The EU’s plan to buy a new London pad for its ambassador to the U.K. has been dashed by national capitals — because it’s too fancy, even for a top envoy.
According to two diplomats, EU countries on Thursday voted against buying a house in Upper Cheyne Row — known locally as Millionaires’ Row — in tony Chelsea.
“It seems golden toilets are the only thing missing in this regal residence where the ambassador could live like a Spanish king,” one EU diplomat said of the plan.
The property, which would have cost north of €1 million a year to rent and been paid for by the EU taxpayer, would have been home to Pedro Serrano de Haro, formerly chief of staff to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who took over as the bloc’s ambassador to the U.K. at the beginning of the year.
The lease on the ambassador’s current home, a 5-minute drive from Upper Cheyne Row at 8 Whistler Square, cannot be renewed. And even if it could be, the 175 square meter property does not “offer sufficient space for hosting events,” according to the European External Action Service, which has been handling the property search. The 8 Whistler Square property can only host up to eight guests for dinner, for example, even though all 27 EU countries have representatives in London.
The Upper Cheyne Row property has no such problems. The size of the building, according to the EEAS, is 645 m2, with a total usable net surface of 559 m2. It has a roof terrace and two patios plus a driveway that can take two cars.
Whichever new house is chosen is supposed to provide the ambassador with an appropriate residence in terms of “location, visibility, image, representativeness, size, functionality, appropriate representation area and private area.”
At a meeting last week, a large number of EU countries criticized the price, size and location of the property in Upper Cheyne Row.
But one EU official pushed back, saying there was nothing unusual about the discussion, as “building projects are very thoroughly analyzed by member states.”
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, the EEAS tried to reassure EU countries with written answers to their questions, seen by POLITICO.
The diplomatic service stressed that a residence is a “key working room for an ambassador” as they have to “attract high-level political interlocutors.”
According to the EEAS, the average size of the ambassador’s residence in cities where (almost) all EU countries are present is 460 square meters, with a working area of 240 square meters that is separate from the private family area.
Famous current and former residents of the swanky street include ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, actress Elizabeth Taylor, Dracula author Bram Stoker, and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger. It looks as if Serrano de Haro will not be joining that illustrious list.
Jacopo Barigazzi, Eddy Wax, Hans von der Burchard and Paul Dallison contributed reporting.