EU quarter in Brussels set to grow
With thousands more officials in Brussels since the EU has hugely expanded in recent years, the small Belgian capital's European quarter is to grow even bigger.
The accession of 12 new member states in the last three years has increased the current commission staff of 22.000 people by around an extra 3,350, pushing its office space needs up by 35,000m².
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The European commission's facilities already occupy around 865,000m² space in Brussels, spread over 61 buildings which it owns or rents.
Most of these are currently situated in what is known as the European Quarter of Brussels - but only two of them – the main Berlaymont building and the Charlemagne building – are larger than 50,000m².
The commission must use its office space more efficiently and adjust better to financial constraints and long-term planning, commissioner Siim Kallas, in charge of administrative affairs, said when presenting the project on Wednesday (5 September).
The practical result is that future buildings will be higher than the current imposing multi-storey EU buildings that house commissioners and all their staff and officials.
Under the new plan, the Commission will occupy some 400,000m² in office space in the perimeter of the European District, while around 180,000m² will be spared for housing, shops and equipment. This would mean both rebuilding most of the area and using some of the existing facilities.
Commission buildings will also be decentralised in a maximum of three other areas in Brussels in order to avoid a "ghetto effect" in the European Quarter, said Charles Picque, minister-president of the Brussels-Capital region when co-presenting the project.
Asked whether the plan would mean building new skyscraper types of buildings in Brussels, Mr Picque excluded this possibility. The new buildings would be "higher than now", but "far from [being] skyscrapers", he said.
In order to complete the project, the European Commission will launch an international architectural planning competition which it hopes to finalise by the end of 2009.
Officials were reluctant say how much the whole project would cost, pointing out only that the expenditures would remain within the limits of the 2007-2013 EU budget.
In 2007, the European commission's budget for buildings expenditure is €207.49 million.