In the fraught negotiations underway to negotiate a new 7-year budget for the European Union, officials at the European Commission—the E.U. executive branch—came up with the idea of removing two pricey items from the budget spreadsheet and getting E.U. member states to fund them directly. The items are Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), a system of satellites as well as air and ground-based sensors for environmental monitoring, and ITER, an experimental fusion reactor that the European Union is building in France in collaboration with China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States. But yesterday member states cried foul: government ministers from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Italy, and the Netherlands wrote to the commission demanding that the projects be reinstated.
The commission fought hard to get GMES and ITER off the ground but as their costs have swelled it has had difficulties getting increases approved by impecunious states and a skeptical European Parliament. GMES is predicted to cost €5.7 billion during 2014-2020 and ITER €2.4 billion. Handing these political hot potatoes directly to the member states, however, might have cut down on the internal fighting and made the European Commission's proposed €1 trillion budget look more reasonable. The tough negotiations over future E.U. spending between commission, parliament, and states will continue long into next year.