- Title: New 321 million euro EU Council headquarters raise eyebrows in Brussels
- Date: 8th December 2016
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (FILE – NOVEMBER, 2016) (REUTERS) EXISTING EUROPEAN COUNCIL HEADQUARTERS, THE 'JUSTUS LIPSIUS' BUILDING, WITH 'EUROPA' BUILDING IN BACKGROUND
- Embargoed: 23rd December 2016 13:22
- Keywords: EU Council Building Europa Headquarters
- Location: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- City: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Reuters ID: LVA0095C0Y8NB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:With an estimated cost of 321 million euros, the new headquarters of the European Council raise eyebrows among EU nationals visiting the European Union capital.
Located between the current European Council headquarters, the 'Justus Lipsius' building and its annexes, the LEX building, the 'Europa' building is expected to start hosting leaders from the 28-member bloc in the first half of 2017.
A joint venture between architecture studios Samyn and Partners, Studio Valle Progettazioni, Buro Happold, was awarded the design contract in 2005, only a year after the European Council approved a Belgian offer to construct a new building, which effectively started in September 2011.
Video footage of exterior and interior views of the building released by the EU Council on Thursday (December 8) showed the main design features of the building, its canopy made of 3750 restored wooden window frames extracted from destruction sites across the bloc, as well as parts of the pre-existing 1920s Art Deco 'Residence Palace' building, which was the local headquarters of the German military intelligence organisation during World War II.
A 48-year old banker from Upper Austria, Peter Willinger, responded negatively when asked if he liked the general aspect of the building.
"No, not at all. And I think the facade is very impractical because the windows are so incoherent, you cannot clean them and you can't see what's behind -- the so-called egg of (Former EU Council President Herman) Van Rompuy," Willinger said, using a nickname Brussels residents gave to the building in reference to the spheric-shaped element that will host the EU Council rooms and which used to be visible from the street before the canopy was put in place.
The original budget for the building's construction was 240 million euros but the Council currently estimates to 321 million euros the cost of the building, which will be bored by the European budget.
When asked his opinion about the building's price tag, 27-year old spanish engineer Julio Calero Martin said the current context made it difficult to justify such an expense.
"I think it's very expensive in this moment when in Europe we have a lot of problems with the economy, with the war, with... I didn't know the cost of the building. I am really... I can't believe (it). I can't believe (it)," said the Huelva native as he was on his first visit to the Belgian capital.
According to the EU Council, the building is equipped with green features such as 636 solar panels on the building's rooftop, a system of rain water collection supplying fresh water to the sanitary facilities, and advanced lighting, humidity and temperature regulation systems.
A 25-year old Italian project manager working for an organization helping companies apply for EU funding, Francesca Fiini said she supported the plan to equip the building with these features.
"I think it's very important to invest in renewable energy because I believe it's the future so if a lot of money was spent to invest in renewable energy, that's a good thing, it was certainly a good investment," said Fiini, from Brescia, Lombardy.
The Council justified the need for a new building because of the increasing number of summits gathering EU leaders and ministers in Brussels, from four per year in 2004 to on average eight or nine today.
One third the size of the current Council headquarters, the building will comprise three major meeting rooms and ten other meeting rooms.
A 23-year old primary school teacher from Barcelona, Victoria Bizarro said the need for new Council headquarters was hard to justify.
"No, I don't think it's normal to spend that kind of money on a building when you have another one next door," said Bizarro, who was on a four-day tour of Belgium with a few friends.
The European institution expects the first ministerial meeting to take place in the new 'Europa' building in January 2017 and a first leaders meeting to take place there in the first semester of 2017, probably in March.
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