European Commission set to halve number of buildings it uses in Brussels

EU executive says it expects more of its staff to work from home in the future.
Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

18 May 2021

The concession comes amid a major review of the Commission’s buildings portfolio in Brussels which will be substantially reduced over the coming years.

As part of a shake-up of its retail estate portfolio, it is believed the executive wants to halve the number of buildings it manages in Brussels by 2030, from 50 to 25.

The expected plan will see the amount of office space the Commission uses going down from 780,000m² to 580,000². This will reportedly save the Commission between €280m-€440m.

Most of the buildings affected are outside the EU Quarter where the Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters is based.

The COVID-19 pandemic is thought to have persuaded the Commission to bring forward the changes to its buildings policy.

Since the start of the health crisis, the majority of its employees in Brussels have worked from home, something which is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

"The Commission is constantly adapting its buildings’ policy to new realities and needs. The Commission strives for a green, digital and modern administration offering staff a good working environment” European Commission spokesman

It is believed that as many as 40 per cent of its workforce will continue to telework with the remainder working in “flexible office spaces.”

The plans have generally been welcomed by MEPs contacted by this site.

Renew Europe MEP Fabienne Keller told this website, “The health crisis will have an impact on the way we work and on the real estate market. I therefore believe that the European institutions must review their building strategies, as the Commission is doing.”

The French member added, “The Commission's logic may not be adaptable to all the institutions, but at least it opens a reflection on the subject.”

She went on, “In terms of expenditure, we must also be reasonable with regard to European citizens who are suffering from the crisis. We must certainly resize certain building projects that would be too costly, I am thinking in particular of the Paul Henri Spaak building for the European Parliament. Especially since the European Parliament already has a hemicycle in Strasbourg.”

“The health crisis will have an impact on the way we work and on the real estate market. I therefore believe that the European institutions must review their building strategies, as the Commission is doing” Fabienne Keller MEP

Keller said, “As far as the European Parliament is concerned, I am rather in favour of returning to normal functioning, as soon as possible. It is a parliamentary assembly and in order to fulfil our democratic role we must encourage debate. We realised that this is not fully possible remotely.”

Further comment comes from Dutch member Rob Roos who told this site, "We welcome the idea of reducing the square meters of workspace. We are in favour of a small government and a reduction in government costs.”

The ECR Group member said, “The Commission wants more people to work from home. As far as we are concerned, it is also important to continuously reflect if saving costs on staff is possible. Just like commercial companies do on a regular basis."

A commission spokesman explained its future buildings policy, telling The Parliament Magazine, “The Commission is constantly adapting its buildings’ policy to new realities and needs. The Commission strives for a green, digital and modern administration offering staff a good working environment.”

The spokesman said, “The real estate policy will take into account the COVID impact with a wider and more generalised use of teleworking and the objectives of the European Green Deal in order to reduce its carbon footprint.”

"We welcome the idea of reducing the square meters of workspace. We are in favour of a small government and a reduction in government costs” Rob Roos MEP

The spokesman went on, “All decisions will be done according to the financial regulation and sound financial management principles which require adequate planning of the purchase and rent of buildings.”

“The Commission’s buildings’ policy will be rolled out over ten years at the pace of leases coming to an end and the lease or purchase of new buildings.”

“The plans are indicative and subject to possible fine-tuning or changes depending on the response of the real estate market. The roll out will be done in close collaboration and consultation with the staff of DGs and services concerned.”

Read the most recent articles written by Martin Banks - Von der Leyen says 50 percent of EU’s adult population now vaccinated at least once

Share this page