We tell EU top brass -- it's time to get on your bikes
WHEN Ireland last hosted the EU presidency, it cost a hefty €500,000 a day.
But this January, we will see European delegates using Ryanair flights to get here, and getting free use of the Dublin Bikes scheme.
The final bill came in at €110m in 2004, with meetings hosted around the country amid high security.
A recession-straitened Government is now hoping that the tab for this year will come in at €60m, with some additional security costs.
Top European delegates will get free passes for Dublin's rental bikes for travelling to major events during our presidency.
Senior political figures like European Council president Herman Van Rompuy could be among those given the special offer, as the Government attempts to cut costs during its six-month term.
Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said this was just one of a number of efforts to ensure value for money.
"Delegates will be staying close to the city centre which gives them the opportunity to avail of free access to Dublin Bikes," said Ms Creighton.
Other belt-tightening measures will see tap water being used instead of bottled water at meetings and a strict cut back in the use of stationery.
The majority of events will take place at Dublin Castle.
All other venues that will be used are State-owned and operated by the Office of Public Works. Farmleigh will also be used.
Offering delegates free passes for the bikes is a far cry from the chauffeur-driven luxury cars they were treated to during our last presidency in 2004.
"Throughout our preparations we have striven for value for money and sustainability," said Ms Creighton.
Organisers have also tried to ensure the six-month term is as paperless as possible -- both to save money and reduce the carbon footprint.
Video conferencing between Dublin and Brussels in the run-up to the term, which begins on January 1, has seen a reduction in files.