITER project is indeed important. However, I wish to emphasise a point made by the Commissioner that this project is experimental. This means that we are currently pouring into it billions and billions of euros which may produce absolutely no result in the long run, providing no benefit at all from this project. This is why I think that this new proposal is causing an imbalance in the EU’s social and industrial activities, which is wrong and must be prevented.
I also wish to call on the scientific community at this time of crisis, when we are all cutting back, raising the pension age and reducing social gains, for them too to exercise restraint and stick within their budgets.
Elena Băsescu (PPE). – (RO) Mr President, ways have to be identified of producing clean energy on a large scale in order to meet growing global needs. Thermonuclear fusion provides one solution as it is a virtually inexhaustible source of energy which is both safe and carbon-free.
The ITER project focuses on this technology of the future and is also a remarkable model of international cooperation. It must be continued under the best possible conditions, including through the allocation of the necessary financial resources.
I welcome that an interinstitutional agreement has been reached to cover the amount of EUR 1 300 million for the next two years. At the same time, I think that budgetary discipline must be respected and that the process of identifying the necessary funds should not be detrimental to other areas and projects that are important to the European Union.
Maria Damanaki, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I would like to underline again that the Commission welcomes the compromise reached after very difficult discussions. I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for his excellent work, because this was really something very difficult to achieve.
This is an experimental scientific project, but we need to finance it since it is a major project and a major scientific challenge with great prospects. It is also a commitment – an international commitment by the European Union, and we have to show that we can fulfil our commitments and, in spite of the difficult circumstances, the difficult financial situation, we cannot postpone the very important scientific commitments we have already made.
Referring to the objections, we have heard about the commitment of the Japanese Government, referring to the Fukushima accident. Well, of course, the Fukushima accident may have had an influence on their position, but what I would like to make absolutely clear is that in mid-November the Japanese Government came to the ITER Council and committed themselves to fulfilling their obligations. So your argument about the Japanese Government is groundless.
On nuclear liability, which is a great problem and which we understand is a legal problem that is very difficult to solve and very complex, as you have underlined, the ITER organisation and the governments around the table are trying to find a solution. We have to seek a positive way forward, and since we have reached an agreement we have to support it.
One last remark, on the COREPER meeting today. I think that we have to stick to the fact that the compromise was adopted there, despite the different options and different opinions and the statement by some of the Member States. What I can say on behalf of the Commission is that the Commission is sticking to its right of initiative and will come forward next year with a good proposal to Parliament and the Council on the 2013 funding for this project.
IN THE CHAIR: DIANA WALLIS Vice-President
Reimer Böge, rapporteur. – (DE) Madam President, I would like to pick up straight away on what Ms Damanaki said at the end of her speech. Her wording was diplomatic and cautious, but it concerned the commitment to the results of the trialogue. That is exactly what we expect from the Commission, because anyone who does not use their right of initiative correctly under the terms of the agreement will lose their privileges. Therefore, I am assuming that the Commission will apply its right of initiative on the basis of the spirit and the content of the trialogue results. I also assume that certain Member States will not attempt to exert pressure at that point, which could potentially result in the entire structure being destroyed again, because we have only been able to agree on this over three stages and this is the way that we have negotiated it.
In the debate in the Committee on Budgets, we also attempted to look in detail at the management problems mentioned by Mr Paška. We are hoping that this situation will improve in future. It is true that there have been omissions and errors in this area. I would also like to warn the Commission and the Council that before they make international promises like the one made by the Council to the international research community on ITER involving EUR 6.5 billion, which includes the EUR 1.3 billion additional funding, they should speak to Parliament, which is part of the budgetary authority. I would like to remind them that Ms Ferrero-Waldner always took a very positive and constructive approach to consulting with the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Budgets on foreign policy matters. As a result, it was possible to resolve some of the areas of conflict in advance during the course of a sensible discussion.
Finally, Madam Vice-President, I would like to touch on what Mr Ehler mentioned concerning the long-term perspective. We need to make it clear that if we want large projects, whether it is ITER or Galileo, or whatever it might be, we must understand what funding is available for specific periods, so that we do not constantly have to deal with the problem of additional financing. These projects also belong in the European budget, but they must have appropriate funding, so that we can avoid the chaos of the last two years, which always seems to accompany essential large-scale projects of this kind.
Against that background, I would like to ask my fellow Members to vote in favour of the report tomorrow, with the relevant comments that we will submit, but also to make it clear how we plan to resolve the problem of the forthcoming EUR 360 million in the 2013 budget.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 13 December 2011).
Written statements (Rule 149)
António Fernando Correia De Campos (S&D), in writing. – (PT) It is indisputable that we need to support the ITER project, given the international commitments we have made, the importance of ITER for future energy sustainability and its contribution to European technological development. However, it is also indisputable that a project of this kind involves significant technological risks which are unfortunately not uncommon with scientific and technological projects. There are increased planning and management risks with such a highly complex project. In the recent past, inadequate risk management has led to the failure of the project’s budget. We need to put right past mistakes; we need to learn from them; we need to put in place measures to prevent them reoccurring in future. While we accept and understand recourse to funds left over from agriculture and administration, it is regrettable that, to secure the rest of the funding needed for the ITER project, there is an insistence on using funding for the Seventh Programme Framework, since this is a vital tool of budgetary policy for achieving the targets of the Europe 2020 strategy: economic growth, job creation and competitiveness. We need to keep the Union’s strategic priorities clear. It is deplorable that contextual constraints and the established budgetary status quo mean that these are constantly succumbing to attempts to put measures for relaunching European competitiveness beyond reach.
Alajos Mészáros (PPE), in writing. – (HU) In order to overcome the increasingly intense energy crisis, Europe needs to secure the conditions of sustainable long-term energy supply. Nuclear fusion could provide a sustainable solution for energy problems at both European and global level. The process does not generate any greenhouse gases or long-lived radioactive wastes, and could therefore become a permanent large-scale basic energy source that ensures sustainable development. ITER demonstrates and perfects the key technologies that are required for the development of fusion as a safe and environmentally sound energy source, with regard to which Europe has been at the forefront of research for the past 50 years. We are all aware that its construction represents an extraordinary challenge, not only from a financial, but also from a technical standpoint. The EU cannot ignore the matter of political prestige in this regard either. In the upcoming period implementation will require commitments of an additional EUR 1 300 million, out of which EUR 100 million have already been included in the 2012 budget. Together with the Council and the Commission, the European Parliament must elaborate a proposal on ensuring the balance as soon as possible. I believe that ITER will bring about the revolutionary breakthrough it promises, which could provide a key solution to our energy problems in the long term.
Franz Obermayr (NI), in writing. – (DE) While in conventional nuclear power stations energy is generated by nuclear fission, ITER is aimed at generating energy from nuclear fusion. This is the crucial difference from current nuclear power. Nuclear fission gives rise to long-term radiation and highly toxic substances that represent an enduring danger to man and the environment. In contrast, the residual products from nuclear fusion are far less radioactive. ITER could therefore pave the way for a sustainable source of energy, even if its use for power generation is still a long way off. ITER should therefore be given sufficient resources. Europe must stick to its guns and promote research with potential for the future. However, we need greater transparency and better cost estimates: exceeding the original budget by more than 300% is not acceptable. Moreover, continual increases in funding must not become the norm.
Vladimír Remek (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (CS) We sometime take decisions that may not bear fruit for the people of the EU for decades. Often, the position we take will influence life only for our children, whilst we will sometimes not even be able to confirm whether we have voted for a sensible project. The ITER project is one of these. The prospect of success with nuclear fusion is nonetheless very alluring, and to be honest, we do not have many options for the situation when our energy sources run out. I am therefore convinced of the need to support the ITER project. Yes, it is expensive, and yes, the outcome is not 100% certain, but there is a chance here. Humanity will not develop and move on without courage decisions. We should therefore finance programmes as ambitious as the nuclear fusion reactor. I am pleased that we are finally approaching a solution to all of the problems, and I hope that one will be found, despite the latest apparent obstructions from some Member States. Europe will then not prove an unreliable bedfellow for our partners, who include the US, Russia, Japan, India and other countries. I do not know whether the claim is entirely correct that the current costs for ITER represent just 3% of US military spending last year. It shows, however, that this is not such an absurd use of money for us as some people are trying to make out.