Showdown looms over EU clean energy schemes

Council formally rejects parliamentary demands for budget increase, sparking conciliation talks

The European Parliament and Council of Ministers will have to hold political talks over the future for EU funding programmes for clean energy after ministers formally rejected parliamentary demands for higher budgets on Thursday. Meeting in Luxembourg, internal market ministers approved without discussion the Council's second reading common position on the Save II energy efficiency programme and the Altener renewable energy programme. EU governments agreed nearly a year ago to allocate euros 64m and 74m respectively to these programmes over the period 1998 to 2002 (ENDS Daily 16 November 1998). Earlier this month, however, the European Parliament stood firm in its long-running demand for funding to be lifted back up to the European Commission's proposed levels of euros 68.4m and 81.1m for the two schemes respectively (ENDS Daily 7 October). The EU institutions will now have to hold "conciliation" talks to sort out their differences because of the Amsterdam treaty's entry into force in the summer. Before this, both proposals were "cooperation" procedures, under which the parliament has more limited powers to influence governments' decisions. Now, however, they have become "codecision" procedures, meaning that conciliation is triggered if the two sides fail to reach agreement even after second reading.

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