|Author (Person)||Frost, Laurence|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.9, 1.3.01, p8|
FINLAND is pushing for an early decision on the location of the new European Food Authority (EFA) amid signs that support for Helsinki is growing among other member states.
Belgium is the latest country to back Finland, diplomats say, after Agriculture Minister Jaak Gabriels supported its candidacy at a meeting of farm ministers.
Neither of the other two heavyweight candidates - Parma and Barcelona - has yet won any public backing from third countries.
The question was set to be addressed by EU leaders meeting in June in Göteborg - but the Finns are now confident enough to be lobbying for a decision at this month's Stockholm summit.
"If it has to be operational by 2002, we need to start work soon," said one Finnish diplomat. "As we see it, Helsinki is the only city that has real support. The mere fact we still don't have an EU agency is probably our strongest argument."
He said several EU members had given their backing, with Germany understood to be a Helsinki fan despite Bonn's bid. Support from Denmark, Ireland, Austria and the UK was also on the cards, he added.
The timing of the decision on location is still being discussed in Stockholm, according to diplomatic sources.
Sweden has backed Helsinki from the start of its campaign. But there is now speculation that the presidency-holder may have new reasons to push the Finnish option even harder, with talk of a new European telecoms agency in the air.
"I suspect the presidency would be quite keen to see Finland get the EFA if it meant they stood a better chance of winning telecoms," an EU diplomat said. "Finland and Sweden clearly have a particular interest in getting the agency."
The unresolved question of the EFA's risk-management powers could still weigh on the outcome. The Commission's partiality to 'unofficial' candidates Brussels and Lille - preferred for their proximity to other institutions - would be more decisive were the authority to get a central policy-making role.
The EFA will be the EU's highest authority on food safety, grouping vets and scientists from all 15 members to advise the Commission on food legislation, including emergency measures in response to crises like BSE.
Finland wants to build it at the University of Helsinki's biosciences complex.
Finland is pushing for an early decision on the location of the new European Food Authority (EFA) amid signs that support for Helsinki is growing among other member states.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry, Politics and International Relations|