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Dialogue saves Socrates

The European Union's new education programmes, which involve schools for the first time, are now ready to go ahead after differences over the budgets were settled last week.

After lengthy negotiations over how the budget should be allocated, the Council of Ministers, Euro-MPs and the European Commission, represented by Edith Cresson, reached an agreement that is expected to be ratified by the full European Parliament in Brussels on March 1.

The commission will be empowered during the course of the first two years to propose a budgetary review if the available funds prove insufficient.

The schemes, which were meant to have started at the beginning of the year, were blocked at the 11th hour by the Germans.

The 850 million ecus (Pounds 680 million) Socrates programme means that over the next five years grants will effectively increase by 50 per cent compared to those for the Erasmus student mobility programme that ran from 1990 to 1994, said Mme Cresson.

Socrates will allow schools to apply for money towards school exchanges and networks. Money will also be available for technology to enhance communication between schools in different parts of the Community. The Pounds 100m Youth for Europe III youth exchange programme will also be ratified.

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