Recovery package: stronger focus needed on research and industry, say MEPs 

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Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee Chair and Horizon Europe research programme rapporteurs reacted to the EU recovery package presented by the European Commission on Wednesday.

"We welcome the recovery plan proposed today by Commission President von der Leyen. The Industry Committee is ready to contribute to focus this plan on the future and on preparing the future for our next generation", said ITRE committee Chair Cristian Bușoi (EPP, RO).

"In this regard, we need resilience and the times we are living through now have shown us that research is of paramount importance. Whether on CO2 emissions, digitalisation and health, the recovery plan should be driven by innovation", he said. Moreover, "the transformation of our industrial landscape needs to be feasible for all our sectors. No regions should be left behind, in particular those reliant on coal or heavy industry", he said.

“We must also ensure that both households and businesses benefit from cheap electricity bills as our different energy models converge towards decarbonisation. Energy policy can, if we get it right, help to kick-start the European economy in the context of the post-COVID-19 recovery. If we let prices go up, it will have the opposite effect and recovery efforts will be lost”, he added.

"This will require careful assessment, and should, nevertheless, not create new administrative burdens for SMEs, who will be the backbone of the recovery. In this respect we hope that the Commission will observe the "one in, one out" principle it has previously established, to avoid too many new regulations", he concluded.

Funding for Horizon Europe still far from Parliament’s requests

Dan Nica (S&D, RO), rapporteur on the Horizon Europe research programme (HEU) regulation, said : "Overcoming this crisis means investing in recovery and future needs. The need to give financially sound support to citizens and businesses is better reflected in the new amount of €94.4 billion euro in 2018 prices, for the Horizon Programme, a step in the good direction if compared to the Commission’s initial proposal. We still lack the details of where this money will go inside the Programme. Let's keep in mind that even €10 billion extra for Horizon Europe would add 110 billion to the EU GDP over 25 years, 100.000 jobs by 2040, 5 300 more R&I projects funded, 12.000 testing activities and 500 more clinical trials."

“Europe will never be economically wealthy nor safe without substantial financing for its basic and applied research and without adequate financing and coordination on the health dimension. The answers to both challenges of the pandemic and the economic recovery are in research, innovation and new technologies”, he added.

“We congratulate Commissioner Gabriel for the roughly €10 billion increase to HEU. But this is not enough” said Christian Ehler (EPP, DE), rapporteur on the Horizon Europe decision. "Given the fact that growth in Europe is based on technology and innovation and given that the Commission is planning to propose a 50% reduction of CO2 emissions in less than a decade, which would transform all industrial sectors in Europe, not significantly increasing the European research budget is not just disappointing, it is almost suicidal. It doesn't make their plans on recovery, CO2 reduction and digitalisation credible".

"From an industry stand point, it is disproportional that we emphasise a green deal so strongly but not an equivalent digital deal for Europe. Without a proportional emphasis on digitalisation, we will fall even more behind our global competitors in Asia and in the US. That is a lesson the Commission didn't understand, which will lead to disastrous effects for the next generation of Europeans. In her consultations, President von der Leyen left the Parliament out completely, which shows her poor estimation of one of the European Institutions."

Next steps

The ITRE committee will vote on the opening of negotiations with the Council on the Horizon Europe programme on Thursday.

Parliament and Council will discuss the new proposals and decide on their final shape in upcoming negotiations.

As it might take months before an agreement on the new MFF is found, Parliament urged the Commission to table a contingency plan to allow for a smooth financial start of EU programmes in 2021.