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Europe

Last Stop for EU's Traveling Summit Circus

The three-day gathering of EU leaders which ended this weekend in Greece was the last of its kind. All summit meetings will now be held in Brussels.

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EU summits will now be held in Brussels

The EU summit traveling circus has finally come to an end. The three-day gathering of EU leaders in the Greek coastal resort of Porto Carras which ended on Saturday was the last of its kind to be held outside of Brussels, the official seat of the European Union's institutions. All large meetings with the exception of the rare special summit will be as from this weekend held in Brussels.

Preparation for enlargement

The decision to hold all future summits in Brussels was made in 2000 as part of the EU's Nice Treaty paving the way for enlargement, which decreed that meetings were to be held at the official seat of the EU once the number of members reached 18. The European Union expands from 15 to 25 next May.

Many ministerial meetings will continue to take place in the country holding the rotating presidency. But even that practice could end once the EU accepts the new draft constitution which is expected to replace the six-month rotating presidency with an elected chairman who is to stay in power for at least two and a half years.

Financial burden

EU summits are, as in the case of the most recent meeting in Greece, a financial and logistical burden for their hosts. This year, Greece decided for security reasons to hold its summit at a remote coastal resort. More than 11,000 police and 4,000 soldiers were stationed in the resort. In addition, 14 helicopters and several warships surveyed the area. The event was the country's biggest and costliest security operation yet. First estimations named costs of up to 40 million euros for the summit – a costly sum for one the European Union's poorest states.

Not least due to the financial burden of such large scale meetings did the EU resolve to bring the summit traveling circus to an end.

The change will be a relief to both visitors and citizens alike. With hundreds of participants from all current and would-be members of the EU and various EU institutions, plus more than 3,000 journalists, local hotels in Porto Carras could not house all the delegations. Some had to stay as far as 150 km (90 miles) away. In addition, shops in the resort had to be closed for at least three days, a precaution that proved right when protestors ran wild and caused considerable damage. "The caravanserei of a 25-member EU is impossible", Jean Quatremer, Brussels correspondant of France's newspaper Liberation told Reuters. But not all are happy with the decision. "Europe must go out to meet its citizens in each country", European Commission President Romano Prodi said, speaking for those concerned that holding all summits in Brussels could only confirm citizens fears that the EU is a distant and bureaucratic institution.

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