EU leaders plan to hitch rides to cut emissions
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU prime ministers and officials plan to share travel arrangements when flying to Lisbon to sign a new treaty and then to Brussels for a summit next week, following criticism from environmentalists.
Portugal has insisted the long-awaited treaty to reform the EU's institutions be signed on its soil on December 13, even though it means leaders will have to fly there and then on to Brussels the next day.
Environmentalist group Friends of the Earth has called the arrangement "silly" in an EU that prides itself as leading the fight against global warming.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Tuesday leaders had been discussing how to coordinate flights to reduce carbon emissions and delegations from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg were looking to go together.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said after talks with Fico he planned to hitch a lift with Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, as they would be in Strasbourg together for the proclamation of the treaty at the European Parliament.
"He already promised me he would take me in his plane, so I will not bring any additional emissions going to Lisbon," said Barroso, who has been criticized for owning a fuel-hungry four- wheel-drive car while promoting ambitious climate change goals.
"We will do it on the European Union side to reduce as much as possible the impact," he said.
Socrates tried to avoid the flying marathon by the leaders of the 27 EU states by proposing to hold the December summit in his country right after signing the treaty.
But Belgium, home to the EU's main institutions, was equally determined to enforce its right, won in the 2000 Treaty of Nice, to host all of the Union's formal summits.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Michael Winfrey)