Summary: The "Vienna Strategy for Europe", concocted by European Union Heads of State and Government meeting in Vienna for the European Council on December 11 and 12, is, they say, a way to deal with the challenges facing Europe. Commission President Jacques Santer said the Strategy is "a concrete response to the need for Europe". But it leaves many gaps. For a European Union poised on the brink of the launch of the Euro, the hollow framework of the "Strategy" offered a strange sensation of indecision.

The "Strategy" is in effect a calendar of actions endorsed by EU leaders to develop EU policy for jobs, economic coordination, tax, investment, security, justice, internal reform, enlargement, foreign affairs, and human rights. Notably, it resets the timetable for resolving the conflicts over the Agenda 2000 package as March 1999. And it defers until the end of 1999 any chance of adding new countries to the six "first-wave" candidates. And as if to confirm that EU leaders are relying on the future to solve the problems they cannot solve now, they have pledged themselves to produce, in one year's time, yet one more declaration on future priorities - this time stretching across the next millennium. The long agenda of work to be done as a consequence of the Vienna European Council contains more than a score of specific tasks now facing the EU as it prepares for a 1999 that will pre-eminently include last-ditch discussions on the financing of Agenda 2000, at a special Summit in Brussels in March. But there is also a heavy agenda at the Cologne Summit in June, including employment, environment, and internal EU reform; a special Summit on justice and home affairs in October; and a Summit in Helsinki in December that will have to take some decisions on implementation of the coordinated employment, economic and taxation policy reviews that Vienna has set in train. Exasperation over the Summit's inadequacies was immediately expressed by the leader of the Green Group in the European Parliament, Magda Alvoet, who called it "a Summit without ambitions", and "the Summit of postponements". The lack of anything specific on employment, other than more plans, came as a disappointment to job-creation lobbyists in Vienna. European Greens spokesman Franz Floss, taking part in a pro-jobs demonstration in Vienna during the Summit, said: "Since the employment summit in Luxembourg, nothing has happened". Austrian academic Emmerich Talos said there were no concrete...

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