Correspondent's Choice

This story about a funding plan for ITER was published by EurActiv on 26th Novermber 2010.

Faced with a deadlock over the EU’s 2011 budget, the European Commission will present today (26 November) “an alternative approach” to fund the bloc’s multi-billion euro ITER project for nuclear fusion.

In a working paper, the European Commission admits that the governance and funding of ITER are “not well-suited to the direct management of the EU institutions”.

It also makes clear that it does not intend to pour additional money into the project if new problems arise.

The alternative plan will be discussed by EU ministers in charge of competitiveness at their meeting in Brussels today.

Since its launch in 2001, the estimated cost of completing the ambitious project have rocketed from an initial €5.9 billion to €16 billion (see ‘Background’). In a rush to close the growing funding gap, the Commission committed itself in July this year to paying an extra €1.4 billion, using unspent resources from the 2010 EU budget and redeploying funds originally earmarked for other projects.

But with a row ongoing between the European Parliament and EU member states over the 2011 budget, the EU risks failing to fulfil these commitments.

In fact, if there is no agreement on the 2011 budget by the end of the year, the Commission will also be unable to use unspent resources from the EU’s 2010 budget.

“If an agreement on ITER financing is not reached in 2010, the possibility to make use of unbudgeted margins under the 2010 expenditure ceilings will be lost,” reads the Commission’s draft compromise proposal on the 2011 budget, seen by EurActiv.

Without a deal, “the EU will not be able to guarantee its renewed commitment to the project, which could also represent a set-back in terms of credibility of the Union vis-à-vis its international partners,” the paper adds.

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