Summary: The plenary session of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg on December 16, which was attended by Austrian Chancellor, Viktor Klima, and his Foreign Minister, Wolfgang Schussel, cast doubts on the effectiveness of Austria's six months at the helm of European Union affairs. The debate, in the aftermath of the December 11/12 Vienna Summit, highlighted the highly politicised atmosphere in the European Parliament in the run up to the forthcoming elections in Spring 1999. For its part, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament (PES) appears to be willing to lean over backwards to support the actions of the Member States, most of which have Socialist or Social Democrat Governments. The European People's Party (EPP), the second-largest Group in the European Parliament, after the Socialists, has tended to adopt a more critical stance. This stalemate meant that no Resolution was adopted.

"The Austrian Presidency of the European Union has been a most assiduous Presidency, and has held untold Ministerial meetings, two meetings of Heads of State and Government, and has guided the action of the European Union towards political horizons of considerable importance for our citizens", in the words of Viktor Klima. He pointed out the first steps taken at the Vienna Summit towards implementing a European Employment Pact, the adoption of a plan of action on an area of freedom, security and justice, success on the environmental front as a result of the compromise on road user charges (Eurovignette proposal) as well as the adoption of the Fifth Framework Programme of Research and Development, adoption of the budgets for the Leonardo and Socrates (education and training) Kaleidoscope and Ariane (culture) or the agreement on the legal bases which clarify the budgetary situation for non-governmental organisations which are involved in the fight against social exclusion or in human rights. The Austrian Chancellor did, however, admit that progress was less impressive on the Agenda 2000 package of budgetary, agricultural and structural reforms. The President-in-Office of the Council of Ministers, Wolfgang Schussel admitted that "the image we have given of the European family reunited in Vienna was perhaps more beautiful than the actual state of the edifice, which still has much work in progress". "We appreciate the very honest assessment of Chancellor Klima which underlines the successes of his Presidency, without concealing...

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