A district of Brussels which was not mentioned in my last contributions is the European Quarter. However, the fact that this part of Brussels has not yet been examined in more detail does not mean that it is not important (to me), but exactly the opposite. The European Quarter is in fact the heart of Brussels, to which this article is intended to give special importance.
By Julia Mayer / 25.05.2020
As its name suggests, the EU Quarter is characterised by a high concentration of EU institutions. In order to get an overview of the European institutions, it is advisable to choose “Station Europe” as a starting point. In the former Bruxelles-Luxembourg train station, you can explore the European Parliament using an “Augmented Reality” model and get more information about Brussels’ sights and the EU Quarter.
If you want to get a deeper insight into the moving history of Europe, the Parliamentarium, the Visitor Centre of the European Parliament, and the House of European History are highly recommended. Both sources of knowledge are free and anything but boring. In the Parliamentarium, for example, a 360° panoramic film allows you to experience what goes on in the European Parliament’s plenary chamber and feel like a Member of Parliament for a moment. A wide range of interactive multimedia services will enable you to get to know the 751 MEPs better or listen to the voices of Europeans explaining what Europe means to you. An interactive map gives you a further opportunity to see what the EU has already achieved in your region. The House of European History illustrates international, continent formative events and presents experiences from different perspectives.
As interactive as the presented sources of information are, there is one thing you cannot replace; an actual visit to the Parliament. And this is also possible for visitor groups and even individuals after appropriate registration! So take advantage of this offer and experience the European Parliament, which is humorously also called Caprice des Dieux because of its similarity up close toFrench soft cheese..
As most people know, the MEPs who work in the European Parliament are elected by us every five years during the European elections. However, the European Quarter would not bear this name if there weren’t other EU institutions in the district. For example, the European Quarter is home to numerous buildings of the EU Commission, including the so-called Berlaymont. This is also the office of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The Commission corresponds to the government in state systems and, for the most part, has the sole right of initiative in the EU legislative process, i.e. it can submit a draft law to the other institutions for approval. Some Commission departments are also located in Luxembourg.
Speaking of locations: the official seat of the European Parliament is in Strasbourg. Twelve four-day plenary meetings are held there each year. However, as Parliament’s committees and political groups meet in Brussels, two-day plenary sessions are held here up to six times a year. The Secretariat-General of Parliament is in turn based in Luxembourg. How complicated! In short, the majority of MEPs are actually in Brussels during the week, mostly at home on weekends and once a month there is ‘Strasbourg week’. Even if you do not know when it is, you will notice it very quickly, as the European Quarter will be quite empty.
The European Parliament, together with the Council of the European Union, is the legislative authority in the European system. This committee is often referred to as the Council of Ministers and should not be confused with the Council of Europe or the European Council. The Council of Europe is a European international organisation and debates European issues. Unlike the other two committees, this one is also based in Strasbourg. But what distinguishes the European Council from the Council of the European Union? Both have at least a seat in Brussels in common. In the European Council, however, the heads of state and government exchange views, whereas the Council of the European Union represents the governments of the EU member states and is actively involved in legislation.
What all EU buildings have in common is that they are architecturally impressive buildings. These are surrounded by beautiful parks, not least the Parc Léopold, which is practically directly adjacent to the EU Parliament.
The European Quarter also offers numerous cafés and restaurants. Particularly popular with young expats from the EU institutions, the Place du Luxembourg, also known as the “Plux”, is a real insider tip for tourists.. On Thursday evenings you can make international contacts here without a problem.
Finally, a few more useful tips: to reach the European Quarter quickly by metro, it is best to choose the Schuman station, named after the former French Prime Minister and President of the European Parliament, Robert Schuman. I also recommend the following map to help explore the district, which shows you where the EU institutions and the Permanent Representations of the Member States are located: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/29697/qc0214964enn.pdf
Enjoy your tour of the heart of Brussels!