The EU is in talks to lease the so-called Triangle building in Brussels for its new diplomatic service, with Catherine Ashton's likely new digs to overlook the comings and goings in the EU Council and European Commission.The commission is expected to lease 50,000 square metres of the 60,000 square metre block for at least 15 years at a cost of around €10 million a year. Ms Ashton's European External Action Service (EEAS) will fill most of the space, with some room left for assorted commission departments. The EU institutions' careers office, Epso, has in a separate contract already leased a 10,000 square metre chunk from July.The finest space and Ms Ashton's likely new office is on the seventh floor of the so-called Hague wing, overlooking the Schuman roundabout, which is also home to the EU Council and the commission, and which sees frequent protests by groups ranging from Belgian old age pensioners to Iranian pro-democracy activists. Another option is the seventh floor of the Luxembourg wing, with views on the Parc du Cinquantenaire.
"It's important for [Ms Ashton] to have her own premises, so that if she calls a meeting everybody is close to hand, but also to make the right impression when visitors come," an EU official saidIf she needs to come and go without Chinese and Russian spies seeing, there is an option - a bricked-up pedestrian tunnel running under Avenue De Cortenbergh to the European Commission building, dating back from when the Triangle site was used by commission translators. "It could be opened up. Why not?" Axa real estate manager, Bruno Detollenaere, said.
Foreign relations staff have quietly started moving into their new home on the Schuman roundabout in the EU quarter in Brussels.A big padlock still hangs on the main door and light construction work is going on inside.The premises will house 1,300 staff and EEAS chief Catherine Ashton when everybody is in by the end of May or June.
"Instead of being split across seven buildings, EEAS will be regrouped in three ... It will facilitate contacts between the staff members. This will also reinforce the team spirit and the corporate identity of the EEAS," Ashton spokesman Micheal Mann said.
The new headquarters will have its own press conference room and a special area for handling and storing secure communications.