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High-level conference on the future EU finances

18 January 2018

EU institutions and Member States gauge respective positions ahead of negotiations.

The 2018 financial discussions were kickstarted by the European Commission at the high-level conference held on 8-9 January entitled “Shaping our future – Designing the next multiannual financial framework”, via its think-tank, the European Political Strategy Centre. The event notably featured top representation from the European Commission, including President Juncker and the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Günther Oettinger, a large number of Member States ministers, as well as members of the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank, and experts from academia. The conference focused on debating the main political lines for the future EU financial period.

The European Commission held the ambition to increase the long-term EU budget beyond 1% of the EU’s GDP (to somewhere between 1.1% and 1.2%). It particularly insisted on the need to agree on common objectives for the EU to first escape from a purely redistributive logic when developing the financial framework. It also strongly underlined that “European added value” – not only economic, but also social and political – must be the yardstick guiding investment choices at EU level. While invited experts and policy makers did not always see eye-to-eye on the EU added value of some EU sectorial policies, there was consensus around the uncontested benefit of EU funding for research & innovation and higher education. The general view was that the successor programmes to Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ should be reinforced in the coming period and if possible brought closer together to develop synergies in this area.

The negotiations will nevertheless be highly challenging because of a combined shortfall in EU income due to Brexit and the need to back up financially newly identified ambitions such as cooperation on security and defence. The picture that emerged from the conference was that of a combination that included cuts and restructuring of existing sectorial policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy and the Cohesion Policy; increased budgets for defence, education and research & innovation; a degree of new income sources; and an enhanced use of financial instruments to generate more leverage for the EU budget.

The European Commission plans to release its proposal for the next multiannual financial framework in May, at which stage negotiations will enter a more concrete phase. EUA is fully prepared for an intense year of negotiations and, with the help of the National Rectors’ Conferences, will communicate to national governments around the need to step up EU-level investment in research & innovation.

Further information about the event, including videos, are available on the website of the European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC).

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