Brussels – The Unofficial Capital of the EU
The EU officially doesn’t have a capital nor plans to create one in the future. But throughout Europe and the rest of the world, Brussels is de facto considered the capital of the EU because it is home to many important European institutions including the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.
Brussels in the Early History of the EU
The capital of Belgium traces its origins to a 10th century town that was founded by a Charlemagne’s descendant. It has been a major centre of international politics since the end of the Second World War. Along the institutions of the EU, Brussels is also home to the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), EUROCONTROL and a number of multinational corporations. It is the world’s third largest international conference host and attracts more diplomats and journalists than the American capital.
Brussels began to host EU institutions in the 1950s. With the Treaty of Amsterdam that was signed in 1997 and entered into force two years later, the city was made the official seat of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. But it shares the title of the official seat of the European Parliament with the French city of Strasbourg where voting takes place. Plenary sessions and meetings of the political and committee groups take place in the city of Strasbourg.
The “European Quarter”
Most European institutions are located in the so-called “European Quarter”, an unofficial name for the area between the Leopold Park, Cinquantenaire Park and Brussels Park. The area was historically residential but the arrival of the European institutions made it predominantly “office-oriented”. Also, high concentration of European institutions and the need for new buildings due to enlargement of the EU caused concerns about “ghettoisation” of the district.
Notable Building of the EU Institutions in Brussels
The most famous “EU building” in Brussels is the Berlaymont which serves as the primary seat of the European Commission. It was built in 1960s according to the design by architects Lucien de Vestel, Andre Polak and Jean Gilson, and is the first building to be constructed for the EU in the Belgian capital.
Not far from the Berlaymont is the Justus Lipsius building that is the seat of the Council of the European Union since the mid-1990s. Previously, the Council was headquartered in the Charlemagne building across the street.
The Parliament building which is known as the Espace Leopold actually consists of two buildings – Paul-Henri Spaak and Altiero Spinelli. It is located between Leopold Park and Luxembourg Square.
The Triangle building on the Schuman roundabout is home to the European External Action Service (EEAS) since 2012, while the Delors building serves as the seat to the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee on the Regions. Like most building of the EU institutions, the Delors building is located in the “European Quarter”.