Tag Archives: brussels

From Brussels to London, smooth check-in at LSE

After some very good time in Brussels it was time to move on. So, since Wednesday I am a Londonian now 🙂

LSE logo + nameBut whether my time here is to be limited we have to see. I have inscribed for a Masters at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) at the heart of this great city. For the coming 12 months I should come out with some new perspectives. Not only for this blog but obviously mainly for my life, my learning and my future. New projects are naturally in preparation and until the end of the year I should know where I am heading. Until then I can only praise the LSE’s efforts for a smooth integration of its new students: useful information was sent to me way in advance. More current updates came in by email and the registration at the school was the smoothest thing I have ever seen at any university (and this is somehow my 5th!). Even though I had arrived a little earlier than foreseen by LSE, I could immidiately receive my student card and gain complete access to all services. Internet is running in my comfortable student residence (except for the SMTP). Only a fridge is waiting to be delivered tomorrow.

But more than that I have just spent a wonderful (last?) summer weekend in Dorset with great walks, good food and interesting discussions (i.a. about organic cidre farming) in between a wonderful countryside. May the year continue like this!

Update: Parliament confirmed to meet in Brussels for full session

The word is out that European Parliament Secretary General Harald Romer has confirmed that the coming plenary week from 1-4 September will take place in Brussels. Now is the time to fully acknowledge that one seat will do! – Sign the petition at www.oneseat.eu.

Here comes the Email to all MEPs:

Subject: Parliament’s September I session to be held exceptionally in Brussels
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2008 11:55:49 +0200
Priority: Urgent
From: “ROMER Harald”
To: “MEP & ASSISTANTS”

Parliament’s September I session to be held exceptionally in Brussels due to the partial collapse of the ceiling in the Hemicycle in Strasbourg – September II session to be held as foreseen in Strasbourg

Following the preliminary results of various expert enquiries that have been conducted after the partial collapse of the ceiling in the Hemicycle in Strasbourg on 7 August 2008, President Hans-Gert PÖTTERING has today, on the basis of a recommendation by the Secretary-General and after consulting Chairmen of political groups, taken the decision to exceptionally move the holding of the September I session from Strasbourg to Brussels in view of guaranteeing the absolute security and safety of Members and staff. This decision has been taken after consultation of the French Presidency, also in view of providing continuity to the legislative work of the Institution.

Members should note that it has proved impossible to find alternative solutions in Strasbourg, guaranteeing the full language regime and normal voting facilities for Members, for the holding of the September I session.

At the moment, the reconstruction of the whole ceiling of the Hemicycle is being carried out. In practical terms this means the dismantling and installation of various parts of a very complex construction. A completely new suspension technique, already approved by the experts and local construction authorities, will be used for the new ceiling. Although all the efforts are made to advance as quickly as possible on the reconstruction and assurance of the security of the ceiling, the procedure is lengthy and it will therefore not allow for all necessary legal obligations regarding security and safety of buildings to be made prior to the holding of the September I session.

On the basis of the progress of the construction works and the efforts that are made by the services and the companies involved in the works, the September II session will be held in Strasbourg as foreseen after the necessary verifications regarding security and safety have been concluded.

Preliminary cause for the collapse of the ceiling
The preliminary enquiries have revealed that the partial collapse of the ceiling results from the breaking of the parts holding the inserted ceiling which connects it with the actual structure of the ceiling. The ongoing enquiries – conducted by several impartial and international engineering companies – will further determine the details and liabilities linked to the cause of the collapse. These enquiries are being conducted in full co-operation with the local responsible authorities and with a high-level building security expert appointed by the French government.

Members are also informed that the costs relating to the repair construction will be covered by the insurance of the LOW building, not by Parliament’s budgetary provisions. Following the final result of the enquiries, the liabilities will be established between different actors of the time of constructing the original ceiling.

Practical arrangement for the transfer of the session from Strasbourg to Brussels
An inter-service group will start meeting today in order to deal with all practical and logistical questions in relation to holding of the session in Brussels. Members are invited to rearrange their travel and hotel accommodation the earliest possible.

For the visitors’ groups invited by Members, the Visitors’ Service will apply the maximum amount of flexibility: For those visitors’ groups that are able to redirect their visit to Brussels, the Service will do their utmost to put up a programme. For the visitors’ groups who wish to maintain their planned visit to Parliament’s premises in Strasbourg (without guaranteeing the possibility of seeing the Hemicycle), the Service will assure a shorter programme. Furthermore, for the groups of visitors who would wish to postpone their visit to a later occasion, a rescheduling will be guaranteed. Members are invited to take contact with the Visitors’ Service with a view to defining the appropriate arrangements.

With any other questions related to the holding of the session in Brussels, Members can address their queries directly to the private office of the Secretary-General either by email or by phone. My office will inform the Members on any other practicalities in the near future.

Harald RØMER
Secretary-General

Update: Parliament’s roof crashing in Strasbourg

Gerard Onesta, Vice-President of the European Parliament and in this capacity resonsible for the building/infrastructure management has clarified the following points (excerpts, quoted, bold from me):

1.  About 250 square metres of the plaster ceiling lining have come off in two phases on Thursday, 7th of August, one at the end of the afternoon and the other during the evening.
This represents 10 tons of material and 10% of the surface of the ceiling. Luckily the hemicycle was deserted. … Accordingly, if this accident would have happened during one of our sessions, this would have hit the representatives of the European Commission, a part of the EPP party and all non-attached members, as this are the parts of the hemicycle that is concerned.

If the whole hemicycle would not be covered with dust, the desks, seats and the voting system are only marginally affected.

2. All experts have clearly identified – without any doubt – the reason of the damage. It has to be noted that numerous international engineering companies (charged by the insurances, the public powers and the Parliament itself) have intervened immediately in the presence of the architects. To avoid a conflict of interests, the engineering company being the initiator of the project (OTE) has been excluded and the international engineering bureau charged by the Parliament – which was complemented with our habitual control body – is “not French”.

The French government itself has immediately sent the Director of the National Building Technology Centre to the place; this means the highest authority possible.

The fall of the inserted ceiling comes from the breaking of the flexible parts of the overhead suspension, which connects it with the steel girder of the structure. Effectively, to allow the acoustic for a room of this big seize being adequate, the architects had chosen to avoid rigid fixings so that the inserted ceiling could absorb sound waves. This is a quite common operation. The inquiry will determine if the overhead suspension from caoutchouc have been badly calibrated by the engineering company OTE, or if it has been wrongly placed by the construction companies, or if the chemical composition of the product has deteriorated over time.

It was also possible to note that the rubble of the initial works have been deplorably abandoned on the inserted ceiling, which could have caused a punctual overload. All this conclusions have of cause been made in the presence of the ushers (several hours of investigation with a multitude of photographic overviews).

During the incident, the breaking of one of the flexible overhead suspensions has surely lead to a higher weight to be born by the neighbouring overhead suspensions which then lead this to break off and hence starting a “snowball-effect”. There was neither a safety mechanism to halt the deterioration of the caoutchouc nor a warning system to announce the immediate danger.

It has to be noted that the hemicycle is the only room that has been constructed in this way in Strasbourg (for the reason of it’s seize), and that I have requested to immediately verify the ceiling structure of the hemicycle in Brussels. According to the first results of the investigation, it seems as if the inserted ceilings in Brussels have been constructed differently.

3. The works are not extremely complicated from the technical side, but they are lengthy because they are carried out on a huge surface and need rigidity and thoroughness. … If it becomes clear that we do not rapidly have the ABSOLUTE certainty that everything can be finished on time under the strictest respect of safety, the President of the Parliament and the Secretary General (the only ones competent for questions relating to safety) will decide – according to the evidence – that the first plenary session of September (01-04 September) will exceptionally be held in Brussels.

This is also the position that I am defending from the first day on: The respect of the Treaty that contains the obligation to hold 12 sessions per year in Strasbourg, outweighs no security imperatives

In order to allow the preparation of this session under the best conditions (reservations of flights, hotels) for deputies, functionaries and assistants the Secretary General must officially communicate the venue of the first session as from the end of the present week (at latest on Monday, the 25th of August).

4.  The costs of the works are not yet known – probably several millions of Euros – but the LOW building is covered by its 10 years insurance until December 2008. The whole costs will be hence born by the insurance of the works (the experts will distribute the responsibilities between architects, engineering companies, producers and companies). The European tax payer will hence have nothing to pay.