Summary: Sitting in plenary session in Strasbourg on December 15, the European Parliament endorsed the agreement reached through the Conciliation Committee on November 17 on the European Union's Fifth Framework Programme for Research (1999-2002). MEPs also voted on the specific programmes (consultation procedure).

Commenting on the results of conciliation on behalf of the Socialist Group, Renzo Imbeni (Italy) suggested the Council had not shown great wisdom in proposing a "guillotine". He claimed this procedure rides roughshod over co-decision, though it should be noted that the Parliament was able to ensure that co-decision will be respected if the programme's budget allocation for the period 2000-2002 should need to be renegotiated. Uncertainties over the funds available to the EU for the period 2000-2006 (the "Santer package") ensured the two institutions were unable to reach a definitive agreement on funding for the entire 5th Framework Programme. They therefore split the budget into two parts: the first covering 1999 (ECU 3.450 billion), the second 2000-2002 (ECU 11.510 billion). Were a discrepancy to arise between the financial perspective and the budget for the 5th Framework Programme, the allocation for the period 2000-2002 would be adapted. Through co-decision, the Parliament will therefore be involved in these negotiations (whereas initially the Council was to have proceeded with any necessary changes without the MEPs' assistance). Speaking for the Liberal Group, Elly Plooij-Van Gorsel (Netherlands) regretted that in spite of good words, research expenditure in the EU will remain below levels in the United States and Japan, the Community's principal competitors. She hoped that after the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty, the Council might be able to adopt Conciliation Committee decisions by a majority vote. Research Commissioner Edith Cresson once again described the compromise as being "satisfactory", even though the final budget allocation is not as generous as the Commission and the Parliament would have wished. Specific programmes. The principal amendments and comments of rapporteurs on the specific programmes can be summarised thus: - Quality of life and management of living resources - Christof Tannert (PES, Germany); budget: ECU 2.413 billion. The rapporteur emphasises that of all the research programmes, this area will enjoy the largest increase in its allocation. Amendments tabled by the MEPs aim to strengthen the...

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