Lockdown turns Brussels’ EU district into a real ghost town

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Only a pandemic might make Brussels’ EU Quarter really feel much less thrilling.

At the most effective of instances, streets surrounding the EU establishments really feel about as welcoming because the dense authorized texts being labored on in all the grey workplace blocks.

But an much more suffocating shroud fell on this a part of the European capital late final yr, when Belgium entered a seemingly unending state of lockdown to deal with rocketing COVID instances.

In early April, the city sprawl between the Council, Commission and Parliament is a bona fide ghost town. The sharp-suited diplomats striding into the Council’s Justus Lipsius headquarters are gone and the gaggles of journalists dashing towards the Commission’s Berlaymont HQ with outstretched microphones are nowhere to be seen.

The lobbyists normally dashing in any case of them have needed to undertake other tactics, and the pubs and cafés the place all three teams would hobnob and gossip are open just for takeaway or closed fully, some by no means to return.

A motley crew of taxi drivers, troopers and safety guards are the brand new inhabitants of this forgotten panorama. Often bored, generally smoking, their suspicious faces appear to ask: “What are you still doing here?”

In the home windows of the European Commission’s abandoned buildings, the one indicators of life are the potted vegetation, and it’s unsure how lengthy they’ve obtained left.

Down under, a handful of teenage skate boarders have reclaimed the territory in an act of city rewilding, clattering up and down on weather-beaten sculptures. Give it just a few extra lockdowns and perhaps we’ll see boar and deer.

The space is such a wasteland, it begs the query: is the EU nonetheless actually right here in any respect?

Are the empty workplace buildings and blue-and-gold flags sufficient to take care of the European mission’s middle of gravity on this tangle of forlorn streets?

Perhaps the Commission ought to arrange a taskforce to analyze. It might begin its mission proper exterior the Commission’s HQ, the place a brand new customer middle stays sealed shut. In this Pompeiian terrain, the development smacks of the hubris of a crumbled empire.

Continuing their expedition, the investigators might enterprise onto Rue Stevin, the place the eating places normally hum with the sound of clinking glasses and chattering staffers. Rue du Taciturne resides as much as its title, they’d probably observe. Production has slowed down on the Sushi Factory and the chairs are stacked up on the Meeting Point pub.

The taskforce might contemplate how you can breathe life again into the EU Quarter when the much-promised “new normal” lastly arrives.

The easiest choice could possibly be to remodel the world into an infinite outside assembly room for the European Council, the place leaders can safely work together at a distance by way of megaphones. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron might stand atop the Europa constructing’s distinctive egg, shouting directions to different heads of presidency on the streets under.

Alternatively, how about turning it right into a life-size model of one other Brussels vacationer attraction, Mini-Europe, the place guests can come and marvel at how quaint the buildings are?

Whatever occurs, the EU Quarter is unlikely to ever be the identical once more. Whether that’s a superb or dangerous factor is one other matter.

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