Visiting the EU institutions in Brussels

Hello everybody!

Not everyone has ability to see all these European Union related institutions from the different angle. I have had such an opportunity through one contest and I am very grateful and happy for it. And now, almost month after I finally got to write a bit more about it.

The European Parliament is the community institution representing the combined 470 million inhabitants of the member states of the EU. As the only EU institution elected directly by universal suffrage, the European Parliament has three fundamental powers: legislative power, budget power and political control of the European institutions.
Strasbourg is the official seat of the Parliament, while Brussels hosts MEPs three weeks out of every four as well as additional plenary sessions and the meetings of parliamentary committees and political groupings.

Here we spent time listening to EP’s history, we had a little tour around and we were also able to to walk between seats in the debating chamber/hemicycle and vote like proper MEPs.

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The Council of the European Union is made up of representatives of the governments of the EU member states. The Council is the most important legislative body and the decision-making centre of the European Union.

In this building we spent more time than in EP, because except a tour around the whole building we had few sessions, too.

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The European Commission, which drives the integration process given it is the only body permitted to propose EU legislation as well as being the guardian of the Treaties, is located at Berlaymont and Charlemagne, two buildings lying right agains each other.

The Berlaymont is an office building that houses the headquarters of the European Commission, which is the executive of the European Union (EU). The structure is located at Schuman roundabout at Wetstraat 200 Rue de la Loi, in what is known as the “European Quarter”. The unique form of the Berlaymont’s architecture is utilised in the European Commission’s official emblem.

The cross-shaped Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Commission with a typical 60s look, was built in 1967. The first things to catch the eye are the four asymmetrical main wings and the enormous public esplanade that passes under them thanks to an ingenious support structure. This impressive feat of engineering allows for only the centre of the structure to be in contact with the ground, giving the illusion that all four of the wings appear to be floating above the ground. Is the Berlaymont beautiful or an eyesore? Opinion is split, but there is no denying how impressive it is.

The adjacent Schuman roundabout not only provides a wonderful view of this key symbol of European decision-making in Brussels, but also on the brand-new Europa building, headquarters of the European Council and the Council of the European Union.

The Berlaymont underwent comprehensive renovations that began in 1995 and were completed in 2004.

The building has housed the European Commission since its construction, and has become a symbol of the Commission (its name becoming a metonym for the Commission) and the European presence in Brussels. The Commission itself is spread over some 60 odd buildings, but the Berlaymont is the institution’s headquarters, being the seat of the President of the European Commission and its College of Commissioners.

The following Directorates-General (departments) are also based in the Berlaymont: Human Resources and Security (HR), European Political Strategy Centre, formerly known as Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA), Communication (COMM), Brussels Office of Infrastructure and Logistics (OIB), Secretariat-General (SG) and the Legal Service (SJ).[2]

The office of the President and the Commission boardroom are on the 13th floor (occupied by the President in defiance of superstition surrounding the number), together with the meeting room of the Hebdo and the restaurant La Convivialité.

The building owes its name to the Dames du Berlaymont (Sisters of the Berlaymont) convent. The Dames du Berlaymont order was created in 1625 by Countess Marguerite de Lalaing, wife of Count Florent de Berlaymont. The Belgian state bought the land in 1962, when the order moved to Argenteuil.

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my mom, haha

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The Charlemagne building is a high-rise in the European Quarter of Brussels, which houses the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, the Directorate-General for Trade and, since 2015, the Internal Audit Service of the Commission.

The building has 3 wings and 15 floors. It’s located at 170 Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat, in the City of Brussels, one of the 19 municipalities forming the Brussels-Capital Region. Fun fact! The postal code for the municipality is 1000, but the postal code for the European Commission is 1049.

The building was designed by Jacques Cuisinier and constructed in 1967 at the same time as the Berlaymont Building to group together more scattered departments of the European Commission. However, with the Commission refusing to share the Berlaymont with the Council of the European Union, Charlemagne was given to the Council’s secretariat in 1971. This had previously been located in the city centre.

The Council moved out to the Justus Lipsius building in 1995 allowing it to be renovated. The renovation was completed in 1998 by Helmut Jahn, replacing the largely concrete exterior with a glass one. After the restoration it was occupied by the Commission, further grouping the Union’s offices around the Schuman roundabout.

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In both these buildings we spent one day, because besides the tours we also had sessions on many different interesting topics, for example enery union and climate, strategies for the future, environment etc.

 

I really enjoyed the time we had a chance to spend there and yet again, I’m so thankful for that, it was an unbelievable experience ❤

 

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