Juncker pledges action on Horizon 2020 problems, hints at rule changes

Jean-Claude Juncker assured Romania that Innovation Commissioner Carlos Moedas (R) is on the case. [European Commission]

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has assured a Romanian MEP that problems with the Horizon 2020 research scheme will be addressed, and even hinted at changes to the rules governing the research programme. EURACTIV Romania reports.

S&D group MEP Sorin Moisă wrote on social media that “I received a reply from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to a 18 November letter I sent concerning the scandalous remuneration situation faced by Romanian researchers, participating in the Horizon 2020 European programme, which is encouraging immigration and Euroscepticism.”

Moisă praised the Commission chief for his answer, calling it a “real response” and not the typical bureaucracy associated with the alleged “usual stubbornness and inertia of the European Commission”.

Juncker wrote that “the Commission is aware of the special situation in Romania and, as announced by Commissioner Carlos Moedas at the Competitiveness Council on 29 November, we are determined to resolve this issue quickly and effectively”.

Moedas: 'Countries that increased spending in R+D better weathered the crisis'

Innovation was a top priority for the world’s most powerful nations at the G20 meeting last September, in Hangzhou. However, Europe still has some “negative trends” to address, says Commissioner Carlos Moedas.

He added that “the Commission will seek an appropriate solution within the existing legal framework, by amending the Model Grant Agreement, and will consult with the member states in relation to this in the immediate future”.

If that does not yield the right results, the Luxemburger said that the executive would examine the possibility of changing the rules that govern participation in Horizon 2020.

Juncker’s response was enough to placate Moisă, who said that he is confident that a solution will be found to the problem.

UK to underwrite Horizon 2020 projects after Brexit

The UK’s innovation agency has vowed to ensure that science and research plays a “central role in a progressive industrial strategy”, after Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed that the Treasury will underwrite business and academic funding for approved Horizon 2020 projects.

The Romanian MEP said that both himself, Innovation Commissioner Moedas, and various Romanian experts all agreed that “the problem is not caused by the existing legislation” but by restrictions put in place by the Commission. Moisă, therefore, agreed that “changing the Model Grant Agreement is the right solution”.

The Horizon 2020 programme has been criticised for remunerating its participating researchers according to the basic salary offered in their home nation, which is disadvantageous to less wealthy member states, like Romania.

Many of the scheme’s participants have called for salaries to paid according to a base unit cost, adjusted according to a country-specific coefficient.

Further Reading

Spain wants Horizon 2020 funds to clean up pesticide mess

The Spanish region of Aragón is set to request European funding from the Horizon 2020 programme to combat environmental pollution caused by a now-banned pesticide. EURACTIV Spain reports.

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