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The conclusions of the discussions of the European Council on the EU budget are of particular interest for EUREKA and its SME funding programme Eurostars. Eurostars is the only funding programme to be specifically designed for innovative SMEs. The next deadline for the submission of applications for Eurostars funding is 4 April 2013, 20:00 C.E.T. This is the final call for Eurostars projects under the current programme: Eurostars will be back in 2014 under Horizon 2020, with streamlined and improved procedures.
The deal reached at the beginning of this month by the European Council limits the maximum possible expenditure for a European Union including 28 Member States, including Croatia, to 959.99 billion euros in commitments, corresponding to 1.0% of the EU's Gross National Income (GNI). This means that the overall expenditure ceiling has been reduced by 3.4% in real terms, compared to the current MFF (2007-2013). This is to reflect the consolidation of public finances at national level. This is the first time that the overall expenditure limit of a MFF has been reduced compared to the previous MFF. The ceiling for overall payments has been set at 908.40 billion euros, compared to 942.78 billion euros in the MFF 2007-2013.
Despite the cut in the overall expenditure ceiling of around 34 billion euros in both, commitments and payments, EU leaders agreed on a substantial increase of the financial means for future geared expenditure such as research, innovation and education, in order to promote growth and create jobs. In fact, the expenditure ceiling for sub-heading 1a ("competitiveness") amounts to 125.61 billion euros, which is an increase of more than 37% compared to the MFF 2007-2013. In addition, they committed to increase the funding for the EU research programme "Horizon 2020" and the "Erasmus for all" programme in real terms.
The European Council concluded that there is a critical need to reinforce and extend the excellence of the Union’s science base. The effort in research and development will therefore be based on excellence, while ensuring broad access to participants in all Member States; this, together with a thorough simplification of the programme, will ensure an efficient and effective future European Research Policy also ensuring better possibilities for SMEs to participate in the programmes. All policies will be called upon to contribute to increase competitiveness and particular attention will be paid to the coordination of activities funded through Horizon 2020 with those supported under other Union programmes, including through cohesion policy. In this context, important synergies will be needed between Horizon 2020 and the structural funds in order to create a “stairway to excellence” and thereby enhance regional R&I capacity and the ability of less performing and less developed regions to develop clusters of excellence.