Before the President of the European Council and national delegations move into the new Council building in January 2017, we had a chance to visit the new Europa building of the Council.
Below we bring you some of the highlights.
The Need for the New
There are a few things that come to mind when you think of the European Council. Namely, the European Council is the EU institution, which steers priorities of the European Union. It consists of the heads of state or government of the EU member states, President of the Council, and the President of the Commission. On the other hand, the Council of the EU or the EU Council is the institution representing the governments of the EU member states. National ministers meet in the EU Council in order to coordinate policies and adopt laws. The European Council and the Council of the European Union have the same seat.
As a consequence of the EU enlargement in 2004, the EU leaders decided to host the summits in Brussels rather than in member states. This decision was largely influenced by the need to save the costs. As a consequence, better facilities in Brussels were needed. After all, the old Justus Lipsius building was not constructed for hosting the summits. Moreover, the new building had to provide necessary levels of security, while reflecting on the concept of sustainability.
At the time when the Council looked into expanding, the Block A of the Residence Palace was available. Residence Palace – a beautiful Art Deco building from the beginning of 1920s – was converted after the Second World War into offices for several Belgian governmental departments. The City of Brussels suggested to the Council to acquire the Block A of the Residence Palace.
The Europa Building
The Europa building consists of the original L-shaped Residence Palace block A, and the glass addition – these now form a brick shaped building. The glass facade consists of a patchwork of restored wooden window frames from various demolition sites from all over EU. This is believed to encourage sustainable development and to promote cultural diversity, while also adding a layer of isolation. On the other hand, the glass facade also supports the EU motto of the ‘united in diversity’ – all windows are different, but similar. Inside this space, a lantern-like sphere has been created. This is where the main meeting rooms are. It is interesting to note that the lantern-shaped sphere served as the inspiration for the current logo of the Council. This atrium feature is the most visible at night when lit by 374 LED tubes. A nice addition into this modern and airy space are different combinations of colored squares on the floors, ceilings, doors and walls. We believe that this gives a space a less serious note and relaxes the visitors.
As of the beginning of 2017 the new building will host EU, multilateral and ministerial summits. However, most of the offices will stay in the old buildings of Justus Lipsius and Lex. The new ‘patchwork’ building forms a unified area with the other two buildings of the Council: Justus Lipsius and Lex.