The building looks imposing: 15 floors, mirrored glass facade, spacious lobby. And across the street is a small park. Still, European Commission officials don't want to move into the North Light Building. Because it is located – as the name suggests – in the northern district of Brussels. The area is considered dodgy, drug trafficking is part of everyday life. Can you expect something like that from the EU people? This question now occupies the highest levels of politics.
Brussels' city administration would like to relocate several Commission agencies from the European quarter to the so-called Quartier Nord. The move is intended to help gentrify the area. If more EU civil servants with their good income settle there, the idea of the Belgian city planners, then nice cafés, galleries and boutiques will settle down over time. Then the Quartier Nord will finally be upgraded after decades of neglect.
But the officials of the Commission can not do much with the quarter. "There is a growing sense of insecurity in the northern district," says Cristiano Sebastiani, head of the Renouveau union
A bizarre argument has broken out in the Belgian capital. On the one hand: the administration of the metropolis, which wants to renovate a problem area and attract high earners there. On the other hand: EU officials, afraid of drug-related crime in the North, who prefer to stay at Schuman Square in the heart of Brussels, where the Commission is headquartered. And emotions run high.
According to POLITICO, the Brussels State Secretary for Urban Development, Pascal Smet, said at a meeting with EU representatives behind closed doors a few days ago: "Many people who work for the European institutions take drugs." The northern quarter with all its dealers should that probably means should not really deter the EU officials.
Smet apparently became even more specific in the meeting. At Schuman Square, he is said to have grumbled, drugs are also being traded. But not with the same ones as in Quartier Nord. But with substances that are "a bit whiter". Should mean: with cocaine. Maybe it was meant to be funny, maybe Smet said it in affect. When asked by WELT, he did not want to comment further. In any case, his comments were not well received by EU officials.
Anger and astonishment prevail in the commission. "What Mr. Smet is saying is absolute nonsense," says Sebastiani von Renouveau
Criticism also comes from the European Parliament. Liberal MP Eva Maria Poptcheva even calls for Smet's resignation. According to the Spaniard, one should not accept such attacks on the Commission officials, who also work for the benefit of Belgium and its citizens.
And even Charles Michel, President of the European Council, joins the debate. Normally, Michel negotiates with the EU heads of state and government at nightly summits about the major issues of our time: climate protection, Ukraine's EU accession, sanctions against Russia. But now he is also concerned with the statements made by Belgian local politician Smet.
Michel's spokesman said: "President Michel asks for respect for all men and women in the service of the European Union, especially in these very difficult international times."
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