The Inter-Institutional Agreement allows both branches of the budgetary authority to step up consultations with a view to a coordinated implementation of the medium-term financial perspective. This is so as to avoid having to invoke Article 203 of the budgetary procedure. Starting with the 1999 Budget procedure, the Parliament has acted, egged on by the Chair of its Committee on Budgets, Detlev Samland (PES, Germany), to get a Council undertaking to improve the Agreement, mainly so as to allow the Parliament co-decision powers over all items of expenditure, including non-compulsory spending, or agricultural and structural priorities. The Parliament's pressure resulted in a joint Parliament/Council statement being issued during the December 8, 1997 Budget Council (see European Report No 2367). The German Presidency has converted this compromise into two set of provisions to create a Category 8 (Flexibility instrument) and extend the consultation procedure to the entire Budget. On this score, the text the Presidency submitted to COREPER proposes: - a new trialogue before the Parliament's first reading with the idea being to allow the institutions to pinpoint programmes that should be the priorities in the upcoming consultation process;- holding the second consultation meeting on the eve rather than on the day of the Council's second reading.The COREPER debate has shown that a majority has evolved in favour of the new procedure. The Netherlands is quite open to the idea, as are Austria, Denmark, Belgium and Luxembourg, together with Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Greece, subject to certain reservations or conditions. The Commission, too, backs the Parliamentary approach, so solely Germany and the...

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