The EU has failed to agree where to place the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the EU's flagship innovation and education project, due to a Polish veto. But Hungary's capital Budapest looks certain to win the seat when the bloc returns to the issue in June.
EU ministers in charge of competitiveness discussed the issue over dinner on Thursday evening (29 May), with negotiations dragging on into the early hours of Friday morning.
Five applicants are keen to host the administrative headquarters of the institute—Hungary's capital, Budapest, Germany's Jena, the Polish city of Wroclaw, Spain's Sant Cugat del Valles, while Slovak capital Bratislava has joined forces with Austria's Vienna in launching a cross-border bid.
The ministers are expected to revisit the topic on the eve of the EU leaders summit in June. The Slovene EU presidency has said two criteria should be respected—the winner should be a "new" member state and not already have an EU agency.
Based on these two requirements, only Budapest has a real chance of winning the seat. Poland already houses Frontex, the EU agency responsible for the security of the bloc's external borders.
According to one diplomat, speaking to Reuters news agency, 26 out of the 27-nation bloc backed Hungary's bid, but the Polish delegation insisted that it had no mandate to approve a final deal.
The EIT is meant to bridge the innovation gap between the EU and its major rivals, the US and Japan.
In practice, it should result in a network of universities, research centres and companies with the aim of transforming education and research—as well as attracting the best young brains from within and beyond Europe.
Member states have a long history of squabbling over where to house EU agencies and bodies which are a source of prestige for the host country as well as providing funds and jobs.
There were similar squabbles over where to house the EU border agency before it went to Poland and prior to that, a spectacular dispute between Finland and Italy over the food safety agency.
That agency eventually found a home in Italy after Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister, famously declared that the Finns "don't even know what prosciutto is."