Brussels’ EU quarter to get facelift, amid traffic chaos

Revamped Rond point Schuman [Minister of Public Works of Brussels Pascal Smet]

Brussels city authorities – acutely aware of the negative image of the city’s European quarter – are planning to give the Schuman roundabout a facelift, complete with a new pedestrian zone.

But the plans will cause commuter chaos as they can only be completed by shutting down the very busy roads used by EU officials, journalists and lobbyists to get to work.

When tourists emerge from the metro at Rond-point Schuman, the roundabout surrounded by EU institution buildings, they expect to see the heart of Europe.

Instead they are confronted with uninspiring architecture, crawling cars, roadsigns and traffic lights.

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Brussels’ Minister of Public Works Pascal Smet wants to give the area a much-needed makeover.

“This is one of the most filmed locations in Europe because of the number of institutions that are there,” he said.

“The redevelopment project is a priority. It has to become a place where Europeans eat their Brussels tartine together and not a place where cars occupy the whole place. It must become as friendly as Place Luxembourg during after-work drinks on Thursday night, ” he told La Dernière Heure.

The Brussels government has approved the main principles that will guide the redevelopment of the Schuman roundabout. These will be specified in a contract notice to be published in the coming days.

Specifically, the project selected by the regional authorities is to create a large pedestrian zone from Cinquantenaire Park to the Europa building on Rue de la Loi. Once finished, the building will host EU summits. It was dubbed “Van Rompuy’s egg” when its plans, which angered UK Prime Minister David Cameron, were made public during his tenure.

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Completing the project will be impossible with the levels of traffic on the roundabout. Traffic will still be allowed between the Avenue de Cortenbergh and Rue de la Loi but it will be no longer possible to access the roundabout from the Auderghem avenue.

The portion between “Van Rompuy’s egg” and the Cinquantenaire Park will become a long pedestrian zone. Finally, a work of art will be installed at Place Schuman. It will be selected by an international competition.

“The facelift of the Schuman roundabout must be the way to enshrine even more Europe in the city”, said Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort.

The Brussels Region announced that a budget of €7.8 million will be dedicated to the facelift and work should begin in 2017.

EURACTIV asked the Council if the plans to cut the access of Avenue de Cortenbergh from where EU leaders arrive for summits to the Council buildings across the Rond Point Schuman poses a problem. The official in charge, who asked not to be named, explained that special arrangements would continue to apply during EU summits, as usual.

Save Europe, a syndicate of European Commission employees, has stated that while the intention for a facelift of the Brussels European quarters in is commendable, one cannot help thinking that such a public space presents a real security challenge at a time when suicide bombers with explosive belts are looking to blow themselves in symbolic places where the crowd meets.

“It is therefore essential that the European Commission, which should be consulted on the project, obtains the necessary guarantees in terms of security”, Save Europe said.

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