EU Commission President Romano Prodi today tipped Luxembourg as the seat of the pending European agency dealing with food safety in a blow to other bidders including Parma, Barcelona and Helsinki.

Prodi’s views, outlined in a letter to a Parma newspaper, called Luxembourg “the ideal city” to host the EU food unit. The remarks, coming from Italy’s top EU administrator, stunned Parma, Prodi’s native region. Parma hopes that the EU Council, which will decide the matter under the Swedish Presidency in the next few months, will still choose the Italian city noted for its food tradition (Parma ham, Parmigiano cheese, Barilla pasta and Parmalat dairy products) and agricultural research in addition to its proximity to UN food agencies in Rome.
Parma has offered its Baroque Ducal palace as the seat of the agency, which is expected to begin operations next year.

But Prodi said EU needs to “rationalise” its offices and, citing efficiency, divide them between Brussels and Luxembourg, which already hosts the EU Court of Justice and the European Investment Bank. He also noted Luxembourg has ample office space, as some units based there are being transferred to Brussels.
Speedy operation of the food agency is assuming growing importance in view of current animal diseases in particular and food safety issues in general.

By Hilmi Toros, correspondent