Finland's agriculture minister said on Wednesday he was confident his country would beat off a challenge from Barcelona to become the base for the European Union's new food agency.
Finland, an EU member since 1995, has said it should get the agency because it does not yet have a single Union agency on its soil. It has also touted its high standards of food safety and animal disease control.
A final decision on the headquarters of the European Food Authority, which will employ some 300 people, is expected to be made at an EU summit in Belgium in December.
Agriculture Minister Kalevi Hemila told a news conference that Barcelona's campaign to host the new agency could work in Helsinki's advantage because the Spanish city would also have to promote itself as a city far from Brussels.
"Barcelona is quite similar to Helsinki: it is not in Brussels," Hemila said. He added that if the idea of situating the agency outside Brussels won support, then Helsinki would be chosen.
Hemila said that locating the agency in Brussels, already home to numerous EU organisations, would be the worst solution.Opponents of Helsinki's candidacy have complained the city is too far from Brussels and other key European Union cities.
Italy's agriculture minister said on Monday that Spain and Italy had reached an agreement that bolstered the chances of the Italian city Parma hosting the food safety watchdog. Giovanni Alemanno said Barcelona may even withdraw its candidacy.