Brussels soon to be venue of all summits


All EU summits will be held in Brussels once the first new members from Central and Eastern Europe join the Union in about five years time, the Commission President, Mr Romano Prodi, said yesterday. Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Prodi said that the decision to halt the six-monthly caravan of politicians and journalists around the member-states would start taking effect before enlargement.

"After the summits that have already been pencilled in, one in two will be held in Brussels. When the EU has 18 memberstates, the decision will be applied to all summits," he said.

The decision to move EU summits to Brussels is understood to have been part of a last-minute deal agreed in the early hours of Monday morning to persuade Belgium to support the Nice Treaty. But Mr Prodi insisted yesterday that the idea of holding all major meetings of EU leaders in the Belgian capital was a good one.

Belgium and Italy have said they will not ratify the Nice Treaty unless it is approved by the European Parliament but the French President, Mr Jacques Chirac, received a cool reception from MEPs when he defended the treaty yesterday.

"I know the Nice Treaty does not fulfil all the ambitions of the European Parliament. But this treaty, I believe, is the best agreement possible taking account of the constraints which existed," Mr Chirac said.

Many MEPs are disappointed that the Nice summit failed to extend qualified majority voting to tax and immigration. Some say that new voting arrangements will make it harder to reach decisions at a European level.