Article written by Anna Suarez
Like the three wise men
11am. We are outside the European Council. Under the two tents that were especially set up, journalists are everywhere and are waiting for official cars. Behind cameras and microphones of every colour, we can hear many different languages: italian, dutch, french, czech… Everyone is waiting for his head of state to try to get his point of view before the meeting. I am with the spanish, waiting for Zapatero to ask him for his impressions on the basque and galician elections taking place on the same day. They remind me of kids in the streets of Spain waiting for the three wise men to get candies each 5 January.
We can hear the Walkie-Talkies of security staff and soon the first police motorcycles arrive, accompanying official cars with their tinted windows. Photographers and cameramen grab their cameras, editors their pens. Each one is getting his weapons ready. The doors of cars open and some men emerge. This is when one has to be nimble and guess who is who, either checking the guide showing all the heads of state’s photographs or relying on pure visual memory. A journalist fires the first shot : “Prime Minister, Prime Minister, please”. This war cry launches a sizzling of photo flashes. Microphone booms approach as much as they can those distant figures which sometimes stop, sometimes greet and sometimes ignore us.
The austrians by foot
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime minister, and Kostas Karamanlis, the Greek one, are those who are most on time. Then Gordon Brown passes in front of the crowd without stopping. Austrians are the only ones to arrive by foot. Apparently, they did not choose to support the car industry… The swedish Prime Minister makes some declarations, microphones surround him for more than twenty minutes.
Finally, Zapatero arrives and my area starts to unrest. Journalists are shouting :“Presidente, presidente”. He greets and then goes away. Journalists are disappointed, they were waiting at least for a small declaration for the lunch time news. The area where Spanish journalists stood empties immediately.
The star has arrived
The waiting goes on. Suddenly, Sarkozy’s car approaches. It is the only one bearing a national flag, warning fans that the star has arrived. Doors open and flashes do not stop. He enters the building without greeting. Above us, two helicopters are approaching and land on the building like in the movies.
Then Barrosso arrives, greets politely and makes declarations. From where I am; I can only decipher a few words. “yes, believe, together”. The last head of state to arrive is Il Cavagliere, Silvio Berlusconi. He is considerably late, ignores the crowd and gets quickly inside. A security guard warns us that Angela Merkel will be late because of “technical problems”.
For the moment, the 26 are all here and get ready for the family picture. For the record, when the pictures were about to be taken, there was an empty space between Zapatero and Sarkozy, perhaps reserved for Angela Merkel. The Spanish PM went up to the French president to ask to come closer only to be greeted by refusal and a back turned on him. Later, the two of them would pledge the importance of staying united. Ah, politics!
In the next episodes, read how Julien, Waldo, Anna and Elisanda saw their heads of state in the flesh and experience the Brussels behind the scenes.