Saturday

21st Sep 2019

EU parliament buildings searched for asbestos

  • Officials say the amount of asbestos found is more than expected but not dangerous (Photo: European Parliament)

European Parliaments officials have ordered an inquiry into how much asbestos is contained in its Strasbourg buildings.

The investigation is due to be carried out by independent experts and concerns two buildings in Strasbourg that the EU parliament bought last year, the Winston Churchill bloc and the Salvador de Madariaga unit.

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According to the parliament administrators, the asbestos is located in "a limited number of technical facility rooms" and it poses no risk to public health.

It was known that the two buildings contained the dangerous material in a limited amount when the property was bought but since then "higher levels of asbestos were found than originally estimated," according to a statement.

It will be up to previous owners - a Dutch pensions company, SCI Erasme which was leasing them to the city of Strasbourg - not the EU legislature to cover the expenses for both the study and for removing the asbestos.

The purchase of the two buildings for around €143 million was associated with a rental and financial scandal involving the Alsatian capital last year when it was found that the parliament was being charged too much rent.

This is not the first time that EU buildings have come under the spotlight for health safety reasons.

Back in 2002, the Strasbourg assembly was hit by an outbreak of Legionnaires disease which was found in the hot water pipes of the building. The bacteria can cause pneumonia and even death - it was discovered after several officials returned ill from Strasbourg.

It was argued that the bacteria had been found in the water system as the building is used only used four days a month – an argument that at the time fuelled critics of the fact that parliament has a seat both in Brussels and 400km away in Strasbourg.

The European Commission has also had its troubles. Its headquarters in the Berlaymont building in the heart of Brussels had to be renovated between 1991 and 2004 after it was also found to contain large amounts of asbestos.

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Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

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Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

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