Documents considered by the Committee on 27 March 2019 Contents

3MFF Horizon Europe

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

(a) Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; (b) Cleared from scrutiny

Document details

(a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon Europe—the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, laying down its rules for participation and dissemination; (b) Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing the specific programme implementing Horizon Europe—the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

Legal base

(a) Article 173 TFEU, Article 182 TFEU, Article 183 TFEU, Article 188 TFEU; OLP; QMV; (b) Article 182 TFEU, Article 173 TFEU; QMV.

Department

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Numbers

(a) (39882), 9865/18 + ADDs 1–6, COM(18) 435 final; (b) (39880), 9870/18 + ADDs 1–6, COM(18) 436 final

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

3.1The Horizon Europe programme represents the EU’s proposal for the next, ninth, Framework Programme (Horizon Europe) which will run from 2021—2027. This is a financial programme and forms part of the wider Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), which the Committee has scrutinised in its report of 21 November 2018.2 In its first report on the proposal the Committee granted the Government a waiver to support on a Partial General Approach at the upcoming Competitiveness Council to be held across 29/30 November in relation to the Regulation.

3.2The present report concerns itself more narrowly with the accompanying proposal for a Decision, also known as the ‘Specific Programme’, which sets out the policy content of the Horizon Europe Framework Programme. On 21 January 2019 the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation (Chris Skidmore MP) informed the Committee that the Romanian Presidency of the Council would seek a Partial General Approach (PGA) on the Horizon Europe Decision at the Competitiveness Council on 19 February.3

3.3In his letter, the Minister noted that:

3.4The Minister indicated that the outcome on this text was unlikely to affect the probability of the UK seeking association to Horizon Europe, and sought a scrutiny waiver so that the Government could participate according to the extent to which the Council text continued to align with UK priorities. However, soon thereafter, officials informed the Committee that the Decision would not be adopted at Competitiveness Council.

3.5On 20 March 2019 the Minister wrote to the Committee for a second time to request a scrutiny waiver in relation to the proposed Decision.4

3.6In his letter, the Minister provides an update on the Horizon Europe Regulation text. He notes that, since January, there have been several trilogues on the Regulation, and that, overall, these discussions have, from a UK perspective, been successful. He notes that the two outstanding issues are on “the exploitation of research and innovation funded by Horizon Europe” and “the remuneration available to researchers in widening countries”.

3.7Trilogue negotiations regarding the Regulation concluded on 19 March 2019, and, although the consolidated text has not yet been published, Politico reported5 that the final compromises included the following changes:

3.8As previously noted by the Minister, the limitations on the possibility of third country participation in the Framework Programme has been excluded from the negotiations and will be dealt with as part of horizontal MFF negotiations among the Member States. The European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee is expected to vote on the proposal on April 2. Final adoption of the Regulation by the Council will not take place until negotiations regarding those aspects of the Regulation which have been excluded to date have been concluded by the negotiators.

3.9In relation to the Specific Programme text (the proposal for a Decision), the Minister states that on 18 March the Permanent Representatives Committee of the EU Council (COREPER) agreed that there will be a Partial General Approach (PGA) on the Specific Programme and that this vote would be conducted with the simplified written procedure, also known as the “silence procedure”, as set out below:

“Under this procedure, Council Members are not obliged to respond; however, where no response is received by the Presidency’s deadline, this is taken as acceptance of adoption of the act in question. The vote must be unanimous. Therefore, if the UK objects to the text, it will be blocked and be forced through the usual process, delaying a decision until May Competitiveness Council at the earliest. The Presidency’s intention is to start the procedure on 27 March, with a deadline of between 24 and 36 hours.”

3.10The Minister states that during trilogues on the Regulation text, the Presidency, Commission and European Parliament collectively agreed that Annex Ia, which includes mission areas, would be moved from the Specific Programme to the Regulation, allowing them to be adopted by an Implementing Act. The Minister states that the UK is content with this approach, as it does not conflict with its objectives.

3.11The Minister also notes that he had previously indicated that there was a possibility that the legal base of the Specific Programme would form part of the PGA, and now confirms that the proposed PGA text “includes Article 182 TFEU as its sole legal base”. He states that this is in line with previous Framework Programmes and that “Member States (including the UK) have been unanimous in their opinion that this single legal base is sufficient”. Officials have suggested that the Presidency believes that the European Parliament will concede on this issue in negotiations.

3.12Pressed for further detail on any other substantive policy changes to the text during the course of negotiations, officials have informed the Committee that the names of individual clusters in Pillar 2 had changed and the cluster ‘Inclusive and Secure Society’ had been separated into two different clusters (one on security and one on social science and humanities).

3.13The Minister concludes that, given that the policy content of the Specific Programme text aligns with the UK’s objectives and the text uses an appropriate legal base, “my strong preference would be to indicate the UK’s support for the text by voting in favour”, and therefore requests a scrutiny waiver for this vote. Due to the use of the written procedure, the Minister acknowledges that the timing of this request is significantly shorter than the Committee’s usual timescales and thanks it in advance for considering the document at such short notice.

3.14We thank the Minister for his update regarding the Presidency’s proposal to conclude a Partial General Approach regarding the Specific Programme of the Horizon Europe Framework Programme, using the simplified written procedure, commencing on 27 March 2019. The changes to the text outlined by the Minister are minor, consisting primarily of the removal of the additional ‘industrial’ legal base from the proposal, in line with the position of the Member States, some minor adjustments in terms of the names and structures of the different clusters, and the relocation of Annex 1a on mission areas to the Regulation establishing the Framework Programme. This final alteration will mean that mission areas will have to be adopted by Implementing Act.

3.15We have taken note of the Minister’s previously expressed view that this text is unlikely to affect the probability of the UK seeking association to Horizon Europe, as well as his assessment that the policy detail of the text has not changed substantially since we last considered it.

3.16The Minister indicates that, given that the policy content of the Specific Programme text aligns with the UK’s objectives and the text uses an appropriate legal base, his “strong preference would be to indicate the UK’s support for the text by voting in favour”. This approach makes sense: given that the Government may wish in due course for the UK to become associated to Horizon Europe when it ceases to be an EU Member State, vetoing such an uncontentious Partial General Approach would in our assessment potentially be counterproductive.

3.17We ask the Minister to provide us with:

3.18We now clear this proposed Decision from scrutiny. We ask for a detailed update regarding the progress of the proposed Regulation, including responses to the above questions, at your earliest opportunity, and not later than 24 April 2019. In the meantime, we retain this proposal under scrutiny.

Full details of the documents

3.19(a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon Europe—the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, laying down its rules for participation and dissemination: (39882), 9865/18 + ADDs 1–6, COM(18) 435 final; (b) Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing the specific programme implementing Horizon Europe—the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation: (39880), 9870/18 + ADDs 1–6, COM(18) 436 final.

Previous Committee Reports

Forty-fifth Report (HC 301–xliv), chapter 2 (21 November 2018).


2 Forty-fifth Report (HC 301–xliv), chapter 2 (21 November 2018).

3 Letter from the Minister to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee (21 January 2019).

4 Letter from the Minister to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee (20 March 2019).

5 Politico Pro, Documents: Horizon Europe trilogue deal (20 March 2019) [paywall].




Published: 2 April