29th Mar 2020

Van Rompuy asks smoking EU leaders to leave the room

  • Diplomat: 'It gets quite foggy in there sometimes' (Photo: lanier67)

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has for the first time asked EU leaders to leave the dinning room if they wish to smoke.

The EU's Justus Lipsius building where summits are held is usually a smoke-free zone, but leaders have traditionally been allowed to puff away over dinner. New restrictions were laid down on Thursday evening (24 March) however, as heads of state and government sat down to eat and discuss economic plans.

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Van Rompuy made the declaration at the start of the meal following complaints from several member states, spokesman Dirk De Backer told this website.

"The president made a little joke about it, saying that leaders' work needs to be done well and asked for smoking breaks instead," he said.

"He asked the idea to be kept in mind, its not a rule, more a gentleman's agreement."

While other leaders quaffed Hungarian Gere Portugieser red wine, Denmark's Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Luxembourg's famously hard-smoking Jean-Claude Juncker were among the group of leaders to quietly slip out the dinning room door for a quick cigarette.

Other diplomats confirmed the new restrictions on Thursday, describing scenes of smoke-filled air at previous summits.

"There are quite a few heavy smokers among the EU leaders, so it gets quite foggy in there sometimes," said a source from a large member state.

The Belgian Van Rompuy, whose country is a final bastion of cafe-smoking culture, has tried and failed to lay down the law at previous EU summits.

Leaders who opted to light up a special eurozone summit two weeks ago were reprimanded by the president but managed to finish their cigarettes. "This time around they didn't get away with it," said a diplomat from a small member state.

In March 2004 Ireland became the first country in the world to impose an outright ban on smoking in workplaces, with many other EU countries subsequently following suit.

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