Thursday

21st Feb 2019

'Tusk Tower' good for leaders, not staff

  • Tusk Tower named by reference to Trump Tower in New York (Photo: Consilium)

There was, of course, the re-election of Donald Tusk as European Council president and the unprecedented Polish attempt to block the adoption of the meeting conclusions.

But for many, the real interest of this week's EU summit in Brussels was the new Europa building, where heads of state and government met for the first time.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Kindergarten colours meant to keep people awake, one leader said (Photo: Consilium)

As an indication of the excitement around the cube-shaped building, many diplomats and journalists have started to call it "Tusk Tower", in reference to the Trump Tower in New York.

For leaders, the first experience of it was a seemingly endless red carpet from their car to the press waiting for "doorsteps", the short statements many of them give when arriving or leaving the summit.

Most of them walked down the carpet their eyes looking up to the giant atrium and the "lantern", which holds the meeting rooms.

Upstairs on the third floor, they discovered the meeting room itself, its floor and the ceiling covered with multicoloured wool carpet. In the middle of the large oval table, council services had added plants to hide the cameras.

"Most of them liked it, even if some of them joked that it looks like a kindergarten," an EU diplomat who was in the room with EU leaders told EUobserver.

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite tweeted about the "screaming colours" made to "keep everyone awake" and compared the building to a "space egg".

Later on Thursday, they inaugurated the dining room on the 11th floor, where light streams in through a skylight.

Despite the acrimonious debates, the first summit in the new premises "worked better than many had feared", the diplomat said.

Diplomats based in Brussels, working in the Europa building since January, had been pessimistic, many still pointing to the building's shortcomings.

"It's a mess," a member state source had said earlier this week, describing labyrinthine corridors and walls being knocked down at the last minute.

"The last two months were terrible," another source said, referring to the minister's meetings that had taken place. "There is not enough space. The corridors, the doors, the elevators are too small. I wrote to my capital to warn them about possible problems at the summit."

A third official working there regularly said that the rooms where ministers aides can listen to discussions were too small, with not enough seats.

Diplomats and staff also complained that going from the Europa, where leaders meet, to the old Justus Lipsius next to it, where journalists are still working, was not really practical.

Some council staff were less negative.

"People are always unhappy when there is a change", one of them said. He said that only one wall had been knocked down, to enlarge a door.

He also pointed out that part of the building surrounding the lantern is an old listed building which blocks any alteration of the facade, entrances or main corridors.

Council officials also insisted that the new building was, above all, made for leaders, so they can work in a quieter atmosphere, around a smaller table, where they can see and hear each other without screens or microphones.

"The atmosphere was very optimistic … at least for me", Tusk quipped after his reelection at the summit.

Germany's Angela Merkel, in her understated style, noted that "the atmosphere in the new room was different than in past".

EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency

A resolution demanding Saudi Arabia release prisoners and stop gender-based violence was passed by over 500 MEPs on Thursday in Strasbourg. They also demanded greater transparency over Brussels-based lobbying for the Saudis, following an EUobserver exclusive.

Saudis paying College of Europe to lobby MEPs

The Bruges-based College of Europe is setting up private meetings with the EU institutions for seven ambassadors plus seven high-level officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  2. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  3. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says
  4. 'No evidence' ECB bond-buying helped euro economy
  5. Juncker: Orban should leave Europe's centre-right
  6. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  7. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  8. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us