|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||26/10/95, Volume 1, Number 06|
HAVING problems with the lease on your new accommodation or frustrated at the delay in getting your electricty or telephone connected? Five years ago, you would have had to solve the problem on your own. Now, however, impartial help is at hand to smooth the path in dealing with Belgian officialdom.
It is being offered by the Bureau de Liaison Bruxelles-Europe. Established by the Brussels-Region government, the bureau has the basic role of acting as a bridge between the Belgian capital and the European institutions in its midst. This involves both smoothing the practical path of people who, in the widest sense, work for the European Union and reassuring local citizens of the value of being hosts to the capital of Europe.
The 11-strong office located in an impressive neo-baroque town house just a stone's throw from the Commission's Breydel headquarters is headed by Carlo Luyckx. He remembers the climate of friction which convinced the newly-formed Brussels regional government to establish the liaison office.
“The decision was taken in early 1991 at a time when President Mitterrand was talking about Strasbourg as the capital of Europe. The Brussels population was unhappy at rising property prices and the EU became a target for their frustration. At the same time EU officials said that if Brussels did not want them, they would go elsewhere.
Five years later the atmosphere has changed dramatically. Problems persist, but the mutual venom has disappeared. The liaison bureau has played a large part in the healing process.
“We try to solve problems on the spot and, if we can't, to suggest solutions. We also aim to tackle them at source and are in touch with the federal government, the Brussels region, the 19 communes and state bodies,” explains Luyckx.
The bureau's successes include speeding up the notoriously slow phone installation process. It keeps religiously clear of commercial behaviour in its advice. It will not recommend estate agents when people are house hunting, but it will advise on leases and prices to ensure their fairness.
Over the past five years, the bureau has established close links with the European Commission and Parliament, giving monthly introductory talks to new arrivals. It also offers its services to national officials on secondment, the various regional offices, journalists and people in the public sector involved in EU business.
“We like to deal with people on a face to face basis,” says Erica van Dijk, a lawyer working in the bureau. Requests for assistance range from those on social security and tax questions to basic issues: how to use the complicated Brussels phone book or questions of etiquette - would it be acceptable behaviour to invite someone to one's house during the week of mourning of the late King Baudouin's death?
The bureau is playing an increasingly active part in explaining EU activities to the Brussels population. It has invited senior EU officials to Belgian cultural events, enabling leaders from both worlds to meet. It has organised Euro-events aimed specifically at schools in the 19 communes where students have played the parts of MEPs and other EU figures.
Despite the improved climate, the bureau intends to continue its work. The arrival of three new member states has brought a new dimension to its activities and it will be no surprise if it is still operating when the EU negotiates its next enlargement phase.
Bureau de Liaison Bruxelles-Europe, Avenue d'Auderghem, 63, 1040 Bruxelles. Tel: 02/280.00.80. Fax: 02/280.03.86.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry, Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Belgium|