Europe has been struggling with financial crisis in recent years. One of the latest initiatives has been the introduction of EFSI – European Fund for Strategic Investments. After being put forward in late November, the principal plan received political backing in the December meeting of the European Council. The funding available would have its aim to target projects that would boost European economy, as outlined in the press release “to get Europe growing again and get more people back to work“.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commissions president stated that “If Europe invests more, Europe will be more prosperous and create more jobs – it’s as simple as that. The Investment Plan we are putting forward today in close partnership with the European Investment Bank is an ambitious and new way of boosting investment without creating new debt.” More investment without new debt sounds like a great idea. However, this means that the funds for this initiative need to be found from another place.
In this proposal, funding for this investment fund would be partially re-channeled from current European research funding. In a speech to the Parliament, Juncker argued that this would not be an issue as money from EFSI could also be used for research and that this would be “maximizing input”. This claim can be taken with some caution, as the secretary general of LERU noted, there are no earmarked funds, so the funding that is drawn from research can go for any kind of projects in EFSI. Initial overviews show that most of the projects would in fact have a different character.
The plan has been faced with considerable opposition in the university/research sector, where one sector representative called described the proposal as ‘Cutting Horizon to improve the competitiveness of Europe equals cutting off your nose to spite your face’. LERU, the League of European Research Universities also quickly reacted on the proposal, arguing that EFSI was a “vague and highly uncertain project”. They also refer to the frequent attempts to squeeze European research funding: “It should be clear for the EU institutions and the member states that Horizon 2020 is not a lemon which can be squeezed according to the flavour of the day!”. Euroscience, an association for researchers and research professionals, has highlighted how the basic idea is unproductive as the very idea of investing in European research is based on the principle of creating growth. However, despite initial opposition, the plan has moved forward.