- Title: Virus-free zone? EU leaders hold special summit in empty building
- Date: 17th July 2020
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (JULY 17, 2020) (REUTERS) MAN IN EMPTY EUROPEAN COUNCIL LOBBY, WHERE JOURNALISTS USUALLY SIT AT DESKS DURING EUROPEAN UNION LEADERS' SUMMITS MEN IN LOBBY EMPTY LOBBY
- Embargoed: 31st July 2020 16:23
- Keywords: European Union coronavirus distance empty journalists leaders measures restrictions safety summit
- Location: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- City: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: European Union,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA001CN785DZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: European Union leaders gathered on Friday (July 17) for their first face-to-face summit since February in an empty European Council building, as most journalists had been banned from attending due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The usual 700 accredited Brussels-based correspondents and their radio and TV crews, usually clamouring for news, left the huge, marble-clad atrium of the adjoining Justus Lipsius building completely empty.
Gathered for talks on a multi-billion-euro plan to breathe life into their economies, the 27 EU leaders sat in a chamber designed for more than 10 times that number in an almost-empty building where meeting rooms were cleaned every time presidents and prime ministers took a break.
Headphones and microphones were regularly disinfected, filtered air was pumped into the meeting chamber and leaders, who wore a range of sombre and colourful face masks, were asked to keep a distance of 1.5 metres between them.
After being locked in the room for more than seven hours, EU leaders seemed no closer to a deal on the bloc's 2021-27 budget, proposed at above 1 trillion euros, and a linked new recovery fund worth 750 billion euros, meant to help rebuild southern economies most affected by the pandemic.
They called a break until 8 p.m. (1800 GMT) to allow for smaller huddles to try to break deadlocks.
(Production: Hortense de Roffignac)
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