March 19, 2020 | News | No Comments
A group of eight member states led by France have written to the European Commission demanding that funding for the international nuclear fusion project ITER and the European Space Agency observation programme GMES be put back into the proposed multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-20.
Ministers from Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK joined France, arguing that not including the two projects in the MFF equates to “disengagement by the European Union towards major strategic sectors”. They suspect it is part of an effort to hide certain expenditure items by regulating the funding of ITER and GMES through an intergovernmental agreement.
Laurent Wauquiez. France’s research minister, said that the projects respond to concern over security of energy sources and future energy supplies . “It would be absurd if the Union stopped financing them,” he said.
Funding for both items has come from the current MFF for 2007-13. But the Commission’s proposal for the 2014-20 period, presented in June, would move €2.7 billion of funding for ITER and €5.8bn for GMES outside the EU’s main budget.
The ITER project has become a contentious political issue between the Commission and national governments. It is already facing a funding gap for the current financial framework period because costs were underestimated. The EU’s contribution to ITER has tripled to more than €7bn. Green MEPs have called for the project to be abandoned, arguing that it takes funding away from renewable energy efforts.
The Commission initially wanted national governments to fill the €1.4bn gap until 2013 themselves. But after they refused, the Commission proposed to use funds from the 7th framework programme for research as well as unspent funds from this year’s EU budget to fill the gap.
GMES, the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security project, has been less controversial. A joint initiative of the Commission and the European Space Agency, developed in 1998, GMES would use satellites as well as ground-based and airborne instruments to monitor environmental and security threats. But GMES has not yet reached its operational phase and has faced uncertainties about its funding.
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