The European Parliament has rejected the proposed Ecu14 billion budget for the EU's 1998-2002 technology R&D programme for being too low.
EU research ministers made the proposal for the 'Fifth Framework' programme in February, and the issue will have to be resolved by conciliation between the parliament and EU member states, many of which want to keep R&D contributions down.
The Parliament's decision was inevitable once its committee on research, technological development and energy adopted the recommendation of German Christian Democrat Euro MP Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl, who called on it to support the European Commission's higher budget proposal of Ecu16.3 billion.
Earlier this year, European R&D commissioner Edith Cresson urged the parliament to reject the EU ministers' budget and fight for more money. "At a time when the fight against unemployment is an EU priority we cannot give a negative signal in the research sector," she said.
EU research ministers meet next Monday to discuss the content and financial breakdowns of the specific programmes, including the Information Society Technologies programme, but the issue of the overall budget is not on the official agenda.
"In the light of the Parliament's vote, the ministers will clearly discuss the budget, but only on an informal basis. It is now just a question of reaching a common position before the conciliation process begins," a UK official said.
The earliest possible meeting of the conciliation committee - which is comprised of representatives from the parliament and the member states - is September, but it is more likely to be October, the official said.
Monday's meeting, to be chaired by UK research minister John Battle, will also debate R&D cooperation between the EU and the European Space Agency, the Euratom programme and issues discussed at April's 'management colloquium' in London.
Earlier this week, the Commission started the process of appointing the members of the 17 external advisory groups that were established at the London meeting.
The role of the groups is to advise on the content and direction of the 1998-2002 programme. Each group will have 15 to 20 members from the European R&D community.
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