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X marks the spot?

source: Giampaolo Squarcina, Flickr CC
source: Giampaolo Squarcina, Flickr CC

In middle school my social science teacher explained to me that if you had a map of Europe and drew an X over it, Brussels was right in the middle and that is why the European Union placed all of its bureaucracy there.

Does anybody really care or know why the Belgian capital is associated with the European Union? Is it not unreasonable to imagine it was chosen to become the geographical and political heart after a lengthy, high level political bargain struck between Presidents and Prime Ministers in a smoke filled room at the break of dawn.

In actuality it was just a mere coincidence.

When the European Union was created, there were only six member states: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy and the Netherlands. In 1957, an alphabetical list with each member state was put in writing, starting with the letter B for Belgium. So they moved all the stacks of papers to Brussels.

Disagreements between state leaders led to a stalemate on where to choose the next city. As time went on, more civil servants were hired to run the swelling administration that came with the Union’s increased political and economical responsibilities. New office buildings had to be constructed.

In 1963 the Berlaymont monastery boarding school for nuns was bulldozed over to make room for the European Commission’s headquarters.

The Berlaymont building features 3 444, windows because a demand at its construction was that every one of its 3000 civil servants should have access to daylight with their own window.

That demand also gave birth to its unique architectural design of a thirteen floor, large-scale X, symbolising all four points of the compass of to which Europe is opening up.

My middle school social science teacher wasn’t that far off!

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