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EU’s new HQ has a lot of glass but little transparency

The European Union wants to "bring joy" in a time of "populism". In Brussels, this "rage and eurocepsis" is going to be tackled by their brand new headquarters.

Published: June 21, 2017, 10:55 am

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    Brussels

    Already the EU Parliament has two seats — in Brussels and Strasbourg. For Eurosceptics a new building is a symbol of EU waste. The cost of the building has also increased over the development period from the original estimate of €240 million to over €320 million.

    But with a new building, the EU hopes to bring “happiness” as a response to the growing anger towards Brussels. According to the architect, the property must also reflect Brussels’s transparency.

    The European Parliament’s main building in Brussels was only 24 years old but its management had had enough. The building was completed in 1993 at a cost of 42 billion Belgian francs, or just over €1 billion.

    A document marked “strictly confidential,” was leaked earlier to POLITICO, stating: “The Administration recommends that the structure should be rebuilt rather than reinforced.”

    The Parliament’s administration claimed that it had weighed options that included refurbishing the building or a total rebuild. Either option is very hard to explain to EU taxpayers.

    The conclusions of a report, conducted by German engineering consultancy TÜV Süd, recommended a new building, as did a second one, by CSTB of France, unsurprisingly. The old building, in its current state, did not meet European standards, aka “Eurocode” they said.

    In the new building, the crisis of “populism” will be addressed. It will be a “futuristic” place with a large round office called a “space egg”. The building is environmentally friendly, and according to Belgian architect Philippe Samyn, will be a symbol of the union that the continent must continue to unite.

    “I wanted to make a a joyful meeting place where people entering with a lot of problems can get some breathing space,” says Samyn. He added that it was also a “very clear message about transparency in the union: with all that is happening, people don’t realise the good that the European Union is giving to people”.

    The cost was 321 million euros in 2016, said William Shapcott, director general at the Council of the European Union. “There will be a small overrun but nothing very dramatic,” Shapcott told The Telegraph, saying that it would be a “handful of percent”. But it is estimated to be much higher.

    An architect in Brussels told FWM that this building was in the same price range per square meter as the new NATO HQ.

    In the new EU headquarters the 3 750 windows are made of ultra-clear glass, but the symbolism is misleading. No ordinary voter will be able to see clearly through the decisions made in Brussels.

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