Agreement has finally been reached on the size of Europe's future research programme with a Fifth Framework budget of Ecu 14.96 billion (Pounds 10.5 billion) agreed at a European conciliation meeting this week.
The budget, which must still be formally ratified at meetings of the European Parliament and Council of Ministers likely for December, is considerably more than the Ecu 14 billion first proposed by the Council of Ministers, but substantially below the Ecu 16.7 billion initially demanded by Parliament.
It includes Ecu 1.02 billion for the Joint Research Centre, the EC's "laboratory of Europe" which has seven big research institutes scattered across the continent.
Herbert Allgeier, JRC director general, said the budget agreement represented a real terms cut of Ecu 80 million in the JRC's budget. This would mean "extremely tough decisions" and would probably lead to the axeing of high profile research programmes in health, consumer affairs and the environment.
The Framework settlement this week, reached after months of wrangling and just days before a final deadline, includes a revised guillotine clause. The parliament was concerned that a clause built into the original "common position" robbed it of its budgetary powers. The clause linked the Framework budget to European Union budget plans beyond 2000.