23rd Mar 2018

Costs soar for EU's 'House of Europe' in Paris

  • The site of the future 'House of Europe' in Paris. (Photo: Google Maps)

The European Parliament wants to spend €20 million to refurbish a building in central Paris on top of millions in annual rent.

An internal document dated late October from the EU Parliament's secretary-general and obtained by EUobserver says the money will go towards creating a House of Europe, which will include a basement cinema.

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Some of those costs would be divided up with the European Commission, and possibly the French state, as part of an effort to bring the "parliament closer to the citizens".

The plan is to agree a 20-year fixed term lease with the landlords in a location described as ideal given the large pedestrian footfall of some 18,000 passers-by per hour.

Connecting with tourists?

It is unclear how many of those are actual EU citizens and not visiting tourists from abroad. But the Printemps department store is located directly opposite the site on 51 Boulevard Haussmann.

According to the Paris office of tourism, up to 50 percent of Printemps shoppers in some periods, are from places like Asia, the Middle East, Russia and the US.

The site was also chosen, out of 80 other buildings, because of a nearby train station and because it met the minimum required floor space.

The paper says the current EU house on Boulevard Saint-Germain, just opposite the National Assembly, won't do the job because there is no public space and "suffers from difficult access for persons with reduced mobility."

The decision to move forward on the new location was made in July by the European Parliament's 'bureau', composed of the president and vice-presidents.

Basement fun for the family

The House of Europe is supposed to connect with EU citizens but most of the floor space is set aside for the European Parliament, the European Commission, and political group offices.

Floors two to five will be reserved for both the commission and the parliament, with 120 square metres of office space set aside for political groups.

The public will only have access to a '360 degree' cinema in the basement, an interactive exhibition on the ground floor, "a role-play game on the mezzanine", and a conference room on the first floor.

"This layout will maximise the visitor capacity of the Europa Experience," notes the document.

It is unclear what exactly the 'Europa Experience' entails but a similar EU cinema in Berlin offers spectators a chance to "experience a plenary session of the European Parliament".

The parliament received a formal offer from the landlords in early September for the building, which has a net usable surface area of just over 3,000 square metres.

"The total annual rent, excluding VAT and parking, proposed was €5.58 million," notes the document.

The plan is to amortise the €20 million refurbishment fees over 20 years, bringing the total annual rent to €6.55 million.

Some €7 million would be used for "structural works", while another €13 million is "primarily for the installation of a Europa Experience."

Other big charges are also expected. Heating, electricity, and maintenance are expected to cost over €500,000 per year.

Despite sharing some of the costs with the commission, the parliament looks set to pay the biggest share of the bill.

"Of the total annual payment of €6.55 million covering both the rent and the amortised fit-out costs, the commission is currently willing to pay approximately €2 million," notes the document.

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