Euro-research budget storm

May 1, 1998

SCIENCE minister John Battle announced a "quantum improvement" in the management of Europe's multi-billion pound research programme this week.

A meeting of European ministers in London on Tuesday sent a "strong signal" to the European Commission to develop a more user-friendly and efficient Fifth Framework programme, he said.

But Mr Battle's up-beat remarks ignored a storm brewing over an agreement by Europe's research council, at a February meeting he chaired, to make a real terms cut in the Framework budget leaving it at Ecu 14 billion (about Pounds 10 billion), which is Ecu 2.7 billion less than originally proposed.

The European Parliament's committee on research, technical development and energy this week rejected the agreement. It called for reconsideration of proposals for monitoring the programme. It said it would "fix a new and considerably higher overall amount" for the programme.

A Commission spokesman said the committee's stand was "music to the ears of the Commission".

The committee will draw up a report for Parliament, which will debate the Framework agreement in June. Parliament is likely to accept report recommendations.

The debate will be followed by a second reading of the agreement at the Council of Ministers. If the budget is still not agreed, a conciliation process will begin.

Mr Battle declined to comment on the committee's statement. He said it was a "significant achievement" for the research council to have reached a common position on the programme by unanimous agreement. "We are now moving on to make sure that we have not only a good programme but a well-run one," he added.

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