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The strange things...

Friday 8 February 2013

At 4am on Friday morning, there is no sign that the EU budget summit might be about to wrap up. 

Officials say that Herman Van Rompuy, Angela Merkel and François Hollande are receiving other leaders for private consultations. A plenary session that Van Rompuy suspended after midnight for "one hour" has not, it appears, resumed. 

Half an hour ago, Elio di Rupo, Belgium's bow-tied prime minister, ambled down into the press bar to cheer up the reporters by predicting the summit would go on until 7am or 8am.   

Before that, Petr Necas - the Czech prime minister - left the building for a short while, leaving Belgian police scratching their heads about what to do with him upon his return. He was reportedly told that he would not be able to return by car without his motorcade, prompting him to walk. 

The main press room is by now perhaps one-quarter full. Some reporters are asleep. Others stand in groups, exchanging the latest gossip and going through different scenarios how this night might end. Some reminisce about summits long past, when they were still held in national capitals (Copenhagen, Berlin) or resorts (Nice). A few watch movies on their laptops. 

I have no doubt that at the end of this night there will be a deal. But it might be a deal only about the overall ceiling of the EU's long-term budget - which for many member states is far less important than what they're actually going to get from the budget. Leaving that negotiation for later on Friday would appear to be a very dangerous gamble indeed.


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Toby Vogel

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