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The European Union at a crossroads

28 February 2020

By Ludovic Thilly, Coimbra Group Executive Board Chair, and Jürgen Barkhoff, Coimbra Group Executive Board Vice-Chair

EU Leaders gathered for the European Council on 20-21 February 2020 in Brussels to discuss the European long-term budget, the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), for 2021-2027. Unfortunately, they once again failed to agree on the MFF, which now increases the probability of a delay in the launch of the next EU programmes, which include Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe.

This regrettable situation threatens to cause severe disruption to mobility and research programmes all over Europe and has the potential to seriously destabilize the internationalisation efforts of (Higher) Education and Research Institutions. However, even bigger issues are at stake as, once again, the budgets allocated to the European Programmes for Education, Research and Innovation are jeopardised by major cuts with enormous impact on the scale, effectiveness and viability of European Education and Research, as well as the competitiveness of European societies (see for instance, the press release from CULT committee chair Verheyen and Erasmus+ rapporteur Zver).

During the past three years, the Coimbra Group and 14 European associations of universities, representing more than 800 universities, repeatedly called for a substantial increase in the budgets of Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe programmes, in order to meet the scale of the challenges we face and of our ambitions to tackle them (see the latest statement here): we once again urge European Leaders to live up to their responsibilities and not to sacrifice the future of Europe for political bargaining and game-playing at this crucial moment. Europe has no future if it does not invest massively in Education and Research.

We also ask Coimbra Group University Rectors to relay this call to their national authorities and, in particular, to their Finance Ministers.

So yes, Europe is at a crossroads and it does not take much for it to take a dead end and so let us mobilize all the forces of the university community and its supporters across society to ensure that this bleak future does not become a reality.