The European Parliament is considering a major renovation of its Brussels offices in order to allow Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to have three offices each. The plans also make room for new MEPs from countries such as Macedonia and Serbia, even though there’s no guarantee that those countries may join the European Union (EU) any time soon.
Most property owners would consider a 22-year-old building to be practically new, albeit in need of upkeep. But cloistered European Parliamentarians have written off their main building as “dilapidated”, complaining that a badly built roof needs repairing and the heating system needs an upgrade.
They are using these defects as an excuse to propose a complete overhaul of its Brussels headquarters, the Paul-Henri Spaak building, which is named after a former Belgian Prime Minister, who, as foreign minister under the premiership of his uncle, tried to preserve Belgium’s neutrality even as war overtook Europe.
“In 2019 the lifespan of the Spaak building comes to an end,” Secretary General Klaus Welle has written in a report handed to the Parliament’s Bureau of vice presidents, Politico has reported. The building, completed in 1993, originally cost over £1 billion to construct.
“Parliament is currently being forced to deal, on a daily basis, with the problems linked to the building’s general state of dilapidation and its construction defects (e.g. the wooden ceiling frame in the Chamber, water leaks, break down of heating systems),” Welle wrote.
“The technical studies conducted during the last parliamentary term showed that a building of this kind, constructed using the materials available and in accordance with the constraints which applied at the time, has an average useful life of 20 years, after which in-depth renovation is needed if the building is to continue to meet technical, economic and political requirements.”
Those renovations include upgrading the MEPs offices to ensure that each member now has three – they currently have two each – to make room for more assistants. The budget available to members for staffers has increased in recent years; a bid by Welle to replicate the model set by America’s Congress.
Two hundred of the 750 new offices would also be held as “strategic reserve” to make way for new MEPs from member states such as Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia, despite those countries being potentially years away from joining the Union.
Welle has suggested making room for these by moving all the administrative services out of the building and into local real estate situated nearby.
The plan would also expand the Parliament’s day care centre, with a new kitchen, a medical area, administrative offices and playground. It would create 50 new offices for political groupings, and 100 new meeting rooms for visiting delegations.
No financial estimate was attached to the proposals.
The plans have been met with opposition from parliamentarians, however, who fear both upheaval to the running of the Parliament at a crucial time in the EU’s history, and how it would look were the parliament to spend millions upgrading its offices while countries struggle with austerity.
An unnamed parliamentary source said simply: “This is a political and logistic nightmare.”