Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

EU president to hold 'intimate' summit in old library

The EU's new president, Herman Van Rompuy, has opted to hold his first EU summit in an old library in order to create an informal atmosphere.

The 11 February meeting is to take place in the 108-year-old Bibliotheque Solvay, situated in a small park between the EU member states' normal meeting venue, the Justus Lipsius building, and the European Parliament complex in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The library is situated in small park in the heart of the EU quarter (Photo: Wikipedia)

The 27 leaders will spend almost the whole day, from 9am until 6pm, alone in the library's wood-panneled and book-lined main room. Each leader will be allowed to bring along one advisor, but the 27 aides will be segregated in a separate chamber.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU's foreign relations chief, Catherine Ashton, have also been invited.

The leaders will be free to mingle and to hold personal conversations about the main topic of the day, the EU's exit strategy from the financial crisis, as well as supplementary topics, such as Haiti relief.

Conventional EU summits in the Justus Lipsius building are more straitjacketed affairs, with the group of 27 stuck in their seats at a polygonal table and making formal interventions one after the other in a pre-determined order.

"He [Mr Van Rompuy] wants to say: 'It's an informal meeting. I have arrived as president and I want to do this in a more intimate atmosphere,'" Mr Van Rompuy's spokesman, Dirk De Backer, told EUobserver.

"It's the first time, so let's see how it goes. It may be repeated. But we can't say it will be like this every time."

Mr Van Rompuy was fond of holding informal meetings with his ministers in stately venues, such as Val Duchesse, a former priory on the outskirts of Brussels, when he was prime minister of Belgium.

Val Duchesse was also floated for the 11 February event, but it was put aside due to "practical problems."

The EU leaders will arrive at the Bibliotheque Solvay in their motorcades. They will also drive back the 300 or so metres from the library to Justus Lipsius in order to hold their post-summit press conferences, for the sake of security.

Mr Van Rompuy became EU president on 1 January following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

The low-key appointment has been seen as being designed by member states to stay in the driving seat in Europe, with the Belgian politician last year himself promising to play the role of a quiet consensus builder.

Investigation

Violating promises and law, von der Leyen tests patience

Under EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, transparency was supposed to be a "guiding principle". Instead, the European Commission is asking Kafkaesque questions in response to an access to documents request, and failing to meet its legal deadline.

Future of Europe: EU Council urged to propose a chair

Since the German presidency promised the Conference on the Future of Europe would start under their leadership, the European Commission and MEPs hope the event will be launched soon. But there is one issue: who will chair the conference?

Nine-in-ten EU regions face revenue plunge, report finds

The decrease of revenues in 2020 of subnational authorities in France, Germany and Italy alone is estimated to be €30bn for the three countries, a new report by the European Committee of the Regions says.

EU Parliament sticks to demands in budget tussle

The parliament wants €38.5bn extra for key programmes, which is less than their previous request of around €100bn. Negotiations continue on Thursday, but the budget and recovery could still get stuck on the rule-of-law issue.

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

MEPs deliver blow to EU body embroiled in harassment case

MEPs have refused to sign off the accounts of the European Economic and Social Committee, in yet another blow to the reputation of the EU's smallest institution. The massive vote against was linked to ongoing psychological harassment cases.

News in Brief

  1. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  2. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  3. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  4. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  5. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  6. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  7. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions
  8. EU Commission to increase use of open-source software

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

EU parliament vows not to cave in to budget pressure

The parliament's majorty dismisses the German EU presidency's proposal on the rule of law conditionality, which has emerged as the main political obstacle to agree on the next long-term EU budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us