Summary: After several hours of tough negotiations behind closed doors on December 8, the European Parliament and Council of Ministers have worked out an agreement on the Draft EU General Budget for 1999. MEPs are now set, at their plenary session in Strasbourg on December 17, to ratify in second reading the vote of the Council of November 24. This concerns appropriations for commitments of Euro 96.908 billion, payment appropriations of Euro 85.536 billion. This represents an increase in payments of 2.36% compared to 1998, and a ceiling on expenses of some 1.10% of EU Gross National Product.

The hallmarks of this compromise are two reciprocal concessions. On the one hand, the European Parliament agreed to forego its "strategic amendment", which foresaw in particular setting aside a reserve of Euro 1.5 billion in commitment appropriations, and Euro 3.7 billion in payment appropriations. The Council, for its part, agreed to a declaration introducing elements of flexibility as part of the context of negotiations for a new Inter-institutional Agreement, as foreseen in Agenda 2000. "The nature and degree of this flexibility will depend on the global outcome of the negotiations, and on the ceiling agreed for the medium-term financial perspective... During the budget procedure, and at the latest before the first reading in Parliament, the two branches of the budgetary authority may decide, pursuant to the rules of majority voting, as set out in Article 203(9).5 of the Treaty, on a proposal from the Commission, to implement these elements of flexibility", in the words of the text. This declaration falls far short of the proposed compromise tabled by the...

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