The European parliament has agreed wide-ranging amendments to the European Union's proposed fifth framework programme.
The programme of research funding for Europe should come into operation at the end of the year, but must first win approval in parliament and at the Council of Ministers. More than 700 amendments were tabled. An amendment to increase the programme's budget from Ecu16.3 billion (Pounds 10.9 billion) as recommended by the European Commission, to Ecu16.7 billion was approved.
MEPs also agreed to four thematic programmes instead of three, to include life sciences and technologies; information and communication technologies; transport, mobility and production; and energy, environment and sustainable development.
The parliament proposed an Ecu12.2 billion budget on these four themes, with the remainder split between projects encouraging international cooperation, special encouragement for small and medium-size enterprises, and the training of research personnel.
The programme now goes back to the European Commission for modification before going on to the Council of Ministers. Difficulties are expected there as some countries want the budget reduced. The proposals will then return to the parliament.