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Cardiff summit Monday, 15 June, 1998, 22:08 GMT 23:08 UK
Six months of success?
The summit in Cardiff marks the end of Britain's turn as President of the European Union, an office which rotates every six months between the member states.

The period has been one beset by controversy over the single currency and accusations that Britain was unprepared for the office.

The BBC Europe Correspondent David Shukman analyses the success or otherwise of the past six months.

Austria takes on the EU presidency from Britain in a fortnight's time and like the rest of Europe it has been watching closely to see if British attitudes to Europe really are changing.

The Austrian Chancellor, Viktor Klima, thinks there has been a shift in attitudes. He likes the British Presidency's focus on unemployment and crime and said that British views on Europe are now getting a better hearing.

" We found a lot of common solutions to very difficult questions ... therefore it also increased the acceptance of British perspective for the other Europeans," he said.

The single currency

Yet on the key issue of the Euro a gulf is opening up with Britain. The difference was acute in Luxembourg earlier this month. Finance ministers of the single currency countries held their first talks and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was only allowed in for an hour or so.

The forlorn sight of Gordon Brown having to leave early on his own was one the government did not want us to see.

The other 11 EU ministers carried on with their meeting and were diplomatic about Britain's claim to have a leading role in Europe.

The French Finance Minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said: "Obviously when the UK, it is my hope, I don't know if it will be the case very soon, but when the UK is in the euro it will be easier for the UK Government to have some influence on the monetary policy, for instance."

Foreign policy

In the European Parliament, some have also criticised Britain for failing to lead the EU on foreign policy.

MEP Gijs de Vries of the European Parliament Liberal Group said: "There is no clear European role on Kosovo, our relations with Turkey, an important Nato ally remain less positive compared to what they should be. The European Union has not played a major role in the Asian financial crisis and so on. Here I think the Presidency has not delivered what it could have done."

At the Cardiff summit, the last great event of the British Presidency there is one widely-held conclusion: that the Presidency was strong on efficiency and the search for practical results, but weak on achieving its own ambitious target of transforming in just six months the way Britain and the rest of Europe view each other.

See also:

15 Jun 98 | Cardiff summit
15 Jun 98 | Talking Politics
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