Summary: Just two days before the vote by the plenary session of the European Parliament on the report by James Elles (EPP) , rapporteur for Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee on granting the budgetary discharge to the European Commission in respect of the management of the EU budget for the year 1996, an animated debate took place on December 15 during the plenary session which has left the whole saga once again up in the air. Several days earlier it looked certain that the entire saga was about to die like a damp squib, after the Budgetary Control Committee had voted by the narrowest of margins to recommend granting the discharge in the plenary session this week. Those opposed to granting the discharge will require a majority of the entire house, whereas those wishing to grant the discharge merely need a majority of MEPs present. It looks like a foregone conclusion that those in favour of granting the discharge will win the day. Should here be no majority one way or the other, the matter will be returned to the Budgetary Control Committee, which would then have one month to submit a definitive text.

The debates were somewhat more stormy than is usual for the European Parliament's plenary session. Parliament's Vice-President, Klaus Hansch (Germany) recently called for the resignation of the entire European Commission, which has been, in his opinion, guilty of poor management. However, a majority of Mr Hansch's group, the Socialists (PES) voted in favour of granting the discharge. The President of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Pauline Green (United Kingdom) called on the...

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