Monday

17th Jun 2019

Van Rompuy's 'egg' goes down badly at EU summit

  • Van Rompuy: will only get to use the new office complex if he secures a second term (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU Council head Herman Van Rompuy scored an own goal at the EU summit by putting forward plans for an expensive new headquarters at an inopportune moment.

Van Rompuy handed round a glossy brochure to EU leaders for the €240 million building during a dinner in Brussels on Thursday (23 June) devoted to a discussion about the threat of Greek bankruptcy and new austerity cuts.

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The brochure itself for the new EU summit venue and Van Rompuy office complex is said to have cost €100,000 to print.

"[UK leader] Cameron and [German Chancellor] Merkel just looked at each other as if to say 'What is this guy thinking?'" one EU diplomat said. "It's true that the building was planned a few years ago and everything, but you have to ask if it was a good idea to draw attention to it now."

David Cameron seized the opportunity to criticise Brussels at the post-summit press briefing.

"When you see a document being circulated with a great glossy brochure about some great new building for the European Council to sit in, it is immensely frustrating," he said. "You do wonder whether these institutions actually get what every country and what every member of the public is having to go through as we cut budgets."

With the building, which is to be called 'Europa' and to look like a giant glass egg when it is finished in 2013, already standing half-built next to the existing summit venue in the EU quarter in Brussels, Cameron conceded that it is too late to pull the project.

He noted that the old venue "does a perfectly good job of housing the European Council" however, and urged Van Rompuy to "please try and do this with economy and efficiency."

A Van Rompuy spokesman told EUobserver that reporters should not refer to the egg as "his" building: "It was approved by the member states and the council secretariat before he began his job."

The UK is one of eight northern European countries pressing for cuts to spending on EU officials in the next multi-annual budget in a move which could see five percent or more of Brussels civil servants lose their jobs.

Van Rompuy has in the past attracted unwelcome attention on use of EU funds by using his official motorcade to drive himself and nine family members from Brussels to a Paris airport and back for a Caribbean holiday.

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