Thursday

1st Dec 2022

EU parliament buildings searched for asbestos

  • Officials say the amount of asbestos found is more than expected but not dangerous (Photo: European Parliament)

European Parliaments officials have ordered an inquiry into how much asbestos is contained in its Strasbourg buildings.

The investigation is due to be carried out by independent experts and concerns two buildings in Strasbourg that the EU parliament bought last year, the Winston Churchill bloc and the Salvador de Madariaga unit.

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According to the parliament administrators, the asbestos is located in "a limited number of technical facility rooms" and it poses no risk to public health.

It was known that the two buildings contained the dangerous material in a limited amount when the property was bought but since then "higher levels of asbestos were found than originally estimated," according to a statement.

It will be up to previous owners - a Dutch pensions company, SCI Erasme which was leasing them to the city of Strasbourg - not the EU legislature to cover the expenses for both the study and for removing the asbestos.

The purchase of the two buildings for around €143 million was associated with a rental and financial scandal involving the Alsatian capital last year when it was found that the parliament was being charged too much rent.

This is not the first time that EU buildings have come under the spotlight for health safety reasons.

Back in 2002, the Strasbourg assembly was hit by an outbreak of Legionnaires disease which was found in the hot water pipes of the building. The bacteria can cause pneumonia and even death - it was discovered after several officials returned ill from Strasbourg.

It was argued that the bacteria had been found in the water system as the building is used only used four days a month – an argument that at the time fuelled critics of the fact that parliament has a seat both in Brussels and 400km away in Strasbourg.

The European Commission has also had its troubles. Its headquarters in the Berlaymont building in the heart of Brussels had to be renovated between 1991 and 2004 after it was also found to contain large amounts of asbestos.

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Investigation

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The EU Commission has watered-down a broad political initiative —but now governments of member states hold the key to what the EU should do. Some member states and regions have adopted asbestos strategies of some kind, from Poland to Flanders.

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