Europe Will Not Save Us

The new Parliament has been chosen and the government is under construction. The government programme will reveal the plans for the future of research and education. Will the government be an active investor that trusts knowledge or will it be content to explain away its cutting lists as a necessity? We will find out soon.

As we follow the construction of the government and its programme, we should not forget the elections of the European Parliament. It is, after all, important to choose representatives who know that Europe will develop through work that is based on research. The situation of Britain makes the European Parliament elections unusual. As I write this, I do not know whether Britain will be a member of the European Union. Whatever happens, I believe that they will be a close and high-quality research partner in the future too.

Even after the elections, it is worth continuing to follow EU matters. In July, Finland will begin its Presidency of the Council of the European Union. As the basis of the presidency, Finland has published the Trio programme together with two other future presidency states. The programme straightforwardly highlights the development of European competitiveness. From this perspective, the future presidencies present investments in new kinds of knowledge and particularly in the advancement of possibilities for young people.

Already last autumn, a joint working group of the parliamentary groups released, as a background for the Trio programme, a report entitled “Parliamentary Group Perspectives: The Programme of Finland’s EU presidency”. The report raises citizens, climate policy, strong Europe and safety as the most important focal points. Research and education did not end up as focal points in the report. The parliamentary groups did not, however, want to bind the future government by the report; instead, Finland’s ultimate focuses will be formulated now after the elections. I hope that research and education that is based on research as well as development will emerge on the agenda more clearly.

The final phase of the Horizon 2014—2020 programme and the new programme for the years 2021- 2027 will provide some tangibility to following EU matters. The budget of the current programme is about 80 billion euros, of which Finnish research institutes and institutions of higher education have managed to obtain for their projects a sum that is significantly larger than Finland’s share of payment. Success in securing funding is, indeed, convincing proof of our competence in intense international competition.

The focal points of the new Horizon 2021—2027 programme will be in strengthening competitiveness and in supporting the EU’s objectives in sustainable development. 100 billion euros have been reserved for the programme. The sum is large and difficult to conceive. The gross domestic product of all the EU countries together is a good point of comparison. In 2017 alone, it was 15 300 billion euros, and Finland’s share of this was less than 1.5 per cent. In proportion to the gross domestic product, Horizon is modest, only about one per mille. Of course the sum is significant, but not at all a strong investment in the European future.

From time to time, there have been insinuations in Finland that Finnish researchers would be weak in applying for EU research funding. There have even been propositions that the home-spun funding problem could be solved by using more active measures in obtaining EU funding. We are working on this too, but already the current high competence and success needs to be acknowledged. Researchers obtain more funding from the EU than Finland pays to the EU. Expecting this share to grow significantly would be unrealistic.

The next government cannot, then, expect that the EU will save the funding of Finnish research. Finland has, all on its own, neglected to invest in research and education that is based on it and in development. The reinstatement of the university index and raising all the RDI investments up to four percent of Finland’s gross national product have, however, wide support in parties, at least before the elections. The future government needs to reinstate the index and to implement an immediate general increase and a funding programme to reach the goal of four per cent already well before the year 2030.

Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto
Chair, The Finnish Union of University Professors

Painetussa lehdessä sivu 48