MEPs approve deal for greener EU research

Nuclear research funds capped, renewables may gain, under new five-year programme

The European Parliament has approved a compromise deal with the Council of Ministers that will peg EU research funding over the next five years at just under Ecu15bn and is likely to put more money into renewable energy.

In Strasbourg today, MEPs voted through a final text of the fifth framework programme for research and development, which stresses the need to take into account environmental considerations in allocating funding to research projects.

The general framework should be passed unchanged by EU energy ministers when they meet next Tuesday, as it is a result of "conciliation" negotiations between the Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which share legislative powers on the issue. The Parliament has only consultative powers on the nine specific research programmes within the framework, ranging from life sciences through to promoting innovation in small companies, on which they also voted today.

The programme's final budget of Ecu14.96bn is less than the Ecu16.3bn originally proposed by the European Commission, and only a marginal increase on the previous programme. But it is more than the Ecu14bn that governments wanted, and MEPs are viewing the compromise as a victory.

Conciliation negotiations over the programme have proved bad news for nuclear energy research. As part of the compromise, the Parliament insisted on capping the proportion of funding allocated for nuclear research to 8.4% (Ecu1.26bn), compared with 9% sought by the Council, and 10% under the previous framework programme.

In an amendment of the specific programmes, the parliament articulated its desire to see a larger proportion of the funds going to renewable energy sources. In the Ecu2bn "preserving the ecosystem" sub-programme, which covers environmental and non-nuclear energy research, MEPs suggested that 60% of the Ecu1bn allocated for energy should be spent on renewables, compared with 45% in the last programme.

The remaining 40% would be left to be shared between fossil fuels and research into the "rational use" of energy. Ministers will decide next week on whether or not to accept this amendment.

The parliament also managed to secure a mid-term review of the five-year programme. The European Commission will submit a report by the end of 2000, along with proposed changes if these are deemed necessary.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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