Even before the onset of the pandemic the European Commission had been thinking about how it could reduce the amount of office space occupied by Commission staff in order to allow it to concentrate its activities around the Schuman and Rogier areas of Brussels. Tuesday’s edition of the financial daily L’Echo reports that the coronavirus crisis has served to speed things up.
Since March of last year, a majority of the staff at the European Commission have been working from home. Tele-working is likely to remain a factor in European civil servants’ professional lives after the pandemic. There is currently talk of them working two days a week at the office and three days a week from home.
European civil servants working three days a week from home would of course mean that the Commission would require less office space to accommodate them. The European Commission now says that it wants to reduce the number of buildings it uses by at least half and the amount of floor space it occupies by around 25%. Currently the European Commission occupies 780,000M² of floor space at 50 buildings across Brussels. Under the plan this would be reduced to 580,000M² in 25 buildings. ‘L’Echo’ reports that this would save the European Commission between 280 and 440 million euro.
The buildings around the Genèvestraat in Evere and in the area around the Beaulieulaan in Oudergem as well as those on the Marsveldstraat in Elsene will be among those to be vacated. By 2030 the European Commission wishes to have concentrated its offices around two hubs. The first is the existing European hub around the Schuman Square, while the second will by a new hub around the Rogier Square on the edge of the centre of Brussels.
The Brussels Secretary of State responsible for European relations Pascal Smet (Flemish socialist) told ‘L’Echo’ that he is aware of the European Commission’s intentions and that a meeting is planed between the Brussels First Minister Rudi Vervoort (Francophone socialist) and the relevant European Commissioner to discuss the issue.