CEOL - EU agrees 2000 budget, guarantees aid to Kosovo

BRUSSELS, Dec 17, 1999 -- (Reuters) The European Union said on Thursday it had approved a 2000 budget worth just short of 90 billion euros ($91.33 billion) which would guarantee it honored commitments to provide aid to the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

Agreement on the budget was reached after a last-minute compromise between the European Parliament and EU governments, who share decision-making responsibility for the bloc's budget.

"The European Parliament and the Council (of EU ministers) have succeeded in responding to the EU's political priorities, namely the reconstruction of Kosovo, while respecting budgetary vigor," EU Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer said in a statement.

The two institutions agreed that 500 million euros was needed in the short-term for the reconstruction of Kosovo following the so-called "ethnic cleansing" which led to NATO's 11-week bombing campaign this summer.

Some 360 million euros will be made available from the 2000 budget to be followed by a further 140 million the following year, the statement said.

Agricultural spending - which takes the largest share of the EU budget - will be frozen at around 40 billion euros next year, while 32.7 billion will be available for regional aid measures.

Aid for the EU's candidate countries will rise next year to 3.1 billion euros from 1.3 billion in 1999, while 4.8 billion will be spent on other EU foreign policies and more than six billion on research, transport, energy and education.

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