About halfway down the list of EU “confessional” chats, the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy sees Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

“Are you well?” she asks. “Yes,” he grunts back, ”even though there are no surprises.” ”That’s good news. I think, that must be a good thing” the Danish PM chirps back to him. President Barroso grunts: “Er, not really.”

The Van Rompuy/Barroso talks are taking longer than planned and the enticingly billed ”cold plate dinner” will not start until around 10pm, if it happens at all. There will be a round-table session at some point this evening – food or no food – though Herman Van Rompuy is expected to restrict that to a short few minutes from each national leader not a more free-ranging debate.

Each of the 27 will restate their position for the record. After that, Herman Van Rompuy’s people will start trying to work out some further changes to the budget to reflect the day’s conversations. Then there could be bilaterals to test the new thoughts. Expect Chancellor Merkel to be drafted in to apply pressure to countries who the EU bosses want to shift position. Expect side deals and individual country sweeteners that only slowly meet the light of day.

There are suggestions that President Barroso didn’t enjoy David Cameron’s call for more savings on overheads in Brussels when the two met this morning with Van Rompuy and officials from both sides.

Mr Barroso has a well-rehearsed script defending the need for high class, well-paid officials and how EU countries had been asking Brussels to do more and he didn’t stint in delivering it.

Mr Cameron wasn’t hugely impressed by that argument. His team had worked up a proposal for savings that could be achieved by phasing in a raised pension age for Brussels officials – just like it lectures countries like Greece to adopt.

Not clear this went down well.

22 garyblog x Rompuy: no surprises so far. But is that a good thing?

Future summiteers will get to sit down in the spanking new £380m building under construction next door. Here’s an artist’s impression of the new summit room laid out for dinner – note the wine and candles.

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