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Crooner Henri Chanson
"It had to be EU"
 real 28k

Saturday, 9 December, 2000, 04:09 GMT
Mr Nice Guy
Negresco Hotel, Nice
The Negresco Hotel hosts everyone from EU ministers to Brigitte Bardot and Clint Eastwood
By the BBC's Tamsin Smith in Nice

Tensions are rising in Nice as Europe's leaders battle round the clock to reach a deal.

But there is one man who is doing his best to soothe frayed nerves and tempers.

Celebrity pianist and crooner Henri Chanson is the star attraction at the opulent Negresco Hotel where many of the ministers are staying.

I've played Spanish songs, French songs and English songs ... I don't know many good German songs, but I've tried my best

Pianist Henri Chanson
This is the playground of the rich and famous. The hotel guestbook includes Brigitte Bardot, Clint Eastwood and Claudia Schiffer.

"I have seen Mr Schroeder and Mr Aznar and many other ministers ... after the summit they come here to look for a good mood", says Mr Chanson.

Little harmony

Good moods are hard to come by at the Nice negotiations, which have pitted big countries against small, rich against poor, enthusiastic against reluctant.

There is little harmony between France and Germany at the moment, with huge Germany determined to punch with greater power on the EU stage.

It wants more voting power to reflect its bigger population, but this does not sit easily with the French, who want equality.

The British are often standing alone, singing from their own songsheet - especially about retaining the veto on subjects like taxation and social security.

Piano man

Mr Chanson has done his bit to make the ministers feel at home: "I've played Spanish songs, French songs and English songs ... I don't know many good German songs, but I've tried my best."

Perhaps he should try some European songs, if there are any.

After all, there will only be success here at Nice if ministers can overcome sensitive national concerns over veto issues.

Countries repeat they will not budge on their 'red lines', although officials involved in the negotiations hint that some of the obstacles may be starting to crumble.

There will be much horsetrading. The next hours will be crucial.

Mr Chanson plays many requests. But perhaps fittingly, his most asked for song this week has been 'As time goes by'.

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See also:

08 Dec 00 | Europe
EU leaders struggle over reforms
07 Dec 00 | Europe
Press gets Nice fever
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