The Council of Industry Ministers of the European Union met in Brussels on 20 May 1996. The Council discussed the Third Multiannual Programme in favour of SMEs (1997-2000), presented by the Commission in March 1996. The Council was able to reach agreement on the guidelines and objectives of the programme. In particular, the programme aims to: - Simplify and improve the administrative and regulatory environment of enterprises; - Improve the financial environment for enterprises; - Ensure better information services and help SMEs to become more international, in particular by their "Europeanization"; - Promote SME competitiveness, access to research, innovation and training; - Promote an entrepreneurial culture and special target groups; - Develop SME policy and knowledge of enterprises. The budget proposed by the Commission of ECU 180 million has not, however, been finally agreed by the Ministers. Furthermore, the Council cannot act until the European Parliament, as well as the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, have adopted their opinions on the proposal. The Council also discussed industrial competitiveness in two sectors, namely subcontracting in the textiles and clothing industry, and the chemical industry. Ministers adopted a resolution on industrial cooperation with third countries and other regions. The resolution welcomed the considerable number of instruments and activities undertaken by the Commission in this area, and called on the Commission to continue these activities, particularly with the Mediterranean region.