Friday's Budget Council made some progress towards the Community Budget for 2005. It's just as well. It's been a challenging week for EU financing, with controversy in the air over impending discussions on longer-term budgeting, and on how EU money should be used.

It's still only a virtual rather than a practical agreement on this 2005 Budget. The European Parliament will not give the budget a first reading until October. Tensions remain over defence spending - an area where the Parliament remains dissatisfied with its limited degree of supervision, but where Member States are reluctant to cede autonomy.

The Commission, also in a state of chronic transition (yet another Commissioner departed this week - the one-time Budget Commissioner Erkki Liikanen), will not issue its amending letter to the Draft Budget until the Autumn.

With the confidence born of resignation to recurrent EU difficulties, Council President Atzo Nicolai said he was sure an agreement would be reached with the European Parliament and the Commission in November.

If he is right, that will keep the EU going for another year.

But battle-lines have started to be drawn this week over even bigger challenges.

The Commission this week presented detailed proposals for budget planning for 2007-2013. A mass of new...

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