Thursday

22nd Aug 2019

EP to spend €8mn extra on security

  • Kurdish protesters after storming the European Parliament in 2014 - an event which triggered new security measures

The European Parliament has allocated €8 million to beef up security at the two main entrances of its Altiero Spinelli (ASP) building in Brussels.

Work will begin after the summer break and will involve installing bullet-proof glass. Other details are still to be agreed.

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  • Banners announce the new security measures - although the advertised website doesn't work (Photo: Peter Teffer)

On Thursday (16 July) members of the EP's budget committee rubber-stamped a transfer of €7 million from a contingency fund. The remaining €1 million comes from the current budget.

A group of Kurdish demonstrators was able to storm the building on 7 October 2014 – and managed to occupy the building until they had spoken to EP president Martin Schulz.

It also follows other incidents such as the armed robbery of the building's post office in 2011.

The body that deals with the EP's own budget and organisation - called the Bureau - decided in October that the ASP entrances - one of them facing the popular Place Luxembourg - needed a “new security concept”.

The parliament raised its security-threat level after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris last January. It now requires visitors to show identification before they enter the building.

Once inside, security scans all vistors' bags before they go into the heart of the assembly. Part of the staff that are on temporary contracts also have to go through the airport-like check.

“Three hundred Kurdish demonstrators managed to burst through the doors because the doors couldn't withstand the physical pressure of their charge”, German centre-right MEP Monika Hohlmeier said at the committee meeting Thursday.

“Imagine if someone actually had a gun,” she added.

The exact shape of the new security measures are unclear.

A budget committee's newsletter said the ASP building security will be increased by "three defence lines: first, the front of the building, second, a line serving to control the access of MEPs and permanent staff, and third, a physically reinforced line serving to control the access of visitors following their accreditation”.

But the EU's parliamentary body is not supposed to be a fortress, Hohlmeier noted, which is why the reinforcements should be done with bulletproof glass.

“It's all meant to be transparent. It's not meant to look like we are all barricaded in, this is all glass so that we still look like a jolly transparent parliament”, noted Hohlmeier, who is the rapporteur on the issue.

According to Elio Carozza, who is director of strategy and resources in the parliament, three companies have answered his call for tenders.

“We think we will be working with one of those,” he told MEPs Thursday.

Carozza received some criticism for allocating €1m in overtime payment.

He countered that workers will be working in the evening and weekends to speed up the process.

Hohlmeir said the cost for overtime “should be cut to the bare minimum” but despite the professed need for speed, it will take some months before work will even start.

“You have to look at the designs and then eight to ten weeks for the manufacturing – that would take us to autumn and the start of next year," said Carroza.

The two ASP entrances, at Rue Wiertz and the Esplanade, will be closed from 7 December 2015 to 8 January 2016.

According to Carroza, that period was chosen because it includes a plenary session in Strasbourg, the Christmas holidays, and a so-called “green week”, when many MEPs have extra-parliamentary activities.

“We want to bother people as little as possible”, said Carroza, adding that there will be “detailed communication” to inform MEPs and their staff.

EP visitors may already have seen banners announcing “new access and security features”.

In a possible sign of on-site construction gltiches to come, however, the web address printed on the banner does not work.

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