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20th Jan 2020

Ashton chooses €12-million-a-year EU headquarters

  • The Axa building (c) will be the face of the EEAS for visiting VIPs (Photo: Wikipedia)

The EU's new diplomatic service is to be housed in the so-called Axa or Triangle building on the Rond Point Schuman in the heart of the EU quarter in Brussels.

"After consultations with member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission, the high representative/vice-president Catherine Ashton has decided that the European External Action Service should be housed in the so-called Axa/Triangle building as this proves to be the most cost-efficient and effective solution," her spokesman, Darren Ennis told this website on Wednesday (27 October).

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EUobserver understands that Ms Ashton aims to sign the contract in the coming weeks and to start moving in staff in early 2011 with a view to being fully installed by April.

The European External Action Service [EEAS] is to be formally launched on 1 December at a ceremony in the lobby of the Axa building, which is already home to the EU institutions' recruitment service, EPSO, and a handful of coffee and sandwich shops.

EEAS secretary general, Pierre Vimont, will start work on the same day. Its budget and personnel chief, David O'Sullivan, will start on 15 November, but the pair will initially sit next to Ms Ashton's existing office on the 12th floor of the commission's headquarters, the Berlaymont building, across the road from the Axa bloc.

Ms Ashton had asked the European Council to make way for her people in its so-called Lex building, across a busy road from the commission, but received a No in response. A second option, the commission's Charlemagne building, one side lane away from the EU executive headquarters, could have taken over a year to kit out properly.

The EEAS will pay €12 million a year in rent for 50,000 square metres of space. EU officials are keen to point out that the cost of existing arrangements, under which EEAS-to-be staff are housed in eight separate buildings in the EU capital, is €25 million a year and that Axa, a Belgian insurance and real estate firm, gave Ms Ashton one year's worth of free tenancy to seal the agreement.

The Triangle building is divided into six chunks, each one named after the capital of one of the six founding EU countries.

The swankiest office space is on the seventh floor of the Hague wing, overlooking the EU Council and the commission on the Schuman roundabout, and in the Luxembourg wing, overlooking the leafy Parc du Cinquantenaire.

"This side is much more beautiful. But the other side is better if she likes to oversee where everyone is going," an Axa spokeswoman told EUobserver during a tour of the bloc in August.

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