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Sunday, 16 December, 2001, 17:09 GMT
Food row blocked key EU decisions
Chirac (left) and Schroeder at Laeken
Strong-arming and horse-trading at the Laeken summit
A less than diplomatic row between EU leaders marred the end of their summit in Laeken at the weekend.

The EU leaders had said the meeting in Belgium showed a new harmony and sense of purpose as they launched a major review on the future shape and governance of Europe.

Berlusconi (right) with Verhofstadt
Berlusconi also rowed over a pan-EU arrest warrant that left Italy isolated
But later accounts of their meeting about sites for new EU agencies showed that frayed tempers prevented a series of decisions that the leaders had pledged to make.

And it all brought the summit to an abrupt end.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi argued that a European Food Safety Agency, which the EU presidency wanted to award to Helsinki in Finland, should be given to Parma in Italy on account of its famous cured ham.

Sweden's assets

French President Jacques Chirac joked that the agency that Sweden deserved was a modelling agency, because it is home to such beautiful women.

According to the Reuters news agency, the closing exchange, as reported by diplomats who had access to verbatim notes, went like this:

Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi: Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don't even know what prosciutto is. I cannot accept this.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel: I am not satisfied. We got nothing.

Swedish PM Goran Persson: This is no easy task. We had the problem during the Swedish presidency at Gothenburg. But it's strange that the IT [Information technology] agency should go to Spain.

Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt (Chair): The gastronomic attraction of a region is no argument for the allocation of an EU agency.

French President Jacques Chirac: How would it be if Sweden got an agency for training models, since you have such pretty women?

Berlusconi: I already accepted the (European arrest) warrant. My final word is (shouts) No!

Schroeder: I love Parma, but you'll never get it if you argue like that.

Chirac: Lille is also a candidate. It lies in the heart of the (EU) political landscape.

Schuessel: The (EU) observatory on racism (in Vienna) has only 19 civil servants. Others have thousands.

Verhofstadt: That's it. (Closes summit).

See also:

15 Dec 01 | Europe
EU prepares major reform
15 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blair 'confident' over EU future
15 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Strong support for UN force - Blair
14 Dec 01 | Europe
EU pledges troops for Afghanistan
12 Dec 01 | Europe
Prodi demands action not words
15 Dec 01 | Europe
Profile: Giscard d'Estaing
15 Dec 01 | Europe
New protests mar EU summit
14 Dec 01 | Europe
The EU vanity parade
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