BRUSSELS : CAPITAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

Symbol of the Euro. One Euro = 40.3399 BEFThe symbol of the new European common currency : the Euro.

WHY BRUSSELS ?

One of the costumes of Manneken PisAfter the Second World War a number of European countries felt the need for more cooperation amongst each other in order to avoid any future armed conflicts, and also in order to avoid being overshadowed by a strong American power. This resulted in 1952 in the creation of the European Community for coal and steel.

Already from the start the countries disagreed on which city would receive the European organizations: France preferred the city of Saarbrücken (then in France, now again in Germany), Luxembourg proposed its own capital city of Luxembourg, Holland choose The Hague (Den Haag) and Belgium opted for Liège. A temporary solution was found and the institutions were divided over Luxembourg and Strasbourg (France).

The Berlaymont building (European Commission) in better times.At the end of 1957 the EEC (European Economic Community) was founded by Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France and Italy. The Belgian Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak proposed Brussels as seat of the European organizations. Again, no agreement was reached, and the political institutions of the EEC were  (temporarily) housed in Brussels (the European Commission), and Strasbourg (the European Parliament). In anticipation of a report, a decision was taken to house the administrative services of the EEC in Brussels. For this purpose, the Belgian insurance company ROYALE BELGE, constructed offices between the Kortenberglaan (Avenue de Kortenberg) and the Blijde Inkomstlaan (Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée) near the Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels.

In 1958 a vote was organized to come to a definitive solution. Brussels was in the lead because of the improved road infrastructure (thanks to the World Exposition which took place in Brussels in 1958), and also because of the central location of the city and the neutral position of Belgium between the European powers. Although Brussels won the vote after two rounds, a definitive decision was again postponed. Furthermore, the vote resulted in the start of a system of  'compensation policy', whereby Luxembourg and Strasbourg also received a part of the institutions.

The Berlaymont building before the renovation.The Berlaymont building, seat of the European Commission, built in 1968. Since 1991 the building is empty because of the presence of too much asbestos on the inside. The renovation undertaken by the Belgian State runs into the billions of BEF and sheduled to be finished by 2001.

In 1964 Luxembourg proposed to re-group and re-devise the administrative services of the EEC. On May the 8th 1965 the following was decided upon : Brussels received the European Commission, the Economic and Social committee, certain services of the European Parliament, the Secretary of the Council of Ministers and the status of   " city where the Council would  gather and function most of the time". Strasbourg kept the half-round where the plenary sessions of the European Parliament took place. The Secretary of the European Parliament remained in Luxembourg as well as the European Court of Justice and the European Investment Bank.

As from 1981 numerous members of the European Parliament started to show signs of dissatisfaction over the fact that the services of the European Parliament were spread over the three cities Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. On October the 24th the European Parliament decided to construct a new seat for itself in the Quartier Léopold (Leopoldswijk) in Brussels. This decision met with strong French opposition (France could not accept that its city of Strasbourg would no longer house the European Parliament half-round). This was later confirmed by the European Court that decided "that the sessions of the European Parliament in Brussels should remain exceptional".

The flag of the European Union Click here to go to the Website of the European Union.