|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.4, 25.1.01, p9 (editorial)|
THE decision to hold all future summits of EU leaders in Brussels rather than in the European hinterlands may be one of the few moves to streamline the Union's policy-making process to come out of the Nice treaty negotiations.
French President Jacques Chirac's ad-libbed offer to Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt certainly seemed at the time like a cynical appeal to Belgium's self-interest to win support for the overall deal in Nice. But the idea to stop holding such meetings in the country with the rotating EU presidency has much to recommend it.
Although it may seem at first sight that transporting thousands of Union officials and journalists to a city in the host country helps to bring the EU closer to the people, the reality is actually quite different. As the last summit showed all too clearly, the headaches can outweigh the expected benefits. The Niçoise were subjected to massive disruption as their town centre was closed for several days in the interests of security.
Similarly weak is the argument that bringing a travelling circus to town is a major boost to the host city's economy. Summit attendees get most of their meals free, courtesy of the presidency; the only real beneficiaries are hoteliers who jack up their room prices for the duration of the meetings. And the massed officials and journalists rarely get to see much of the cities they are visiting, instead toiling away most of their time in the aircraft hangar-sized conference halls which are the only buildings big enough to house the thousands of participants.
But moving summits to Brussels has highlighted a more important consideration. Each meeting costs h10-30 million and the bill for the entire presidency is a rather daunting h75 million, which means the new countries expected to join the Union in the next three or four years would be hit with a hefty price tag for hosting the EU roadshow.
Still, they would probably be proud and eager to show themselves off to other member states. For this reason, it is a good idea that informal meetings should continue to be held in the country hosting the presidency. These are smaller-scale and take place outside the capital, giving a much better opportunity to present the real life of a country at less cost and with less disruption to local people who are not part of the Union bandwagon.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|