David Cameron seized on an opportunity to voice “immense frustration” at the lavish spending of the Brussels elite after being handed a glossy brochure promoting the European council’s soon to be finished €300m (£270m) headquarters.
The brochure was distributed to EU leaders as they sat down to dinner at a Brussels summit on Thursday evening, with Europe facing one of the gravest crises in memory amid predictions of the breakdown of Greece and the potential death of the euro single currency. Herman Van Rompuy of Belgium, the European council president, opened the dinner by passing round the booklet. A lavish, eco-friendly glass and steel construction which will function as a glowing lantern after dark, the Europa Building will house Van Rompuy’s offices and will be the venue for the summits after its completion in 2014.
With the EU ordering Greece to cut billions in public spending and undertake a €50bn privatisation round, while itself struggling to generate a €100bn bailout fund to save the country, Van Rompuy’s brochure met with strong criticism. “The prime minister didn’t think this was very well-judged,” said a Downing Street source. “Taxpayers won’t thank us for reminding them how much it costs.”
On the contrary taxpayers ought to be be grateful for the reminder. The British prime minister’s comments were, doubtless, designed to reassure euroskeptic critics back home, but they were worth making nonetheless. This palace should be sold.