Following the start of the Romanian Presidency, several Romanian Ministers were invited to introduce the Presidency’s priorities in European Parliament’s Committees.
ENVI committee meeting – HTA
On 21 January, the Romanian Health Minister, Sorina Pintea, presented the Presidency’s priorities in the field of health at the meeting of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI).
Ms Pintea noted that the HTA proposal was the only legislative file for which the Romanian Presidency foresees Council negotiations. The technical discussions will continue, with a view to moving the issue forward at Council level.
Interestingly, while the previous Austrian Presidency aimed to reach a partial general approach by the end of 2018, it seems that in light of the existing disagreement between the EU Member States, the Romanian Presidency is not ready to make such a commitment. That being the case, a “possible General Approach agreement” may be discussed during the Council meeting on 14 June.
ITRE committee meeting – Horizon Europe and AI
On 23 January, the Romanian Minister of Innovation, Nicolae Hurduc, and Minister of Economy, Niculae Bădălău, presented the Romanian Presidency’s Programme priorities and discussed in particular the Horizon Europe Framework Programme. The presentations were followed by a Q&A session with the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
a) Horizon Europe
Regarding “Horizon Europe”, the 9th EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Mr Hurduc stated that the Romania Presidency was willing to speed the discussion of the Horizon Europe framework programme for research and innovation 2021–2027, in order to start the programme as scheduled in 2021. He explained, however, that the Specific programme implementing Horizon Europe framework programme for research and innovation 2021–2027 negotiations are a step behind because they rely on and are closely linked to the “Horizon Europe Framework Programme”.
In this regard, Mr Hurduc announced that a partial general approach might be reached by the end of the Romanian Presidency on the specific programme implementing Horizon Europe. This means that the Council will adopt a first political agreement pending the first reading in the European Parliament. This partial general approach could help to speed up the legislative procedure and even facilitate an agreement between the two institutions, as it gives the Parliament an indication of the Council's position prior to first reading.
However, it should be remembered that even if a first Council proposal on a partial and general approach on the Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation has been agreed on in November 2018, this agreement still does not cover the budgetary aspects of the draft regulation proposed by the Commission due to the fact that the final amounts of the Horizon Europe Programme, will depend on the agreement reached on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-2027 (currently under discussion). With the consequence that the final adoption in plenary on the Horizon Programme will not be possible before a final agreement on the MFF for 2021-2027 is reached. The European Parliament still expects that an agreement on the next MFF will be reached before the 2019 European Parliament elections in May. This scenario, however, seems very unlikely.
b) Artificial Intelligence
During his presentation, Mr Bădălău stated that the Romanian Presidency’s priorities in the field of competitiveness and industry focus on the European Strategy on Digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI). He welcomed the Commission’s coordinated plan on Artificial Intelligence to foster the development and use of AI in Europe, and further explained that the Presidency appreciated that the Commission’s willingness to place the EU should at the forefront of the AI development globally.
During this meeting, the two rapporteurs Christian Ehler (EPP, Germany) and Dan Nica (S&D, Romania) on Horizon Europe file, urged the European Council to reach an agreement on the Horizon Europe Programme as soon as possible to avoid setbacks for the launch of Horizon programmes in 2020 as there is still a lot of preparation work to be done.