Following the publication of the proposals for Horizon Europe, Erasmus and the Digital Europe Programme of the European Commission (EC) in June 2018, the Council of the EU has agreed on a first compromise on the Erasmus and Horizon Europe programmes last week. It is expected that the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council decides on the Partial General Approach (PGA) on the Digital Europe Programme in its meeting on 4 December. In parallel, the Industry, Transport and Energy Committee (ITRE) of the European Parliament (EP) has adopted its positions on Horizon Europe, for both legal texts, the Regulation specifying the rules for participation and the Decision on the Specific Programme, and the Digital Europe programme on 21 November. The EP will clarify its position on Erasmus before the EP elections in May. Once the positions of the EP and the Council are known, the inter-institutional negotiations towards the final adoption of a proposal (trilogue) can formally start. This is hence already the case for Horizon Europe and Digital Europe. These developments show that the European Union is on good track to reach an agreement on at least a part of the text, ahead of the elections to the EP in May.
The compromise reached by the Council on texts is called a Partial General Approach. It is partial because parts of the legislative proposal of the EC are not included in the compromise. For all the programmes mentioned above, this touches the budget of the different parts but also some horizontal issues such as the conditions guiding the association of third countries. Those issues will be negotiated later, once the EU’s long-term budget is adopted (probably in the end of 2019) and the future of the Brexit becomes clearer.
Looking more precisely at Horizon Europe, discussions at the Council have been intense on a series of issues such as the number and definitions of the clusters in pillar II, the Accelerator instrument under the European Innovation Council and whether the programme should introduce a budgetary cap for European Partnership Initiatives, all under the framework of the Regulation, where a PGA has been achieved. The Council has not yet reached a PGA on the Specific Programme Implementing Horizon Europe and therefore has not taken a position on missions.
The texts of the EP include significant modifications compared to the original proposal from the EC. While the ‘excellence’ principle is not put into question, the compromise amendments propose measures to reduce the participation divide between well-performing and less successful regions in Europe. It sets more strongly the focus on EU added-value of the actions funded by the programme.
The adoptions of the respective positions by the EP and the Council is certainly good for Europe. The EU institutions now have the chance to come to an agreement on the core element of the proposals ahead of the parliamentary elections in May 2019.