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Shuttered: EU ditches summit ‘family photo’

A EU summit family photo in 2014

Brussels, Belgium | AFP |

The EU has ditched the traditional “family photo” of leaders at Brussels summits as it seeks a more modern image for the bloc, European sources said.

Until the end of last year, the 28 European Union leaders gathering for their regular meetings would pose together for photographers in what was meant to be a show of unity.

But news organisations have been told by the European Council, the body that arranges summits, that as of the latest meeting on Thursday and Friday, the family photo is no longer taking place.

“Part of the idea was to have a more modern visual image” than just the leaders lined up in rows, a senior diplomatic source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The decision was also part of efforts by European Council chief Donald Tusk, who was re-elected on Thursday, to “streamline” summits that often drag late into the night, the source said.

“These photos can actually take quite a lot of time.”

EU institutions were trying to offer photographers more time to take pictures of leaders as they get down to business in the summit room, the source said.

The decision comes as the EU is divided on many fronts, with Poland reacting furiously at this summit after leaders re-elected former Polish premier Tusk as EU chief despite objections from Warsaw.

Sources denied it was political at a time when the EU is about to start hosting official summits with both the full 28 members but also at 27 — when Britain is barred from talks on its impending exit from the union.

Family photos are a tradition at summit meetings of many organisations around the world, often offering a light-hearted moment before leaders discuss serious issues.

It can also be a glimpse into the personal politics and body language behind the political spin as the leaders gather together in one place.

Famously, leaders at the APEC Asia-Pacific summit dress up every year in the national costume of the host country, leading to the sight of US and Russian presidents wearing colourful outfits from around the region.

The EU’s own photo opportunities have not always worked out in the past, with leaders being mocked for going on a ride on a huge luxury yacht in Malta in February during a summit focused on the migration crisis in which thousands of people have drowned in the Mediterranean.


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