City of Lahti to host informal European Union summit in October
Finland will host an informal meeting of European Union heads of government during the rotating EU Presidency in October, and the venue for the event will be Lahti.
The government's Cabinet Committee on EU Affairs met on Friday morning to discuss the meetings to be held during the Finnish six-month Presidency of the Council. The informal gathering of heads of state or government will be arranged on Friday October 20th at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti. As a result, the European Council will not be convening in Brussels in October.
Apparently a sum of EU 1.5 million had been set aside in the Finnish budget for the Brussels meeting, and the change of venue will involve around EUR 2.5 million in additional expenses, according to Anja Vilo, the Head of the Secretariat for Finland's EU Presidency at the Prime Minister's Office.
Above all, getting the data and media links up and running is a costly exercise. A supplementary budget will be used to reallocate funds.
It is estimated that there will be no more than a few hundred persons in the actual delegations attending the meeting, but reporters and other media personnel would swell this number by something like 1,000 to 1,500. These figures are based on the usual turnout at Brussels gatherings and the numbers who attended a similar British event at Hampton Court Palace outside London last fall.
In any case, it is quite the largest thing to have happened to Lahti, enthuses the Sibelius Hall director Antti Vihinen.
In the 1950s the city did host a visit by the then Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev, but in other respects Lahti has been more famous for sport than for politics.
Vihinen points out a certain nice symmetry in the fact that the splendid wooden edifice of Sibelius Hall was built partly with EU grant money. Roughly half of the 40% share of the costs met by the state came in the form of EU support.
The October meeting will be held in parallel with an extraordinary tripartite social summit to be attended by representatives from Finland, the forthcoming EU Presidency countries Germany (1/2007) and Portugal (2/2007), and from European labour market organisations.
Finland will be hosting a total of around 130 meetings during the EU Presidency. The largest meetings include the Asia-Europe summit (ASEM 6) in Helsinki, the informal meeting of heads of state or government in Lahti, and a foreign ministers' follow-up meeting of the Barcelona Process (EUROMED) to be held in Tampere.
In addition, there will be ten informal ministerial meetings, plus a number of metings of civil servants from member states.
Finland's six-month term as the EU Presidency begins from July 1st 2006.
Finnish EU Presidency 2006
Sibelius Hall, Lahti