The Finnish government remains adamant that it is the best candidate to host the new European Food Safety Authority.

Debate has been rumbling on about the location of the new EU agency at the highest level for several years, with countries as diverse as France, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain in the frame at different points. However, Finland’s Helsinki and Italy’s Parma remain the key contenders, with Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi keen to claim the new agency for Italy.

Speaking to a gathering of food journalists in London yesterday [Wednesday], Finnish ambassador to the UK Pertti Salolainen reiterated his confidence that Helsinki will win through, adding that every other Member State except Italy was in agreement with Helsinki’s candidacy. Finland’s record in food safety and research is second to none, Salolainen stressed, and the country has no other EU agency. He added, half-joking, that Berlusconi seemed to have only a vague grasp of the role and responsibilities of the new agency, as the Italian premier had given an interview in which he indicated Italy’s claim was the greater as its cuisine was better known and after all, “The Finns don’t even know what Prosciutto is!”

On the new agency’s website, under the subject of ‘Location’, the agency states: “The European Council of Laeken decided to locate the Authority temporarily in Brussels. To allow for the initial development of the EFSA, the Commission has allocated space in its premises in Evere, Brussels.”

It is sadly all too likely that, for want of Member States reaching a unanimous decision on the location of the new agency, Brussels is exactly where it will remain.