Lack of Water in Danube Ruins EU Leaders' Cruise Plans

By ,   September 16, 2016 ,   Cruise Industry

The European Union's leaders met without Britain at a summit held in Bratislava today, September 16, to chart a course for the future. However, they found their own journey plans ruined by a lack of water in Danube.

Low river levels on the famed waterway meant Slovak authorities had to cancel a visit to a museum by the 27 leaders that was meant to be the highlight of a special river cruise on a luxury ship.

EU leaders

Instead the prime ministers and presidents were left to cruise aimlessly up and down the Danube during a two-hour working lunch to discuss relations with Britain once it jumps ship from the European Union.

"Due to the extremely low water level of the Danube River, we won't be able to take a short break at the Danubiana (art museum)," Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico told journalists.

"Instead, the ship will turn around there, and we'll continue by sailing back to Bratislava."

The Dutch-founded Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum is in Cunovo, close to the border between Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary.

But the leaders couldn't feel too blue as they were lucky to get their Danube cruise at all, after water levels rose overnight, officials said.

"Today from 7:00 am local time cruising was restored on the Bratislava part of Danube,"

Pavel Machava, of the Slovak Water Management Enterprise, told AFP.

Slovak authorities have rented the Regina Danubia vessel, built in 1992 and described as a "floating festive and congress hall on the Danube", for the working lunch. It is 70 metres (230 feet) long and 11 metres wide with a capacity of 400 passengers.

However the EU leaders on board the Regina Danubia will be the only ones lucky enough to be on the river on Friday afternoon -- apart from a flotilla of Slovak military frogmen in rubber dinghies.

"Because of the Bratislava Summit, no ships will be allowed to sail between noon and 17:00 Friday"

for security reasons, Petr Pavlasek, head of the Inland Waterway Transport Division of the Slovak Transport Authority, told AFP.

Slovakia's Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said the main topic of lunch would be relations with Britain after its vote to leave the EU.

"Brexit is not the dominant theme of the summit, that is why we will talk about it on the ship during lunch," Lajcak told reporters.

Premier Fico said the leaders would be served Slovak wine, adding:

"That's important for me because Slovak white wine is of world quality, and we'll be able to present ourselves in this manner."

The rest of the summit is taking place at centuries-old Bratislava castle, perched on a hilltop overlooking the Danube.

The luxury river cruise and castle talks for the 27 leaders come despite a warning from EU President Donald Tusk recently that

"too often European elites seem detached from reality."