Summary: At a meeting on December 10, the European Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee finally agreed to recommend that Parliament's plenary session, which will discus the budget in Strasbourg on December 15, should grant the budgetary discharge for 1996. Voting on the discharge will be held on December 16.

The fiercest battle was over paragraph 19, where the two options - whether or not to grant the discharge - were set out. Neither of the two amendments put to the vote on this paragraph, and advocating one or other of the two solutions, obtained a majority. The result was a tie:14-14. Only when the vote on the initial paragraph 19 was held - by split vote - did the option of granting the discharge win the day. This paragraph reads "In the light of these considerations, Parliament decides to give (14 votes to 13) a discharge to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the General Budget of the European Union for the 1996 financial year". The proposal that the discharge be granted is accompanied by a call for a work programme to be established over the next twelve months to ensure significant change with a view to modernising the Commission by January 1, 2000. The work programme would include: - the establishment of an Anti-Fraud Office along the lines of the Bosch report (by June 30, 1999); - a report on the statute for EU officials, with proposed changes (by March 31, 1999); - a report on the screening of the Commission services (by March 31, 1999), including a separation of duties between the permanent civil service and technical assistance offices; - the presentation of a draft...

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