Tag Archives: Innovation

Vice-President Andrus Ansip's speech at the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships event

Speech by Vice-President Andrus Ansip at the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships event, in Brussels

Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for inviting me to speak today – and for the final report on quantum from the expert group led by Professor Mlynek.

This is an important document.

It is our blueprint for combining and coordinating Europe’s strengths so that we stay at the forefront of the global race for new scientific horizons.

In today’s setting, I do not need to explain the importance of the FET Flagships. Many of you have direct experience of the work being done on graphene and the Human Brain Project.

This is challenging and long-term research into uncharted areas that stretch the boundaries of science and technology.

It is frontier and ground-breaking work. That is no exaggeration.

It was very inspiring to hear Professor Novoselov.

I had first-hand experience of graphene earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

While I only saw a few examples of how this material with extraordinary properties can be applied, it was clear that industry interest for this project is huge.

I remember a graphene-based sensor for collision detection systems, which combines visible and infrared light to avoid collisions even in fog.

And I recall a sensor in a flexible band around the arm to detect electrical signals from muscles in order to move a robotic hand.

Our other Flagship – the Human Brain Project – tackles one of the greatest scientific challenges of our time: to understand the human brain and its diseases.

This project should revolutionise neuroscience.

Understanding and emulating some of the brain’s computational capabilities should also lead to major advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, big data analytics and new computing architectures.

Ladies and gentlemen

Looking to the future, now is the time to decide where – and how – we want European research and innovation to focus over the next years.

That brings us rather quickly to funding.

As you know, the EU is now considering funding and priorities for its next budget period. This includes FP9, the successor to Horizon 2020 – our current research and innovation programme.

All options remain open, but a good deal of preparation is already done.

One of the main contributions is the recent report from the expert group chaired by Pascal Lamy on maximising the impact of EU research and innovation programmes.

It said that research and innovation should be prioritised in both EU and national budgets. Above all, it recommended that the EU’s post-2020 budget for this should be doubled.

There is no doubt that serious funding is required if we are to maintain European excellence in scientific research and turn scientific discoveries into a greater number of industrial applications.

We cannot afford to lag behind. China has already overtaken the EU in terms of R & D spending as a share of GDP. South Korea, Japan and the United States are at the top of the ranking.

As you know, it is never easy to secure enough public money for specific areas.

This is why we all need to be vocal about how important investing in R & I is for the future of Europe – and to show people the results of EU-funded research.

I find two other recommendations in the report to be particularly relevant for today’s discussion.

The FET Flagships successfully qualify for both and show the way forward.

One is to fine-tune our approach to be more mission-oriented and impact-focused to address global challenges.

The other is to improve how EU and national R & I investments are aligned – wherever this adds European value to what we want to achieve.

On the first, the Flagships provide the power to change how the world sees whole industries and wider society.

The applications and devices that are developed based on their results will bring major practical implications and benefits for everyone.

On the second, the projects are conducted together with EU countries.

This is why we already have better coordination between EU and national research programmes.

In my mind, there is no doubt that the Flagship projects will continue to play a key role, and for many years to come.

With graphene and the Human Brain Project, it is clear that we are on the right track to identify and develop practical applications that will make a positive difference to people’s lives, our society and economy.

Since we are looking ahead to future funding, we should also look ahead to new potential Flagship candidates. I am looking forward to seeing the selection process for this begin next year.

But before that, we have a third project about to start: quantum technologies.

Its ramp-up phase will begin in 2018 and cover the last three years of Horizon 2020.

The quantum project aims to turn Europe’s excellent research results into industrial leadership;

It should place Europe at the forefront of one of this century’s most promising technological developments.

The first quantum revolution expanded our horizons to an amazing extent.

Lasers and transistors,without which existing computers, mobile phones and the internet would be unthinkable. These applications and technologies are now mainstream. Advances in quantum technology made them all possible.

The second quantum revolution has just started.

It is based on our growing ability to manipulate and sense quantum effects in customised systems and materials.

This will mean totally new concepts for devices with a real practical impact.

– ultra-precise synchronisation and enhanced sensitivity devices;

– guaranteed data privacy and communication security;    

– unprecedented computing power that goes beyond anything now envisaged at the high-end of computing technology.

However, while Europe has many world-class scientists in quantum, so far there is little industrial take-up or commercial exploitation.

If we want to develop a strong quantum industry, we should coordinate our work together – and that is one of the main objectives of the Quantum Flagship.

We should not lose any time: there is now something of a world­wide race for technology and talent in quantum.

Despite several national initiatives on quantum, which are of course welcome, we have not yet had a coherent pan-European strategy.

With the expert group report, that changes today.

Ladies and gentlemen

Europe is home to 1.8 million researchers working in thousands of universities and research centres as well as in world-leading manufacturing industries.

We have the talent, the drive and the innovation.

By working together across borders, sectors and disciplines, we can push the boundaries of science and develop practical applications that can make a real difference to people’s lives.

This is the rationale of our political and financial commitment to future and emerging technologies, to:

– develop a dynamic environment for research and innovation;

– allow ideas to progress smoothly from laboratories to market;

– attract and retain world-class talent;

– and make sure that Europe remains a global science leader.

Thank you.

Report – Recommendation to the Council, the Commission and the EEAS on the Eastern Partnership, in the run-up to the November 2017 Summit – A8-0308/2017 – Committee on Foreign Affairs

to the Council, the Commission and the EEAS on the Eastern Partnership, in the run-up to the November 2017 Summit


The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3 and 8 and to Title V, notably Articles 21, 22, 36 and 37, of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), as well as to Part Five of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the launch of the Eastern Partnership in Prague on 7 May 2009 as a common endeavour of the EU and its eastern partners Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova und Ukraine,

–  having regard to the Joint Declarations of the Eastern Partnership Summits of 2011 in Warsaw, of 2013 in Vilnius and of 2015 in Riga,

–  having regard to the Declaration of the leaders of 27 Member States and of the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission adopted on 25 March 2017 in Rome,

–  having regard to the recommendations by and activities of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, and of the Committee of the Regions and the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP),

–  having regard to the European Commission and European External Action Service (EEAS) communications on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), notably the 2017 report on the implementation of the ENP review (JOIN(2017)18) and the 2017 revised working document entitled ‘Eastern Partnership – 20 Deliverables for 2020: Focusing on key priorities and tangible results’ (SWD(2017)0300), as well as the 2016 communication on the ‘Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy’,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council on the ENP and Eastern Partnership,

–  having regard to its resolutions, notably those of 5 July 2017 on the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly(1), of 15 June 2017 on the case of Afgan Mukhtarli and the situation of the media in Azerbaijan(2), of 6 April 2017(3) and 24 November 2016(4) on the situation in Belarus, of 16 March 2017 on EU priorities for the UN Human Rights Council sessions in 2017(5), of 13 December 2016 on rights of women in the Eastern Partnership States(6), of 21 January 2016 on Association Agreements / Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine(7) and of 9 July 2015 on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy(8)

–  having regard to the Joint Statement of the Parliaments of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine of 3 July 2017,

–  having regard to Rule 113 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0308/2017),

A.  whereas the Eastern Partnership is based on a shared commitment between Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and the European Union to deepening their relations and adhering to international law and fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and gender equality, as well as to the social market economy, sustainable development and good governance;

B.  whereas the Eastern Partnership pursues the common goals of promoting stability, confidence-building and cooperation, supporting democratic reforms, good neighbourly relations, peaceful conflict resolution and regional cooperation, enhancing people-to-people contacts and boosting trade, in order to increase political dialogue and association as well as economic cooperation and integration;

C.  whereas, through its Global Strategy and the revised ENP, the EU seeks to bring its partners closer via accelerated political association and economic integration with the EU, while at the same time aiming to promote political stabilisation, societal resilience and economic prosperity in its neighbourhood, and offering opportunities for privileged political and economic relations in line with the degree of ambition of each partner country;

D.  whereas, given that the EU considers cooperation to be a value in itself and strongly believes that it leads to win-win situations for all parties concerned, there is a commitment on the side of the EU to continue to work with all Eastern Partnership countries as long as core European values are not questioned or undermined;

E.  whereas the EU and its partners need to match resources and instruments to the commitments made and whereas the partners need to focus more on the implementation of existing agreements;

F.  whereas the participants in the 2015 Riga Summit called for progress to be made by the time of the next Summit in the areas of (1) strengthening institutions and good governance, (2) mobility and people-to-people contacts, (3) economic development and market opportunities, and (4) connectivity, energy efficiency, the environment and climate change;

G.  whereas significant progress has been made since the last Summit, notably with the conclusion and entry into force of three Association Agreements (AAs) including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as visa-free regimes with Georgia and Ukraine since 2017 (and with Moldova since 2014), the conclusion of negotiations on a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with Armenia (which serves as an example of how membership of the Eurasian Economic Union and participation in the EU’s neighbourhood strategies can coexist), the launching of negotiations on a new comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan, the adoption of major reforms in a number of these countries with the political, technical and financial support of the European Union, and the continuation of the critical engagement policy towards Belarus;

H.  whereas since the launch of the Eastern Partnership in Prague, some founding members have experienced an overall deterioration of the human rights situation and a reversal of democratisation trends; whereas one of the main challenges will be to facilitate the ongoing transition towards inclusive, accountable, stable and viable democracies;

I.  whereas increased mobility and the enhancement of people-to-people contacts between the partner countries and the EU remain an indispensable instrument for the promotion of European values;

J.  whereas a new strategic work plan proposed by the Commission and the EEAS that combines both bilateral and regional cooperation aims to guide the future work of the EU and the six partner countries by focusing on twenty deliverables by 2020;

K.  whereas the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the EU’s eastern partners remains under threat from unresolved regional conflicts, including some that were initiated and are still actively sustained by the Russian Federation in contradiction with its international commitments to uphold the international legal order; whereas the EU should play a more active role in the peaceful resolution of all ongoing conflicts in its neighbourhood; whereas Russian aggression towards Ukraine, the annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the continued occupation of two Georgian regions, as well as Russian hybrid threats including destabilisation activities and propaganda, threaten European security as a whole;

L.  whereas the Eastern Partnership policy is based on the sovereign right of each partner to choose the level of ambition to which it aspires in its relations with the EU; whereas partners seeking closer relations with the EU should be able to count on more support and assistance in achieving mutually set goals if they fulfil existing reform commitments, in line with the ‘more for more’ principle;

1.  Recommends the following to the Council, the Commission and the European External Action Service:

On the future of the Eastern Partnership

(a)  to ensure that the November 2017 Summit will be forward looking, injecting new dynamism and setting a clear political vision for the future of the Eastern Partnership as a long-term policy; to ensure that the outcomes of this Summit will, as a first priority, provide the basis for upholding the core values of the European Union, in particular respect for democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, good governance, civil rights, non-discrimination and gender equality, on which the Eastern Partnership is based, underlining that these values are at the heart of the AAs and recognising the commitment of the partners concerned to implement and promote these values;

(b)  to live up to the high expectations of citizens in all the partner countries as regards eradicating corruption, fighting organised crime and bolstering the rule of law and good governance; to therefore seek a renewed commitment by the partners to adopt and fully implement reforms related to the judiciary, public administration and the fight against corruption and organised crime, on the basis of adequate roadmaps with clearly defined objectives and deadlines;

(c)  to strengthen civil society in the partner countries and its vital role within the Eastern Partnership, both as an indispensable actor in the process of democratic consolidation and as a platform for regional cooperation, by uncompromisingly opposing all legislation and measures that seek to curtail its legitimate activities and by encouraging its deeper involvement in drawing up, scrutinising and monitoring the implementation of reforms related to the Partnership as well as by promoting the transparency and accountability of public institutions;

(d)  to encourage electoral reforms that ensure that legal frameworks are in line with international standards, recommendations by OSCE-led international observation missions and Venice Commission opinions and that are achieved through a transparent process, and are the subject of broad consultation and, as far as possible, consensus with opposition and civil society, in order to improve electoral frameworks without any bias towards ruling parties; to ensure the strict application by the EU of existing conditionality related to electoral reforms;

(e)  to ensure that the outcomes of the November 2017 Summit take stock of what has already been achieved, emphasise the need to deliver on all commitments already made and provide a new impetus for the future of the Partnership including the delivery of tangible results for citizens, notably in terms of employment, reducing socioeconomic disparities, transport, connectivity, energy independence, mobility and education, noting that a new European External Investment Plan (EEIP) is an important instrument in this regard;

(f)  to pursue efforts aimed at tackling unemployment, especially youth unemployment, including through a package of support measures for young people such as the EU4Youth programme, and developing skills adapted to the evolving needs of the labour market, including through vocational education and training, fostering entrepreneurship and local industries, supporting sustainable agriculture, developing tourism and the digital economy, and expanding social infrastructure and the public and private services sector, inter alia in the field of health and care;

(g)  to promote and actively support the implementation of anti-discrimination policies in all sectors of society; to ensure gender equality in public policies and support for the employability and entrepreneurship of women, with policy continuity being guaranteed beyond the 2020 target date;

(h)  to commit to working jointly on increased mobility between the EU and partner countries; to support Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine in implementing the visa liberalisation agreement and to ensure that suspension mechanisms are not triggered in the future, notably through close cooperation in the areas of police and customs to safeguard against security threats, criminality and overstays; to open visa dialogues with Armenia, to encourage progress by Azerbaijan in the implementation of Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements (VFA/RA) with a view to opening a visa dialogue in the future, and to finalise negotiations on VFA/RA with Belarus for the benefit of its citizens, should these countries make significant progress in the area of fundamental values and meet the precise conditions defined in visa liberalisation action plans;

(i)  to further increase opportunities for closer cooperation in the fields of education, research and innovation, notably through facilitating participation in programmes such as Erasmus+, Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation and EU4Innovation as well as the provision of loan guarantees by the European Investment Bank Group as part of its InnovFin programme; to provide support in order to reform education and address the research and innovation gap;

(j)  to ensure that the outcomes of the November 2017 Summit will also provide a renewed impetus to boost sustainable economic growth, the modernisation of existing sectors, trade and investment opportunities, including intra-regional opportunities for cross-border cooperation and with a particular emphasis on entrepreneurship and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs);

(k)  to call for recalibrated EU support to the Association agendas and to the related structural reforms, notably those allowing for improved competitiveness, a more favourable business environment and adequate access to sources of financing, including through the EU4Business initiative; to monitor closely the implementation of DCFTAs in order to avoid social and environmental dumping; to devise targeted assistance for SMEs to help them to fully absorb the potential of DCFTAs; to promote and support a genuine reform of the economic system aimed at phasing out monopolies and circumscribing the role of oligarchs through the introduction of adequate laws, as well as a major reform of the banking and financial sector aimed at combating money laundering and tax evasion;

(l)  to support the development of the necessary transport and connectivity infrastructure, including through an ambitious investment plan for the TEN-T core network, and to also promote intra-regional trade; to support infrastructure projects that will provide new opportunities for trade and enable more communication and exchanges between the EU and the partner countries as well as among the partners;

(m)  to improve both energy independence and efficiency through specific investments and the diversification of energy sources, in particular with regard to renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels, through strengthened cooperation in all priority areas covered by the EU Energy Union and closer integration of the partners’ energy markets with the European energy market, with a particular focus on interconnectivity and infrastructure; to ensure that onshore and offshore sections of new pipeline infrastructure within the region, including the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, are fully in line with EU legislation and the energy union strategy and that they do not undermine regional energy security; to work with the eastern partners to support the households most affected by rising energy prices;

(n)  to ensure full respect for international nuclear safety and environmental protection agreements and obligations; to increase efforts towards the fulfilment of climate change commitments, including through public awareness-raising and a gradual and sustainable phase-out of obsolete power plants in Armenia and Ukraine; to follow closely the development of new projects such as the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets, Belarus;

(o)  to ensure that the outcomes of the November 2017 Summit also address the security threats and conflicts that affect the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, fundamental human rights, and political, social and economic stability and development of the partners and of the region as a whole;

(p)  to commit to sustaining the unity of action among EU Member States in maintaining collective pressure on Russia, whose military presence in the region has nevertheless grown over the past years, in particular through strengthened targeted restrictive measures, to solving the conflict in eastern Ukraine through full and genuine implementation of the Minsk agreements and by maintaining the OSCE monitoring mission, to solving the conflict between Russia and Georgia through tangible outcomes of the Geneva International Discussions and full implementation by Russia of the 2008 ceasefire agreement, to re-establishing Ukraine’s full sovereignty in Crimea, and that of Georgia in its occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and of Moldova in Transnistria, to paying adequate attention to the dangerous ecological situation in eastern Ukraine, to supporting its partners in strengthening their resilience, and to putting an end to the additional threats of state-sponsored assassinations, cyber warfare, disinformation and other types of destabilisation;

(q)  to underline that the participation of an eastern partner in military exercises aimed at the EU and/or some of its partners, such as the Russian-led Zapad 2017 exercise in Belarus, is unacceptable; to ensure that a partner does not engage in such exercises again in the future;

(r)  to call for an immediate end to military hostilities between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces which unnecessarily claim the lives of civilians and soldiers whilst hampering socioeconomic development; to reaffirm support to the OSCE Minsk Group co-Chairs’ efforts to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to their 2009 Basic Principles, which include territorial integrity, self-determination and the non-use of force; to call on Armenia and Azerbaijan to re-launch negotiations in good faith with a view to implementing these principles to solve the conflict, which cannot be solved using military force; to call on the Governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan to hold high-level talks and commit to genuine confidence-building measures and dialogue between Armenian and Azerbaijani civil society; to make the ratification of new agreements between the EU and each of the parties conditional on meaningful commitments to and substantial progress towards solving the conflict, such as maintaining the ceasefire and supporting the implementation of the 2009 Basic Principles;

(s)  to call for continued support to the work carried out by the EU and OSCE missions in Georgia, Moldova and eastern Ukraine as essential operations to ensure peace and security first and foremost for the benefit of the citizens on the ground; to ensure effective implementation of these missions’ mandates and urge Russia to guarantee their unimpeded access; to consider supporting the deployment of an armed OSCE police mission in eastern Ukraine; to reflect, jointly with the partner countries, on the prospect of an enhanced role for the EU in solving these conflicts, including by launching ambitious fully-fledged Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions tasked with enhancing security and stability;

(t)  to call on the EU’s partners to fully cooperate with the EU in tackling challenges such as illegal migration, terrorism, cybercrime, human trafficking, smuggling and illicit trade;

(u)  to consider, within the EaP policy, an attractive longer-term ‘EaP+’ model for associated countries that have made substantial progress in implementing AA/DCFTA-related reforms, that could eventually lead to joining the customs union, energy union, digital union and Schengen area, further EU internal market access, integration into EU transport networks, industrial partnerships, increased participation in other EU programmes and agencies, further cooperation in the field of the CSDP, and more immediate measures such as additional unilateral tariff preferences, a concrete timeframe for the abolition of roaming tariffs between the partners and the EU, and the development of high-capacity broadband; to open the ‘EaP+’ model to other Eastern Partnership countries once they are ready for such enhanced commitments and have made significant progress towards implementing mutually agreed reforms;

(v)  to consider, for non-associated countries, new means of supporting civil society, businesses, the academic and independent media communities and young people, including through additional funding and mobility partnerships;

(w)  to ensure that, in both cases, the common goals are both medium and long-term when necessary, encouraging some of the partner countries to move beyond the logic of electoral cycles to more strategic visions;

On the implementation of the Eastern Partnership

(x)  to reiterate the principle of differentiation and that the scope and depth of cooperation with the EU is determined by its ambitions and those of the partners, as well as by the pace and quality of reforms to be evaluated based on their full and effective implementation, notably as regards respect for democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and good governance;

(y)  to underline that the Eastern Partnership aims to create the necessary conditions for close political association and economic integration, including participation in EU programmes; to reiterate that AAs with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine do not constitute the final goal in their relations with the EU; to acknowledge once again the European aspirations of these countries; to point out that, pursuant to Article 49 of the TEU and in line with the Rome Declaration of 25 March 2017, any European state may apply to become a member of the EU, provided it adheres to the Copenhagen criteria and the principles of democracy, that it respects fundamental freedoms and human rights including those of minority groups and that it upholds the rule of law; to urge the Member States, in this regard, to agree to an ambitious declaration for the 2017 Summit that sets relevant long-term goals;

(z)  to invite Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to focus on the full implementation of the Association agendas in order to unlock all the opportunities available through the AAs, to engage also in the joint discussions on the progress, opportunities and challenges relating to the AA/DCFTA-related reforms; to reiterate the importance of genuine implementation of the abovementioned reforms for the future stability and development of the countries and the wellbeing of their societies; to reaffirm that the deepening of relations within the ‘EaP+’ model as well as any prospect of EU membership requires substantial progress in terms of the implementation of these reforms, notably as regards the rule of law, respect for human rights and good governance;

(aa)  to ensure that strict conditionality is always attached to current and further levels of cooperation and support for the partners, and that it is also observed; to underline that EU financial support to its partners will be conditional on concrete reform steps and their effective implementation, and that the EU’s incentive-based approach will continue to benefit those partners most engaged in ambitious reforms; to envisage paying out grants in smaller instalments to enable the EU to better respond to unexpected crises or a lack of reforms; to emphasise in particular that no comprehensive agreement will be ratified with a country that does not respect EU values, notably through the non-implementation of decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and the harassment, intimidation and persecution of human rights defenders, NGOs and journalists; to also highlight that clear benchmarks need to be met before any new dialogue on visa-free regimes is launched and concluded; to reiterate that backsliding on prior achievements will systematically lead to the suspension of agreements, including in the area of visa-free regimes and EU funding;

(ab)  to support the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership as a means of increasing multilateral confidence-building, notably in conflict-affected areas, and creating opportunities for regional cooperation, including through transnational civil society platforms, cooperation between local and regional authorities, and cross-border projects such as people-to-people programmes involving intercultural dialogue and the younger generation as factors for change;

(ac)  to highlight the importance of communicating policies related to the Eastern Partnership coherently and effectively, internally as well as externally, and of providing communication activities tailored to specific regions, notably so as to bridge the knowledge gap as regards the EU and its relations with its partners; to acknowledge the excellent work done so far by the East StratCom Task Force and to support its activities with additional funding; to address the challenge of better information about the concrete benefits and goals of the Eastern Partnership, to target disinformation through fact-based and accessible quality information in all languages of the partner countries, and to ensure full respect for the freedom of expression;

(ad)  to maintain that EU support should be tailor-made to match the level of shared ambition regarding cooperation with each partner following the principles of both ‘more for more’ and ‘less for less’; to call in particular for the EU to align budgetary instruments such as the European Neighbourhood Instrument and the European Fund for Sustainable Development with political tasks and implementation strategies, notably within its annual and multiannual budgetary procedures;

(ae)  to welcome the Commission proposals to provide the partners with macro-financial assistance (MFA) while insisting on strict and effective conditionality attached to the proposals, notably in terms of upholding the rule of law (including an independent judiciary and multi-party parliamentary system), ensuring good governance (including combating corruption effectively), and defending human rights and the freedom of the media; to provide Parliament and the Council with a detailed written report every six months on the progress made in these three areas for partners already benefiting from such assistance; to call on the Commission to draw up new MFA programmes for partner countries that have successfully completed past programmes, to make systematic provision for the abovementioned conditionality in future proposals for such assistance, and to ensure that it is strictly applied, notably in the case of Moldova;

(af)  to ask the Commission, the European Investment Bank and other multilateral financial institutions to work towards the successful implementation of the Investment Plan for Europe and of a dedicated support mechanism for Eastern Partnership countries committed to implementing the AAs; to request the establishment of a trust fund for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova based on the best practices of multi-donor instruments, while stressing that this trust fund should focus on private and public investments, in particular those in social and economic infrastructure and aimed at boosting investment absorptive capacity, and on the coordination of international financial institutions and international donor support on the ground; to consider holding a donors’ conference for Ukraine in support of the country’s humanitarian needs induced by the conflict in the East and the annexation of Crimea; to ensure that the use of all these funds is also strictly scrutinised in order to prevent any misuse;

(ag)  to reiterate its strong support for parliamentary input towards and scrutiny of the Eastern Partnership policy, notably as regards the impact of the policy on citizens’ lives; to enhance, in this respect, the role of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly within the new multilateral architecture of the Eastern Partnership, as well as of the Parliamentary Association or Cooperation Committees (PAC/PCC) within the Association or Cooperation Councils; to welcome the Comprehensive Democracy Support Approach (CDSA) programmes that are being implemented; to invite parliamentarians from the partner countries to work together to scrutinise implementation and exchange best practices; to step up the involvement of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in this process;

(ah)  to take note of Parliament’s resolve to increase its monitoring of the implementation of international agreements with the eastern partners and to increase its scrutiny of EU support provided in this respect; to respond to Parliament’s call on the partners and on the Commission to increase the transparency of all EU funding beneficiaries; to call on the Commission and the EEAS to transmit to Parliament and the Council a detailed written report on the implementation of these agreements every six months;

(ai)  to take note of Parliament’s resolve to increase its scrutiny of the negotiation of future international agreements with the eastern partners; to call on the Council to provide Parliament without delay with all relevant negotiating directives in line with the relevant Interinstitutional Agreement (2014/C 95/01); to welcome the effective cooperation of the Commission and the EEAS with Parliament in providing information on these negotiations, but to call on them to also provide, without delay, the draft negotiating texts and initialled agreements, in line with the relevant Framework Agreement (2010/L 304/47);

2.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the Council, the European Commission and the European External Action Service, and, for information, to the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and the governments and parliaments of the Eastern Partnership countries.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0304.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0267.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0126.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0456.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0089.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0487.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0018.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0272.

Text adopted – General budget of the European Union for 2018 – all sections – P8_TA-PROV(2017)0408 – Wednesday, 25 October 2017 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 314 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 106a of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

–  having regard to Council Decision 2014/335/EU, Euratom of 26 May 2014 on the system of own resources of the European Union(1)

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(2)

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(3)
(MFF Regulation),

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(4)
(IIA of 2 December 2013),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 March 2017 on general guidelines for the preparation of the budget(5)

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 April 2017 on Parliament’s estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 2018(6)

–  having regard to the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2018, which the Commission adopted on 29 June 2017 (COM(2017)0400),

–  having regard to the position on the draft general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2018, which the Council adopted on 4 September 2017 and forwarded to Parliament on 13 September 2017 (11815/2017 – C8‑0313/2017),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2017 on the mandate for the trilogue on the 2018 draft budget(7)

–  having regard to Rule 88 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets and the opinions of the other committees concerned (A8-0299/2017),

Section III

General overview

1.  Stresses that Parliament’s reading of the 2018 Budget fully reflects the political priorities adopted by an overwhelming majority in its abovementioned resolutions of 15 March 2017 and of 5 July 2017; recalls that sustainable growth, jobs, in particular youth employment, security and climate change are at the core of those priorities;

2.  Highlights that the Union continues to face numerous challenges and is convinced that, while maintaining budget discipline, the necessary financial resources must be deployed from the Union budget, in order to meet the political priorities and allow the Union to deliver concrete answers and to effectively respond to those challenges; underlines that Union spending should be based on the principle of European added value and should respect the principle of subsidiarity;

3.  Reaffirms its commitment to financing Union policies that enhance jobs and growth in all its regions through investment in research, education, infrastructure, SMEs and employment, in particular youth employment; fails to understand how the Union can achieve progress in those fields considering the cuts proposed by the Council under subheading 1a; decides instead to additionally reinforce research and innovation programmes that have a very high implementation rate and which, due to oversubscription, are faced with a particularly low success rate for applications;

4.  Remains committed to the pledges made by Parliament during the negotiations on the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), namely to minimise the impact of EFSI-related cuts on Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) in the framework of the annual budgetary procedure; proposes, therefore, to offset those cuts by restoring the original annual profile of those two programmes, in order to allow them to fully accomplish the objectives agreed during the adoption of the relevant legislation;

5.  Expresses its political support for the establishment of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) and welcomes the legislative proposal put forward in this regard by the Commission; considers, however, that, pending a decision on the financing of the ESC and the adoption of the relevant regulation under the ordinary legislative procedure, no financial provision should be entered for this purpose in the 2018 Budget; decides, therefore, that relevant appropriations and redeployments, entered by the Commission in the Draft Budget 2018 (DB), should be for the moment reversed, as the decision on the 2018 Budget should not prejudge in any way the outcome of the legislative negotiations; remains fully committed to integrate the decision on ESC financing in next year’s budget immediately via an amending budget, in case the negotiations on the relevant regulation are not concluded before the end of the 2018 budgetary procedure;

6.  Is concerned by the fact that youth unemployment remains at unprecedented levels and is convinced that, in order not to jeopardise the future of an entire generation of young Europeans, additional actions need to be undertaken; decides therefore to reinforce the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) beyond the level proposed by the Commission for 2018; stresses that such reinforcement should be considered as additional to the overall allocation that was politically endorsed for YEI in the context of the MFF mid-term revision, and not as a mere frontloading of that allocation in the 2018 Budget;

7.  Recalls that cohesion policy plays a primary role in achieving economic and social convergence in the Union, and thus in ensuring development and growth; stresses that in 2018, cohesion policy programmes are expected to catch-up and reach cruising speed; emphasises Parliament’s commitment to ensuring adequate appropriations for those programmes that represent one of the core policies of the Union; is however preoccupied by the unacceptable delays in the implementation of operational programmes at national level; calls on Member States to ensure that the designation of managing, auditing and certifying authorities is concluded and that implementation is accelerated; furthermore calls on the Commission to go further with the simplification of the related procedures;

8.  Is highly concerned at the rise of instability and uncertainty both within and outside the Union; insists on the need for a renewed focus on the Union’s approach to cohesion, integration, peace, sustainable development and human rights; calls upon the Commission and the Member States to connect and boost efforts towards further sustaining peace and conflict prevention; recalls the worldwide inspiration brought by the Good Friday Agreement while acknowledging the unprecedented challenges and pressures in the aftermath of the United Kingdom 2016 Referendum; calls upon the Commission and Member States to enhance their support for reconciliation to secure peace and stability in Ireland;

9.  Believes that, while at present the peak of the migratory and refugee crisis seems to have decreased, the Union must stand ready to respond to any future unforeseen event in this area and pursue a more proactive approach in the field of migration; therefore urges the Commission to continuously monitor the adequacy of allocations under Heading 3 and make full use of all available instruments under the current MFF to respond in a timely manner to any unforeseen event that might require additional funding; recalls that, while the Union managed to put in place some mechanisms helping to cope with this situation, still over one hundred thousand refugees and migrants have arrived to Europe by sea so far in 2017 according to the UNHCR; decides therefore to reinforce in a limited manner the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund and the Internal Security Fund, as well as the agencies with responsibilities in the field of asylum, such as the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which need to be provided with adequate financial and human resources; notes, once again, that the Heading 3 ceiling is vastly insufficient to provide for appropriate funding for the internal dimension of the migration and refugee crisis as well as other priority programmes, such as culture and citizenship programmes;

10.  Underlines that Heading 3 has been largely mobilised in recent years to address the migratory and refugee crisis and that such actions should continue for as long as needed; notes however that the funding provided so far is insufficient; decides for this reason to reinforce agencies in the field of Justice and Home Affairs which, due to increased workload and additional tasks, have been facing shortage of staff and funding in the past years;

11.  Underlines that, in light of recent security concerns across the Union, funding under Heading 3 should also have regard to measures which will lead to enhancing the security of Union citizens;

12.  Reiterates that an essential part of the solution to the migratory and refugee crisis as well as to the security concerns of Union citizens lie in addressing the root causes of migration and devoting sufficient financial means to external instruments that aim at tackling issues such as poverty, lack of employment, education and economic opportunities, instability, conflict and climate change which is one of the underlying causes behind increasing migration flows; is of the opinion that the Union should make an optimal use of financial means under Heading 4 which proved to be insufficient to equally address all external challenges, considering that the resources are clearly insufficient and should be increased in a more organic way;

13.  Regrets that, while preparing its position, Parliament has not been sufficiently informed about the budgetary impact of a possible political decision to extend the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRT); reiterates its longstanding position that new initiatives shall not be financed to the detriment of existing EU external projects; calls therefore on the Commission, in the event of the prolongation of the FRT, to propose its financing through fresh means and involve more local NGOs in its implementation; notes that the Heading 4 ceiling is vastly insufficient to provide a sustainable and effective response to the current external challenges, including the migration and refugee ones;

14.  Recalls that the Union budget must support the fulfilment of the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Union’s own long-term climate goals by achieving the target of 20 % climate spending in the 2014-2020 MFF; regrets that the Commission has failed to put forward concrete and realistic proposals to achieve these goals; therefore proposes increases above the level of the DB for climate-related actions; notes however that these increases are not sufficient and calls on the Commission to present all the necessary proposals to reach the goals in the forthcoming draft budgets; notes, in this context, that 8,2 % of total commitment appropriations proposed in the DB are related to biodiversity protection; highlights that an annual increase of 0,1 % stands in contrast to the worrying and accelerating decline in species and habitats;

15.  Appreciates that the new approach of ‘Budget Focused on Results’ has for the first time been integrated into the internal budgetary preparation of the Commission in order to review the expenditure based on experience achieved so far and identify possible adjustments;

16.  Restores the cuts proposed by Council to the DB; fails to understand the reasoning behind the proposed cuts, for example those to Horizon 2020 and CEF, two programmes already affected by redeployments to EFSI, as well as those to external policies; contests, in any event, Council’s declared intention to target budget lines with a low execution rate or absorption capacity, as this is not substantiated by the actual implementation figures and ignores the varying implementation patterns of certain programmes;

17.  Concludes that, for the purpose of adequately financing all pressing needs, and considering the very tight MFF margins in 2018, all means available in the MFF Regulation in terms of flexibility will need to be deployed; expects that the Council will share this approach and that an agreement will easily be reached in conciliation, allowing the Union to rise to the occasion and effectively respond to the challenges ahead; underlines that the deviation each budgetary year from the original programming under the current MFF advocates in favour of an upward adjustment of the ceilings in the MFF post-2020;

18.  Sets the overall level of appropriations for 2018 at EUR 162 597 930 901 in commitment appropriations and EUR 146 712 004 932 in payment appropriations;

Subheading 1a – Competitiveness for growth and jobs

19.  Rejects Council’s unjustified EUR 750 million cuts to subheading 1a, which alone represent almost two thirds of the overall Council cuts in commitments in MFF headings; notes that such cuts contradict Council’s own stated political priorities;

20.  Insists that in order to achieve sustainable growth and job creation in the Union, boosting investments in research, innovation, education, infrastructure and MSMEs is key; warns that such cuts proposed by the Council would jeopardise programmes with real European added value and a direct impact on job and growth creation, such as Horizon 2020 or CEF; points out, in particular, that sufficient funding for Horizon 2020 is essential to allow for the development of research and innovation, leadership in digitalisation and for the support of SMEs in Europe; recalls that this programme has demonstrated a strong European added-value with 83 % of Horizon 2020-funded projects that would not have gone ahead without Union-level support; reiterates the importance of the CEF funding instrument for the completion of the TEN-T network and for achieving a Single European Transport Area; consequently decides to reverse all cuts made by the Council and, furthermore, to fully restore the original profile of the Horizon 2020 and CEF lines that were cut for the provisioning of the EFSI Guarantee Fund;

21.  Stresses, in addition, the need to strengthen both the education and training and the youth strands of Erasmus+, as part of strategic investment in European youth;

22.  Stresses that sufficient financial support for microenterprises, entrepreneurs and SMEs should be the key priority for the Union as these are the main source of job creation across Europe; emphasises that securing good access to finance is essential for keeping SMEs competitive and for helping them to overcome challenges related to access to the internal market as well as to the global market;

23.  Decides, therefore, to further reinforce beyond the DB and the pre-EFSI and pre-ESC profiles those programmes that are key to boosting growth and jobs and that reflect widely agreed Union priorities, namely Erasmus+, Horizon 2020 (Marie Curie, European Research Council, SME Instrument), COSME, and EaSI (Progress and Eures); calls on the Commission to provide sufficient funding for budget lines related to WIFI4EU and to keep its investment commitment between 2017 and 2020;

24.  Welcomes the inclusion of the Special Annual Events budget line in the 2018 Budget, which will allow the development of a sense of European belonging among citizens; notes that the scope of the Special Annual Event should demonstrably serve the added value to the European citizens across the Member States;

25.  Stresses the importance of stimulating cooperative defence research in Europe for addressing key capability shortfalls at a time when international developments and uncertainties increasingly require Europe to step up its efforts on defence; supports the increased allocation for the Preparatory Action on defence research; calls for a defence research programme with a dedicated budget within the next Multiannual Financial Framework; reiterates, nevertheless, its longstanding position that new initiatives shall be financed through fresh appropriations and not to the detriment of existing Union programmes; underlines, furthermore, the need to improve the competitiveness and innovation in the European defence industry;

26.  Is of the opinion that increased resources should be allocated in the framework of the 2018 Budget in order to conduct a comprehensive and unbiased assessment of the risk posed by third countries in terms of their strategic deficiencies in the area of anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing, based on criteria defined in Article 9 of Directive (EU) 2015/849(8)
, and to establish a list of ‘high-risk’ jurisdictions;

27.  Calls on the Commission to ensure an adequate level of allocations enabling the European Union Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing (EURL ECVAM) to effectively perform its duties and tasks listed in Annex VII to Directive 2010/63/EU(9)
, with particular reference to coordinating and promoting the development and use of alternatives to animal testing including in the areas of basic and applied research and regulatory testing;

28.  As a result, increases the level of commitment appropriations for subheading 1a above the DB by EUR 143,9 million (excluding pre-EFSI and pre-ESC restoration, pilot projects and preparatory actions), to be financed within the margin available as well as a further mobilisation of the Global Margin for Commitments;

Subheading 1b – Economic, social and territorial cohesion

29.  Disapproves of Council’s proposed cuts of EUR 240 million in payments under subheading 1b, including on support lines and reverses them, pending updated forecasts from the Commission;

30.  Notes with increasing concern that the unacceptable delays in the implementation of the European Structural and Investment Funds have undermined their effectiveness and put pressure on the managing authorities and beneficiaries; reiterates once again the risk that the current delays can have on the accumulation of unpaid bills in the second half of this MFF and at the beginning of the next one; reiterates strongly its call on the Member States to seek advice and assistance from the Commission in order to address the delays in the designation of the managing, certifying and auditing authorities; is further alarmed by the downsize trend and the lack of accuracy of the Member States’ estimates;

31.  Recalls that youth unemployment rates remain unacceptably high in the Union; emphasises that, in order to address this issue, it is of importance to ensure proper funding of the Youth Guarantee schemes through the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the ESF; welcomes the agreement on the need to provide fresh funding for the YEI, and the inclusion of the corresponding appropriations in the DB 2018; considers nevertheless that, given the challenges and risks posed by youth unemployment, the YEI should benefit from increased appropriations and therefore decides to bring the YEI to EUR 600 million in commitments in 2018; moreover, considers that professional training actions, towards the youth and in particular the apprenticeship should be eligible for financing under the cohesion policy;

32.  Welcomes the new EUR 142,8 million financial envelope which has been created to facilitate the implementation of the Structural Reform Support Programme between 2017-2020;

Heading 2 – Sustainable growth: natural resources

33.  Recalls that the Commission’s proposal to increase appropriations to finance the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) needs are largely due to a significantly lower amount of assigned revenue being expected to be available in 2018; notes the Council’s cuts of EUR 275 million, but considers that the Commission’s Amending Letter should remain the basis for any reliable revision of EAGF appropriations and restores the DB levels accordingly, pending an examination of this Amending Letter in conciliation;

34.  Stresses that storage programmes have proved effective in times of crisis and that a reduction in the financial resources earmarked in the planning process would be counter-productive;

35.  Underlines that part of the solution to address youth unemployment lies in adequately supporting young people in rural areas; proposes therefore an increase of EUR 50 million above the level of the DB for payments for young farmers; emphasises the need to use the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and other Union funding schemes to facilitate young people’s access to jobs in the fishing industry;

36.  Decides, in line with its Europe 2020 targets and with its international commitments to tackle climate change, to propose an increase of EUR 21,2 million above the level of the DB for climate-related actions; reiterates that both the European Court of Auditors (ECA) as well as ECOFIN ascertained that the Union budget is not in line with its climate targets;

37.  Recalls that taxpayers’ money should not be used to support the rearing or breeding of bulls for fighting activities; believes that breeding or rearing for those purposes should not be eligible for basic payments and asks that the Commission submit a proposal in order to amend the current legislation on this issue;

38.  Increases therefore commitment appropriations by EUR 78,1 million, thus leaving a margin of EUR 619,7 million below the ceiling for commitments in Heading 2 once pilot projects and preparatory actions have been deducted;

39.  Emphasises, with regret, that disasters generally affect those who have less means to protect themselves, whether they be individuals or States; considers that the response to natural or man-made disasters should be as rapid as possible so that damage is minimal and people and property can be saved; calls attention to the need for an additional increase in funds, particularly in the budget lines linked to disaster prevention and preparedness within the Union, taking into account, in particular, fires in Spain and Portugal (resulting in tragic loss of human life), which have a dramatic and substantial impact on people;

40.  Draws attention to the threat factors weighing on numerous forest ecosystems, such as, among others, the spread of invasive alien species, pests (such as pine nematode and others) and forest fires; considers that sufficient financial resources should be addressed through community support programmes and measures to the evaluation of ecological and plant health of forests and their rehabilitation, including reforestation; notes that such resources are particularly important and urgent to some Member States, namely Portugal and Spain following previous successive fires throughout the national territory;

Heading 3 – Security and Citizenship

41.  Emphasises that for Parliament, tackling migration and security must remain top Union priorities and reiterates its conviction that the Heading 3 ceiling has proven vastly insufficient to fund adequately the internal dimension of those challenges;

42.  Notes that, while the number of migrant crossings on the Central and Eastern Mediterranean routes into the Union fell in the first nine months of 2017, pressure on the Western Mediterranean route remains; notes that more than one hundred thousand migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in the first nine months of 2017, with over 75 % arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain; is of the opinion that increased funding is needed to fully cover the needs of the Union in the field of migration, notably through the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund to support Members States in improving integration measures and practices for those in need of international protection, especially unaccompanied minors, and, where necessary, carrying out return operations for those not entitled to protection while fully respecting the principle of non-refoulement; in this context also insists that the EASO shall be equipped with adequate financial and human resources to allow the agency to fulfil its assigned tasks;

43.  Is in favour of the creation of a new budget line for a Search and Rescue Fund to support Member States in their obligations under international maritime law; asks the Commission to present a legislative proposal to set up such an EU Search and Rescue Fund;

44.  Is convinced that, in order to effectively tackle security concerns of Union citizens, the budget of the Internal Security Fund needs additional funds to equip the Member States better in the fight against terrorism, cross-border organised crime, radicalisation and cybercrime; underlines, in particular, that sufficient resources must be provided for reinforcing security infrastructures and boosting information-sharing between law enforcement agencies and national authorities, including through improving the interoperability of information systems while guaranteeing at the same time respect for individual rights and liberties;

45.  Highlights the crucial role played by the Union agencies in the area of justice and home affairs in addressing pressing concerns of Union citizens; decides therefore to increase budgetary appropriations and staffing of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), including the creation of 7 staff posts for the new operating unit called Europol operating unit for missing children, as well as to reinforce the European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust), EASO and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training (CEPOL); reiterates the contribution of these agencies to enhancing cooperation between Member States in the field;

46.  Asks the Commission, in the light of the actual progress made in ongoing interinstitutional negotiations, to provide updated information on the financial implications in 2018 of pending legislative proposals as part of the European Agenda on Migration, in particular the reform of the Dublin system, the Entry/Exit System, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System and EASO, so that it can be taken into account in the conciliation phase;

47.  Regrets Council’s arbitrary cuts of more than EUR 30 million in commitment appropriations to numerous programmes in the areas of culture, citizenship, justice, public health, consumer rights and civil protection, in disregard of these programmes’ excellent implementation rates and despite already insufficient levels of financing that leave many high-quality projects unfunded; restores all lines to the level of the DB and proposes additional increases to relevant lines;

48.  Reiterates its conviction that it is time to boost funding for important Union programmes in the areas of culture and citizenship, in particular Creative Europe and Europe for Citizens, which have a key role in supporting cultural and creative industries, as well as participatory citizenship, especially in view of the European elections in 2019; reiterates that all institutions must honour the political agreement found on the 2018 funding for the European Year of Cultural Heritage by providing sufficient appropriations for it through Creative Europe’s Culture sub-programme, in the absence of a separate budget line for the Year; calls on the Commission to review initiatives under the ‘multimedia actions’ budget line to ensure that the budget effectively supports high-quality independent coverage of Union affairs;

49.  Is in favour of increased transparency of and visibility for the Daphne objective of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme, as a key Union tool in combatting all forms of violence against children, young people, women, LGBTI people and other at-risk groups; supports setting up a European monitoring centre on gender-based violence within the European Institute for Gender Equality;

50.  Reinforces Heading 3 by EUR 108,8 million in commitment appropriations above the DB, excluding pilot projects and preparatory actions, and proposes to finance these reinforcements by a further mobilisation of the Flexibility Instrument;

Heading 4 – Global Europe

51.  Stresses once again that the Union’s external action is faced with ever growing funding needs which greatly exceed the current size of Heading 4; considers that the mobilisation of the Union budget to respond to the migration challenge will continue to require dynamic responses in the coming years; stresses that an ad hoc one-year increase, such as that in 2017, cannot be considered sufficient in view of the complex challenges that the Union is facing and the urgent need for stronger Union external presence in today’s global world;

52.  Is of the opinion that priority should be given to the Union’s immediate neighbours and to measures aimed at tackling the main issues they are facing, namely the migratory and refugee crisis and corresponding humanitarian challenges in the Southern Neighbourhood, and the Russian aggression in the Eastern Neighbourhood; believes that stability and prosperity of the Union Neighbourhood are beneficial to both the concerned regions and to the Union as a whole; reiterates its call to increase support to the Middle East Peace Process, the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA to cope with growing needs, in order to achieve the Union’s stated objective of promoting development and stability in the region and support the resilience of Palestinians; reiterates that supporting countries which are implementing association agreements with the Union is pivotal to facilitating political and economic reforms, but stresses that such support should apply as long as those countries meet the eligibility criteria, especially as regards the rule of law and enforcing democratic institutions; therefore decides to increase resources for the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), for the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) and for Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA);

53.  Stresses the importance of the role that Europe plays at global level in eradicating poverty and ensuring development of the most deprived regions, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals; therefore, allocates additional financial resources to the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and Humanitarian Aid; recalls that, since a significant proportion of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea are coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, Union support in this region is key to tackling the root causes of migration;

54.  Opposes the drastic reductions in financial contributions from the external financing instruments (ENI, IPA, PI and DCI) to Erasmus+, despite the fact that youth exchange programs are one of the most successful long-term investments into cultural diplomacy and mutual understanding, and decides therefore to increase these contributions;

55.  In view of the worrying deterioration of the situation as regards democracy, rule of law and human rights, decides to decrease the support for political reforms in Turkey; decides to put part of the remaining appropriations in reserve to be released when Turkey makes measurable improvements in the fields of rule of law, democracy, human rights and press freedom, with the aim of redirecting these funds to civil society actors for implementing measures supportive of these objectives;

56.  Is of the opinion that in order to adequately tackle disinformation campaigns, and to promote an objective image of the Union outside its borders, additional financial means are needed; calls therefore to step up funding to counter disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks; decides therefore to increase resources for strategic communication actions to be carried out in the Neighbourhood as well as in the Western Balkans; recalls the importance of investing in the visibility of the Union’s external action in order to strengthen the impact of funding in that field and enhance Union public diplomacy in line with the ambitions of the Global Strategy;

57.  Deems it necessary to increase appropriations for the Turkish Cypriot Community budget line for the purpose of contributing decisively to the continuation and intensification of the mission of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, the wellbeing of Maronites wishing to resettle and that of all enclaved persons as agreed in the 3rd Vienna Agreement, and of supporting the bicommunal Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, thus promoting trust and reconciliation between the two communities;

58.  Stresses that the trend by the Commission to resort to satellite budgetary mechanisms such as trust funds and other similar instruments has not always proven to be a success; is concerned that the establishment of financial instruments outside the Union budget could threaten its unity and circumvent the budgetary procedure and at the same time undermine the transparent management of the budget and hamper the right of the Parliament to exercise effective scrutiny of expenditures; considers, therefore, that external instruments which emerged in recent years must be incorporated into the Union budget, with Parliament having full scrutiny over the implementation of these instruments; notes that by end of September 2017 a total of EUR 795,4 million has been committed for EU Trust Funds in the 2017 Budget; asks the Commission to present to the European Parliament and the Council the amount it intends to commit in 2018 to the Trust Funds; reiterates its concern that Member State contributions to these Trust Funds tend to lag behind their pledges; takes note of the ECA Special Report 11/2017 on the Bekou EU Trust Fund for the Central African Republic; is concerned about the deficiencies identified by the ECA, such as the lack of assessment for overall needs and the dysfunctional coordination mechanisms with other donors; expresses its intention to assess the added value of EU Trust Funds as an instrument of Union external policy;

59.  Recalls that in accordance with Article 24 of the MFF Regulation, all expenditures and revenues of the Union and Euratom shall be entered in the general budget of the Union in accordance with Article 7 of the Financial Regulation; calls on the Commission to preserve the unity of the budget and to consider it as a guiding principle when introducing new initiatives;

60.  Stresses the importance of election observation missions in strengthening democratic institutions and building public confidence in electoral processes, which in return promote peace-building and stability; emphasises the need to ensure sufficient financial resources for that objective;

61.  Points out that DCI funding shall not be redeployed in order to finance the new Capacity Building for Security and Development (CBSD) initiative under the IcSP; deplores the DB proposal to redeploy EUR 7,5 million from the DCI to the CBSD and stresses the urgent need to find alternative solutions to fill this gap;

62.  Reiterates its request that the budget line for EU Special Representatives be transferred, in a budget-neutral manner, from the CFSP budget to the administrative budget of the EEAS in order to further consolidate the Union’s diplomatic activities;

63.  As a result, decides to reverse almost all of the Council’s cuts and to reinforce Heading 4 by EUR 299,7 million above the DB in commitment appropriations (excluding pilot projects and preparatory actions, the transfer of EUSRs and adopted cuts);

Heading 5 – Administration; Other headings – administrative and research support expenditure

64.  Considers that Council’s cuts do not reflect the real needs and thus jeopardise the already significantly rationalised administrative expenditure; restores therefore the DB for all Commission administrative expenditure, including administrative and research support expenditure in Headings 1 to 4;

65.  Decides, in line with the conclusion of the “Joint Opinion of the Legal Services of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on three aspects of the relationship between OLAF and its Supervisory Committee” of 12 September 2016, to hold 10 % of appropriations of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) until the Supervisory Committee is granted access to OLAF cases files, while slightly reinforcing its budget, in line with increased responsibilities;

66.  Takes note that, at the beginning of 2017, OLAF investigated a severe case of customs fraud in the UK which was caused by undervaluation of imported products and which has created a loss of income of almost EUR 2 billion for the Union budget in the period 2013-2016; is concerned that that fraud has not been stopped to date and that losses to the Union budget are still ongoing; asks the Commission to take into account the slow reaction of the UK administration to its recommendations in this regard when negotiating Brexit; asks those Member States that objected to the Union legal framework for customs infringements and sanctions to reconsider their position in order to allow for a speedy solution of this problem;

Decentralised Agencies

67.  Endorses, as a general rule, the Commission’s estimates of the budgetary needs of agencies; considers, therefore, that any further cuts proposed by the Council would endanger the proper functioning of the agencies and would not allow them to fulfil the tasks they have been assigned; considers that the new posts adopted in its position are needed to fulfil additional tasks due to new policy developments and new legislation; reiterates its commitment to safeguard resources and where necessary provide additional resources as to ensure the proper functioning of the agencies;

68.  In the context of the challenges the Union is still facing in terms of migration and security, and bearing in mind the necessity for a coordinated European response, decides to reinforce the appropriations for the Europol, Eurojust, CEPOL, EASO and the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA);

69.  Recalls the importance for the Union focusing on competitiveness for growth and jobs; recalls the strategic priority for the Union of fully developing and implementing its Galileo and EGNOS projects for which the European GNSS Agency (GSA) is partially responsible; recalls the GSA has a resourcing gap for cyber security and public regulated service and decides, therefore, to increases its level of appropriations;

70.  Considers that additional appropriation and staff are needed for the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) to fulfil its expanded mission related to the implementation of the electricity and gas network codes and guidelines and its monitoring;

71.  Recalls in particular that the European Environment Agency (EEA) helps the Union to make informed decisions about improving the environment, integrating environmental considerations into economic policies and moving towards sustainability, and that, in the context of the 2030 Union climate and energy policy, the Commission has proposed new work for EEA on the Governance of the Energy Union, without any corresponding increase in the establishment table;

72.  Stresses that while the budgetary resources and the number of posts for the European Border and Coast Guard seem adequate for the time being, the future needs of the agency in terms of operational resources and staff will have to be closely monitored;

73.  Welcomes the inclusion of adequate resources provided for in the 2018 budget to support the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs); underlines that the role of the ESAs is essential in fostering the consistent application of Union law and better coordination between national authorities, and in ensuring financial stability, better integrated financial markets and consumer protection and supervisory convergence; emphasises that in the interest of a prudent use of their budgets, the ESAs must stick to the tasks and to the mandate assigned to them by the Union legislator;

74.  Reiterates that, as agreed in the IIA of 2 December 2013, 2018 is the last year of implementation of the 5 % staff reduction and redeployment pool approach to the staffing of agencies; reiterates its opposition to any continuation of a global approach on agency resources after 2018; reaffirms its openness to achieving efficiency gains between agencies through increased administrative cooperation or even mergers where appropriate and through pooling certain functions with either the Commission or another agency; welcomes in this regard the initiative to further coordinate agencies activities via establishing the Network of EU Agencies’ Permanent Secretariat (now called the Shared Support Office) and supports the allocation of an additional establishment plan post to the European Food Safety Agency whose costs will be mutualised from the Union Agencies’ existing budgets and seconded to that office;

Pilot projects and preparatory actions (PP-PAs)

75.  Having carried out a careful analysis of the pilot projects and preparatory actions submitted as regards the rate of success of the on-going ones, excluding initiatives already covered by existing legal bases and taking fully into account the Commission’s assessment of the projects’ implementability, decides to adopt a compromise package made up of a limited number of PP-PAs, in view also of the limited margins available and the ceilings for PP-PAs;

76.  Stresses therefore the efforts made by the Parliament in this regard and asks the Commission to show good will in the implementation of the adopted PP-PAs at the end of the budgetary procedure, regardless of its implementability assessment, as for any decision of the European Parliament and the Council;

Special instruments

77.  Recalls the usefulness of special instruments to provide flexibility over and beyond the extremely tight ceilings of the current MFF and welcomes the improvements brought about by the mid-term revision of the MFF Regulation; calls for an extensive use of the Flexibility Instrument, the Global Margin for Commitments and the Contingency Margin in order to finance the wide range of new challenges and additional responsibilities that the Union budget is facing;

78.  Calls for an increase in the Emergency Aid Reserve (EAR) and the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) in light of the most recent and tragic disasters, namely the fires and extreme drought in Portugal and Spain;

79.  Recalls also the significance of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), the EAR and the EUSF; supports the Commission’s intention to provide for a quicker mobilisation of the EUSF by putting most of its annual amount in a reserve in the Union budget, on top of the amount already budgeted for advances; regrets the Council’s cut in that respect and restores partially the DB level, with the exception of the amount which has been frontloaded to 2017 via Amending Budget No 4/2017 and the mobilisation of the EUSF for Italy; calls for the extension of the scope of the EUSF to provide assistance to victims of acts of terrorism and their families;


80.  Is concerned about the current under-execution trend in payments throughout the Union budget, not only in subheading 1b, but also in Headings 3 and 4, despite the need to answer the surge of new challenges and the setting-up of flexible funding mechanisms; recalls that for the past two years the payment level of the Union budget was considerably decreased, coupled with a high level of budget surplus; expresses, therefore, its concern that the DB still leaves an unprecedented margin of EUR 10 billion below the payment ceiling, which reflects a low execution trend that may lead to an acute payment pressure at the end of the current MFF;

81.  Insists on the necessity to restore the DB in payments on all lines cut by the Council and reinforces payment appropriations in targeted manner, mostly on those lines which are amended in commitment appropriations;

Other Sections

82.  Regrets the repeated Council practice of increasing the standard flat rate abatement for the Union institutions; believes this to have a particularly distorting effect on the budgets of institutions with historically accurate abatement rates; considers that this approach does not constitute a targeted reduction nor sound financial management; restores therefore the abatement rate at the level of the DB;

Section I – European Parliament

83.  Maintains the overall level of its budget for 2018, as adopted in its abovementioned resolution of 5 April 2017, at EUR 1 953 483 373; incorporates budgetary-neutral technical adjustments to reflect updated information which was not available earlier this year;

84.  Notes that the level of estimates for 2018 corresponds to 18,88 %, which is lower than that achieved in 2017 (19,25 %) and the lowest part of Heading 5 in the past fifteen years; insists nevertheless that the drive for the lowest expenditure possible for the European Parliament should not come at the cost of a reduced capacity for Parliament’s ordinary legislative work;

85.  Reiterates Parliament’s priorities for the forthcoming financial year, namely, consolidating the security measures already taken and improving Parliament’s resilience to cyber-attacks, improving the transparency of the Parliament’s own internal budgetary procedure, and focusing the Parliament’s budget on its core functions of legislating, acting as one arm of the budgetary authority, representing citizens and scrutinising the work of other institutions;

86.  Welcomes the creation of the Parliament’s Bureau Working group on the general expenditure allowance; recalls the expectations of greater transparency regarding the general expenditure allowance and a need to work on a definition of more precise rules regarding the accountability of the expenditure authorised under this allowance, without generating additional costs to Parliament;

87.  Calls on the Bureau to make the following concrete changes concerning the general expenditure allowance:

   the general expenditure allowance should be handled in all cases in a separate bank account;
   all receipts pertaining to the general expenditure allowance should be kept by Members;
   the unspent share of the general expenditure allowance should be returned at the end of the mandate;

88.  Reduces the establishment plan of its General Secretariat for 2018 by 60 posts (1 % staff reduction target), in accordance with the agreement of 14 November 2015 reached with the Council on the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2016; recalls that the 35 posts granted to Parliament in 2016 related to new activities reinforcing security and, as such were exempted from the staff reduction target, as confirmed at the adoption of the Amending Budget No 3/2016 and the 2017 general budget(10)
; calls on the Commission to adjust its monitoring tables accordingly in order to provide to the European Parliament and the Council with accurate information at all steps of the procedure;

89.  Welcomes the exchange of views on Parliament’s building policy held on 11 July 2017 between the Committee on Budgets, the Secretary General and the Vice-Presidents responsible for Parliament’s building policy; considers that this dialogue ought to be a continuous process, particularly in the light of upcoming Bureau discussions on the refurbishment of the Paul Henri-Spaak building;

90.  Reiterates Parliament’s position as expressed in its abovementioned resolution of 5 April 2017 that there is further room for improvement on the control mechanisms related to European political parties and political foundations; notes in this regard the Commission’s proposal to amend Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1141/2014(11)
and welcomes any effort to improve the accountability and transparency of spending;

91.  Recalls the 2014 ECA analysis which estimated the costs of the geographic dispersion of the Parliament to be EUR 114 million per year; furthermore, notes the finding from its resolution of 23 October 2013 on the location of the seats of the European Union’s Institutions(12)
that 78 % of all missions by Parliament statutory staff arise as a direct result of the Parliament’s geographic dispersion; emphasises that the report also estimates the environmental impact of the geographic dispersion to be between 11 000 to 19 000 tonnes of CO2
emissions; reiterates the negative public perception caused by this dispersion and calls therefore for a roadmap to a single seat and a reduction in the relevant budget lines;

Section IV – Court of Justice

92.  Restores the DB on all budget items cut by the Council which are essential to the functioning of the Court and restores the estimates for two budget items in order to enhance the Court’s ability to deal with increasingly high translation demands;

93.  Expresses its disbelief at the unilateral statement of the Council and the related appendix on the 5 % staff reduction in the Council’s position on the 2018 draft budget according to which the Court still needs to reduce its establishment plan by 19 posts; underlines that those 19 posts correspond to the 12 and 7 posts duly granted by Parliament and the Council in the 2015 and 2016 budgetary procedures respectively to address additional needs and insists therefore that those 19 posts should not be given back, the Court having already duly achieved its 5 % staff reduction requirement by suppressing 98 posts during the period 2013-2017;

Section V – Court of Auditors

94.  Restores the DB on all items cut by Council, in order to implement the work programme of the Court of Auditors and deliver the planned Audit Reports;

95.  Places a reserve on the item “Limited consultations, studies and surveys” pending the outcome of the ongoing negotiations on the revision of the Financial Regulation, and the revision entering into force in 2018;

Section VI – European Economic and Social Committee

96.  Restores the DB on all items cut by the Council;

97.  Increases two lines above the DB in relation to the work of Domestic Advisory Groups in trade agreements;

Section VII – Committee of the Regions

98.  Restores the DB on all items cut by the Council;

99.  Increases a number of lines above the DB in line with the Committee of the Region’s own estimates;

Section VIII – European Ombudsman

100.  Welcomes the work done by the Ombudsman in finding efficiency savings in her own budget when compared with the previous year;

Section IX – European Data Protection Supervisor

101.  Questions why the Council would reduce the budget of the European Data Protection Supervisor given the additional tasks conferred upon the institution by Parliament and the Council; restores therefore all the budget lines cut by Council to enable the European Data Protection Supervisor to fulfil his obligations and commitments;

Section X- European External Action Service

102.  Restores all lines cut by the Council;

103.  Creates a Strategic Communication Capacity budget item in line with the European Council conclusions of March 2015 and to equip the EEAS with adequate staff and tools to face the challenge of disinformation from third states and non-state actors;

104.  Decides furthermore to transfer EU Special Representatives from the CFSP chapter to the EEAS budget to strengthen the coherence of the Union’s external action;

105.  Provides an additional amount above the EEAS estimates for trainees in Union Delegations, in response to the findings of the European Ombudsman’s inquiry into unpaid traineeships(13)

o   o

106.  Takes note of the unilateral statement of France and Luxembourg annexed to the Council’s position on the draft budget for 2018, as adopted on 4 September 2017; recalls that representatives of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission agreed on the pragmatic calendar for the conduct of the budgetary procedure, including the dates for the conciliation period, at the spring budgetary trilogue on 27 March 2017; recalls that the General Affairs Council approved that pragmatic calendar at its meeting of 25 April 2017, in full knowledge of the Parliament’s calendar of part-sessions for 2017; notes, therefore, that the budgetary procedure is proceeding in conformity with the pragmatic calendar agreed between the three institutions;

107.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution, together with the amendments to the draft general budget, to the Council, the Commission, the other institutions and bodies concerned and the national parliaments.

(1) OJ L 168, 7.6.2014, p. 105.
(2) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(4) OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.
(5) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0085.
(6) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0114.
(7) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2017)0302.
(8) Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing, amending Regulation (EU) No 648/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Commission Directive 2006/70/EC (OJ L 141, 5.6.2015, p. 73).
(9) Directive 2010/63/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (OJ L 276, 20.10.2010, p. 33).
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0401 / P8_TA(2016)0411.
(11) COM(2017)0481.
(12) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0498.
(13) European Ombudsman, 454.2014/PMC.

Commission to invest €30 billion in new solutions for societal challenges and breakthrough innovation

Horizon 2020, the EU’s €77 billion research and innovation funding programme, supports scientific excellence in Europe and has contributed to high-profile scientific breakthroughs such as the discovery of exoplanets and gravitational waves. Over the next 3 years, the Commission will seek greater impact of its research funding by focusing on fewer, but critical topics such as migration, security, climate, clean energy and digital economy. Horizon 2020 will also be more geared towards boosting breakthrough, market-creating innovation.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “Artificial Intelligence, genetics, blockchain: science is at the core of today’s most promising breakthrough innovations. Europe is a world leader in science and technology and will play a major role in driving innovation. The Commission is making a concerted effort – including with the European Innovation Council which takes its first steps today – to give Europe’s many innovators a springboard to become world leading companies.”

Supporting breakthrough, market-creating innovation

Since the beginning of its mandate, the Juncker Commission has been working hard to give Europe’s many innovative entrepreneurs every opportunity to thrive. Now, the Commission is launching the first phase of the European Innovation Council.Between 2018 and 2020, the Commission will mobilise €2.7 billion from Horizon 2020 to support high-risk, high-gain innovation to create the markets of the future. Moreover, Horizon 2020 will make better use of its “crack the challenge” prizes to deliver breakthrough technology solutions to pressing problems faced by our citizens.

Focusing on political priorities

The 2018-2020 Work Programme will focus efforts on fewer topics with bigger budgets, directly supporting the Commission’s political priorities:

  • A low-carbon, climate resilient future: €3.3 billion
  • Circular Economy: €1 billion
  • Digitising and transforming European industry and services: €1.7 billion
  • Security Union: €1 billion
  • Migration: €200 million

€2.2 billion will be earmarked for clean energy projects in four interrelated areas: renewables, energy efficient buildings, electro-mobility and storage solutions, including €200 million to support the development and production in Europe of the next generation of electric batteries.

Boosting ‘blue sky’ research

At the same time, Horizon 2020 will continue to fund ‘curiosity-driven science’ (often referred to as ‘blue sky science’ or ‘frontier research’). The annual Work Programme of the European Research Council for 2018, adopted in August, will enable support for excellent researchers with nearly €1.86 billion. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which fund fellowships for researchers at all stages of their careers, receive a boost with €2.9 billion in total over three years.

Enhancing international cooperation

The new Work Programme also strengthens international cooperation in research and innovation. It will invest over €1 billion in 30 flagship initiatives in areas of mutual benefit. Examples include working with Canada on personalised medicine, with the US, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Australia on road transport automation, with India on water challenges and with African countries on food security and renewable energies.

Spreading excellence

Between 2018 and 2020, €460 million under Horizon 2020 will be allocated specifically to supporting Member States and associated countries that do not yet participate in the programme to their full potential. The aim is to tap into the unexploited pockets of excellence in Europe and beyond. In addition, the programme also continues to promote closer synergies with the European Structural and Investment Funds.

Simplifying rules of participation further

Another novelty is the introduction of the lump-sum pilot, a new, simpler approach to providing financial support to participants. It will shift the focus of ex-ante controls from financial checks to the scientific-technical content of the projects.

Open Science

The programme marks a step change in promoting Open Science by shifting from publishing research results in scientific publications towards sharing knowledge sooner in the research process. €2 billion will be channelled to support Open Science, and €600 million will be dedicated to the European Open Science Cloud, European Data Infrastructure and High Performance Computing.


Horizon 2020 is the EU’s biggest ever research and innovation framework programme with a budget of €77 billion over seven years (2014-2020). While most research and innovation activities are still underway or yet to start, the programme is delivering.

Horizon 2020 researchers have contributed to major discoveries like exoplanets, the Higgs boson and gravitational waves, and at least 19 Nobel Prize winners received EU research funding prior or after their award.

As of October 2017, Horizon 2020 has in total funded more than 15 000 grants to the tune of €26.65 billion, of which almost €3.79 billion went to SMEs. The programme has also provided companies, in particular SMEs, with access to risk finance worth over €17 million under the “InnovFin – EU finance for innovators” scheme. Furthermore,3,143 ERC Principal Investigators in host organisations and 10,176 fellows under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions have received grants worth almost €4.87 billion and €2.89 billion respectively.

Simultaneous to the adoption of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020, the Euratom Work Programme 2018 has been adopted, investing €32 million in research into the management and disposal of radioactive waste. It will also develop a research roadmap on safe decommissioning of nuclear power plants to reduce environmental impact and costs.

For more information

MEMO: Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018-2020

Factsheet: European Innovation Council

Factsheet: migration-related research

Factsheet: lump sum pilot

Country factsheets

Horizon 2020 website and calls

Participant portal

The EU's outermost regions: a privileged, renewed and strengthened partnership


What are the Outermost Regions of the EU?

The nine Outermost Regions of the European Union consist of six French overseas territories (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion and Saint Martin), two Portuguese autonomous regions (the Azores and Madeira) and one Spanish autonomous community (the Canary Islands).http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/policy/themes/outermost-regions/

Despite being located thousands of kilometres from the European continent, they are an integral part of the EU, with a population of 4.8 million, equivalent to that of Ireland or slightly more than that of Croatia.

Mainly islands and archipelagos, they can be found in the Caribbean, near the American continent, in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa and in the Atlantic Ocean between Africa and Europe, while French Guiana is a territory in the Amazon forest bordering Brazil and Suriname.

Why are they different?

The Outermost Regions have a number of specific features, compared to the rest of the EU, which limit their growth: their remoteness and/or insularity, small size, difficult topography and climate and dependence on a few local products. Only a region-by-region approach can help overcome these constraints.

Yet these features are also real assets to Europe. The geographical location of these regions projects a European presence into strategic areas of the world, making them ideal locations for trade, cultural exchange, investment and international cooperation. Their extensive maritime zones offer the potential for the development of a strong blue economy and for them to become key actors in the governance of the oceans.

These regions are also rich in resources. They account for 80% of Europe’s biodiversity and are ideal locations for research and innovation in forward-looking sectors such as the circular economy, pharmacology and renewable energies. Their geographical locations offer unbounded opportunities in space sciences and astrophysics.

What is Europe doing for these regions?

Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises the specific situation of these regions and gives them a special status. The Article provides for the adoption of specific measures geared to their realities, within the framework of European law. A Court of Justice judgment of 2015 clarified the scope of this Article. On that basis, the Commission intends to establish a strengthened partnership between the EU, the Outermost Regions and their respective Member States.

Between 2014 and 2020, the EU is allocating EUR 13.3 billion to these regions under the European Structural and Investment Funds, with additional amounts to tackle their specific constraints, and the POSEI (Programme of Options Specifically Relating to Remoteness and Insularity), a programme under the Common Agricultural Policy.https://cohesiondata.ec.europa.eu/fundshttps://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/markets/outermost-regions/intro_fr

In addition to European subsidies, the Outermost Regions benefit from specific measures or derogations to facilitate their access to the internal market in areas such as State aid and taxation, in order to mitigate the impact of their constraints and stimulate economic growth.

Recently, the rules on State aid to support the EU’s outermost regions have been clarified and further simplified. Member States will now be able to fully cover both the additional transport costs and other extra costs that undertakings operating in those regions incur, across all sectors of the economy.http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1341_en.htm

In 2004, the Commission presented for the first time a strategy for the Outermost Regions, with the aim of structuring and strengthening the partnership between the EU institutions and these Regions. The strategy was renewed in 2008 and again in 2012 to bring it into line with the Europe 2020 strategy, placing the emphasis on the need for sustainable growth.

 Why renew the strategy today?

Despite the progress of recent years, the Outermost Regions are facing serious challenges: high unemployment, above all among young people, even though it is falling in mainland Europe, vulnerability to climate change, obstacles to growth due to poor infrastructure and dependency on economic sectors that have not incorporated innovative processes to a sufficient degree. Some of these regions are also confronted with migratory pressure and social crises.

The Commission is therefore presenting a new strategy for an enhanced partnership between the EU, the regions and their respective Member States in order to redouble efforts and meet these new challenges.http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/information/publications/communications/2017/un-partenariat-privilegie-renouvele-et-renforce-avec-les-regions-ultraperipheriques

Most of the measures under this strategy respond specifically to requests made by the presidents of the outermost regions in a memorandum submitted to President Juncker at the 4th Forum of the Outermost Regions in Brussels in March 2017.http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/conferences/rup2017/

The aim of the strategy is to better help these regions to take advantage of the globalised world, where they have already experienced the disadvantages without really reaping the benefits. They should therefore be better integrated in the European internal market, as well as in their own region, and trade should be facilitated.

What is the Commission’s new approach to the Outermost Regions?

The aim of the strategy is to make these regions’ economies more robust, ensure they take their place in all European policies and priorities, and guarantee that their specific nature is better taken into account throughout the EU’s decision-making process.

To do this, the Commission will:

1) Take the specific nature of the Outermost Regions into account upstream: in line with the Commission’s Better Law-Making initiative, the impact of decisions taken at European level on these regions will be analysed in advance, in order to shape policies better reflecting their realities and interests.https://ec.europa.eu/commission/priorities/democratic-change/better-regulation_en

For example, this preventive approach will be strengthened when the Commission negotiates international agreements, in particular with regard to fisheries and external trade. The Commission will thus take greater account of the interests of these regions when it negotiates trade agreements involving products important to their economies (e.g. bananas, sugar, wines and spirits).

2) Ensure a closer partnership at all levels: the strategy aims to enhance the dialogue between the Commission and the Outermost Regions, in particular by establishing a platform on common questions raised by the regions or their Member States. It will bring together, as required, the Outermost Regions, their Member States, the European institutions and other institutions such as the European Investment Bank and private actors.http://www.eib.org/?lang=en

But the EU cannot, alone, guarantee the prosperity of these regions; a responsible partnership is needed. That is why the new strategy clearly sets out a series of specific measures that the regions and their Member States must put in place to achieve their growth objectives, while underlining the fact that political will is vital for this.

3) Provide bespoke support: Each of the nine regions is unique, with its own advantages and difficulties. On request, the Commission will set up special working groups with each Member State in question to support them towards growth and to overcome specific difficulties, for example regarding the better use of European funding. Moreover, on the basis of the model of smart specialisation, which has proved its worth, the Commission is encouraging the Outermost Regions to better identify and capitalise on their advantages with the aid of strategic investments, notably as part of the Juncker Plan.http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1995_en.htmhttps://ec.europa.eu/commission/investment-plan_fr

Specifically, how will the EU help the Outermost Regions to speed up their growth?

The strategy aims to help the regions to develop new growth vectors. To encourage research and innovation, including in traditional sectors such as fishing and agriculture, the new strategy will:

help the regions to participate in the European research programme Horizon 2020, by means of a new coordination and support measure to be launched in 2018. It will better inform local teams of funding opportunities and help them to promote the visibility of their research activities, identify European and international partners in their field of expertise, and set up consortia to prepare project proposals, including with the participation of third countries, in particular on the basis of identical advantages from smart specialisation.http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1995_en.htm

Create a new initiative dedicated to the Outermost Regions under the Juncker Plan, in partnership with the European Investment Bank. The aim will be to facilitate access to the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), in particular through a single access point within the European Investment Advisory Hub, with enhanced technical support for the more effective planning and funding of projects.http://www.eib.org/?lang=enhttp://www.eib.org/efsi/eiah-lowlight.htm?lang=en

Promote the development of a sound circular economy. Waste management is an area where improvement is needed in some of the Outermost Regions, whilst also being a source of economic opportunity. It will be one of the priorities of the European environmental programme LIFE for the period 2018-2020, so that innovative projects in this field can be funded.http://ec.europa.eu/environment/basics/natural-capital/life/index_en.htm

Support investment in basic infrastructure (roads, drinking water and sewage distribution systems), fundamental for the development of many activities such as tourism, by encouraging strategic planning.

How are you going to help the Outermost Regions to create opportunities for their populations?

The new strategy focuses on mobility and skills, thanks to the Erasmus+ programme and the European Solidarity Corps, in order to tackle long-term unemployment, in particular among young people with no qualifications. The EU will give financial support to young people in the Outermost Regions taking part in these programmes by paying a substantial part of their travel costs.https://info.erasmusplus.en/https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity_en

Moreover, better transport links within the archipelagos, between the regions and their neighbours and between the regions and the European continent are essential to their economic development and participation in the internal market.

The Commission is launching a study to determine the need for connections and identify key projects in the air and maritime transport sectors. This study also refers to better support in the preparation of projects with a view to potential European funding.

The Commission will explore, in justified cases, the possibility of cofunding ports and airports specifically for the Outermost Regions.

Finally, it will ensure that the connection needs of the Outermost Regions are better taken on board in the context of the Connecting Europe Facility and the Trans-European Networks when they are updated.https://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/infrastructure/ten-t-guidelines/project-funding/cef_enhttps://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/infrastructure_en

How do you intend to help the Outermost Regions to better cooperate with their neighbours and access new markets?

The strategy will help to deepen ties with neighbouring countries by promoting joint projects, in particular in the prevention and management of natural risks, protecting the environment, waste management, transport and energy.

To facilitate cooperation, the Commission will be launching a debate on how best to coordinate and align the rules between the various EU instruments and programmes (such as the European Regional Development Fund and European Development Fund) and considering the option of establishing joint programmes between the Outermost Regions and their neighbouring countries.https://cohesiondata.ec.europa.eu/funds/erdfhttp://ec.europa.eu/budget/explained/budg_system/fed/fed_fr.cfm

The influence of the Outermost Regions in their zone is also facilitated by exchanges, and not only trade; the Commission will be looking at how to extend the Erasmus programme for young entrepreneurs to third countries.

How will the EU better help the Outermost Regions to combat climate change?

The EU is supporting projects to mitigate the impact of climate change (such as measures to manage the final stretches of the main rivers in Funchal, with funding granted to Madeira by the EU).

The new strategy will also take better account of the specific situation of the Outermost Regions, including in its LIFE programme, which supports projects to monitor, anticipate and adapt to extreme natural hazards. The EU will be integrating the challenges faced by the Outermost Regions into its Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, introduced in 2013 and currently being assessed with a view to reviewing it.http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2013:0216:FIN:EN:PDF

The Commission supports territories affected by natural disasters, and is currently looking at how best to combine various funds (the European Regional Development Fund, European Development Fund and EU Solidarity Fund) to support reconstruction in Saint Martin following Hurricane Irma, whilst proposing a new support mechanism to fund 95 % of the work from the EU budget.https://cohesiondata.ec.europa.eu/funds/erdfhttp://ec.europa.eu/budget/explained/budg_system/fed/fed_en.cfmhttp://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/EN/funding/solidarity-fund/

What are the new features for the fisheries strategy?

The Commission will assess the relevance of the use of State aid to support the renewal of the small-scale fishing fleets of the Outermost Regions, whilst respecting the principle of sustainable fishing. Finally, the strategy will encourage close collaboration with the Member States in combating illegal fishing and in collecting scientific data in the field of fisheries.

What are the new features for the agriculture strategy?

The Commission will seek to continue the POSEI programmes and to maintain specific conditions in the regions’ rural-development programmes  (e.g. operating support for the POSEI programme, more favourable financing rates for rural development programmes).

The agricultural products of the Outermost Regions have the potential to become real competitive assets with a high differentiation potential, such as rum from Martinique, bananas from the Caribbean, the Canaries or Madeira, or wine from the Azores. The strategy calls on the regions to make full use right now of European funding to promote innovation, limit market fluctuation risks and promote their agricultural products using EU, national or “Outermost Region” quality labels.