Saturday, October 31, 2009

Quartier Européen

THE AREA at the top of the Rue de la Loi and around the Schuman roundabout is where the main buildings of the European Union’s administration are found.

The most recognizable of all the EU seats is the star-shaped Berlaymont building, now nearing completion following the removal of large quantities of asbestos discovered in its structure. The Berlaymont, formerly the headquarters of the European Commission, will continue to be refurbished until further notice. The commission workers (the civil servants of the EU) are at present dotted around the area. The Council of Ministers, which comprises representatives of member-states’ governments, now meets in the sprawling pink granite block across the road from the Berlaymont, known as Justus Lipsius, after a Flemish philosopher. Further down the road from the Justus Lipsius building is the Résidence Palace, a luxury 1920s housing complex that boasts a theatre, a pool and a roof garden as well as several floors of private flats. It now houses the International Press Centre. Only the theatre is open to the public, but EU officials are allowed into the Art Deco swimming pool.

This area is naturally full of life and bustle during the day, but much quieter in the evenings and can feel almost deserted at weekends. What is pleasant at any time, though, is the proximity of the city’s green spaces including Parc du Cinquantenaire, Parc Léopold and the verdant Square Ambiorix.