BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Was it the most fateful fishbowl in the history of the European Union?
So tight was the race among EU governments on Monday to grab one of the first spinoff benefits from Brexit that the choice of host city for two EU agencies that must leave London in 2019 was made by a man picking balls, lotto-style, from a glass bowl.
The honour of performing a tiebreak procedure which diplomats think was unprecedented in the Union’s 60-year history fell to Matti Maasikas, Estonia’s self-effacing EU affairs minister, who was chairing the evening ministerial meeting in Brussels.
And he had to do it not once, but twice, crushing the hopes of first Milan, which tied with Amsterdam to secure the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and then Dublin, which lost out to Paris to host the European Banking Authority (EBA).
“It was a big transparent bowl with two small lots,” he told reporters eager for details of the novelty.
“You did marvellously,” beamed the contented Dutch minister at his side. “With a lot of talent,” chipped in his equally satisfied French counterpart. “Thank you.”
Italy’s Sandro Gozi was less sanguine. The early favourite Milan had led every round of a voting process which leaders have compared to the European Song Contest. So being pipped in the fishbowl “left a bitter taste in the mouth”, said Gozi:
“It’s like losing a final on penalties.”
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; editing by Andrew Roche