Cameron hits out at EU leaders over new HQ

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The Independent Online

David Cameron yesterday accused fellow European Union leaders of squandering £280m on a new Brussels building for themselves at a time when the public is being hit by spending cuts.

At a dinner of EU leaders, the Prime Minister was furious when Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, circulated a glossy, 14-page brochure trumpeting the 27 leaders' new headquarters.

The Europa building, next door to the Justus Lipsius Building where the leaders currently hold their meetings, will include three conference halls, five meeting rooms and offices for Mr Van Rompuy, as well as for the country which holds the EU's rotating chairmanship, delegations from EU member states, the press and refreshment areas.

Mr Cameron's attack caused surprise in Brussels since the project was approved in 2004 and would now be more expensive to halt than complete. Some EU officials accused him of pandering to Eurosceptics when the EU should pull together because of the economic crisis in Greece.

But the Prime Minister insisted: "People right across Europe do understand the need for countries to live within their means. Governments, like households, can't endlessly borrow. I do think it's important as we do that, where it's at the national level or the European level, that the politicians aren't sitting in some gilded cage asking everyone else to take responsibility."

He told a press conference at the close of yesterday's EU summit: "I've only been to this building seven times in the last year but it seems to me to do a perfectly good job of housing the European Council. The microphones work. There is plenty of room. We could fit plenty more people in the great room where we all sit around and discuss and the food is not bad either. What's the problem?"

Mr Cameron admitted it was too late to stop the project going ahead, but said he wanted to press EU leaders "even at this late stage [to] do this with economy and efficiency."

Building work is underway and the new HQ is due to open in 2014.