Eurocrats are intoxicated! Brussels’ city planning boss has slammed the EU for its reluctance

A Brussels politician is accusing Eurocrats of faking anger for not wanting to move into poorer parts of the city blighted by drug abuse – many EU civil servants are drug users themselves.

“Many people who work for European institutions take drugs,” said Pascal Smet, Brussels’ state secretary for urbanism, during a closed-door meeting in Brussels with the European Commission’s Office for Infrastructure and Logistics (OIB), which is responsible for EU housing. staff.

At the meeting on January 23, they discussed the possible relocation of EU agencies from the low-income northern quarter of the Belgian capital, a stone’s throw from Brussels’ Gare du Nord train station and an area that city authorities are trying to secure. Redeveloped and gentrified after decades of neglect.

While there appears to be support for the move at the top of institutions, trade unions representing EU workers are concerned about relocation efforts, citing high crime and drug abuse rates in the Northern Quarter.

Smet was quick to dismiss that argument, suggesting that EU staff’s own drug habits meant they were hardly fit to pass judgment on others.

The politician even suggested that cocaine is a popular drug among EU workers, saying that “in Schumann, they are also dealing in drugs … and maybe not the same drug that they are dealing. [in the Northern Quarter]But maybe a little whiter.”

Smet’s comments did not go down well, and were condemned by staff unions representing EU institutions in a letter to Budget and Administration Commissioner Johannes Hahn. In the letter, the Brussels region representative’s words were described as “intolerable”.

“I don’t understand what he was thinking when he made these comments or why the OIB staff allowed him to attack the dignity and reputation of the organization’s workers,” said Cristiano Sebastiani, president of the Renouv & Democracy trade union and one of the letterers. Signatory “Mr. Smet must withdraw this completely unacceptable statement.”

Smet told POLITICO that his comments were made in jest, and were in response to a meeting attendee suggesting that European civil servants do not know how to deal with a community where drug users may be present.

“I just said that there are other places where there are drug addicts, including Shuman Square,” he said. “We are a city … for the people of Brussels and no other area for Europeans.”

Smet acknowledged that crime was a problem in the Northern Quarter. In 2021, BNP Paribas Fortis workers had to hire security guards to escort them to their offices in the Gare du Nord in Brussels, and last autumn several non-governmental organizations wrote an open letter condemning the continued rise in violence in the area.

But Smet said that while he sympathized with Eurocrats worried about the potential move, by relocating to the area they could play a role in its regeneration.

“People in the European Commission can be actors of change,” he said. “They will change the nature of the neighborhood by coming here.”

Decisions on moving EU agencies to the Northern Quarter rest with the European Commission, which favors the move as part of a broader strategy to occupy less office space in Brussels and a preference for dispersing its employees across the city. A “greener” and “more cheerful” relationship with the Belgian capital.

The company plans to begin moving employees into a rented building in the area by the end of this year and is moving up to six agencies to the district in the long term.

Trade unions at the institution maintain that the transfer scheme was not transparent and are asking commission officials to share information to ensure the move makes financial sense.