Dividing the Agency Spoils at the Brussels Summit

Still working hard on my across-the-continent European press-review of the “failure” of this weekend’s EU summit on the proposed Constitutional Treaty. Patience, please – there’s a lot to be covered. For now, let me mention an interesting article I ran across, from Belgium’s De Standaard, discussing something that the assembled European leaders did managed to agree on, namely the placement of various new EU agencies – a plum for any city to get, naturally, not only because of the prestige but also the influx into the local economy of highly-educated bureaucrats, paid well and, what is more, paid from an outside source, the EU budget.

According to the article, Belgium Loses European Food Agency (subscription required), the agreed break-down is as follows:

  • European police academy: London
  • “Eurojust”: The Hague

(“What is ‘Eurojust’?” you may be asking, just as I was. Well, check out its website – presently available only in English, but I’m sure the ten other official EU languages – and that’s just at present! – will soon follow. “Eurojust is a European Union body which supports investigations and prosecutions by the Member States into serious cross-border or transnational crime.”)

  • The EU agency for maritime safety: Lisbon
  • The EU agency for air transport safety: Cologne
  • The EU agency for rail safety: Lille/Valenciennes (both cities are in Northern France)

(Don’t be confused that the De Standaard article has “Rijsel/Valenciennes.” “Rijsel,” it turns out, is the Dutch name for “Lille.” I didn’t know that before; how strange.)

  • The EU agency for safety of chemicals: Helsinki
  • The EU agency for computer/network security: Greece (somewhere)

(Excuse me: “computer/network security” in Greece?!)

  • The EU center for disease control: Sweden (somewhere)
  • The EU agency to control fishing activity: Spain (somewhere)
  • The EU agency against racism: Vienna, and it is to be expanded to cover all human rights
  • And the EU food-safety agency: Parma

The article reports that all of this was essentially already decided at the EU summit in Laeken (Belgium), back in December, 2001. They just had a few details to settle – for instance, both Finland and Italy wanted to have that food-safety agency. Since back then Silvio Berlusconi was not president of the European Council, and so could be rather more unrestrained in his comments at EU gatherings (ahem . . .), he ridiculed the idea that the agency could be given to Helsinki, saying “Parma is synonymous with good cuisine. The Finns don’t even know what prosciutto is,” according to an article from out of De Standaard’s archives. That article is entitled The Finns Now Know What Prosciutto Is (subscription required), because it tells you how, shortly after that summit when Berlusconi made that remark, the Helsingin Sanomat (supposedly Finland’s highest-circulation newspaper) put out a full-page add stating “Prosciutto is ham,” following that up with “Now 1.2 million Finns know it. Is that enough, Berlusconi?” An admirable gesture, but not enough, as it turned out, to get the food agency; the Finns got the consolation-prize chemicals safety agency instead.

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