Far from being ugly, Brussels probably isn’t one of the first five most beautiful European cities, nor the biggest, either in terms of area, demographics or economic strength.
Yet it is one of the most politically influent cities in the world, as capital of the EU and headquarters of NATO. Sadly, it may deserve another not-so-flattering title.
It’s a sort of secular Mecca, except for the fact that the 500 million Europeans don’t have a religious duty to visit the ‘European shrines’.
As European citizens and taxpayers, they have the right to visit the EU’s institutions, mainly the European Parliament.
On the other hand, for all those exerting political power anywhere in Europe (at national, and sometimes even local level), visiting Brussels is compulsory.
For those in charge of a government, an important municipality, a big region, governing with their backs turned on Brussels has become impossible.
Not less than 75 to 85% (+ here, here) of the laws affecting every European’s life are fully enforced (as regulations) or initiated (as directives) from Brussels.
The fact that the process of turning a proposal of the European Commission into a legislative act passes through Strasbourg one week per month is irrelevant.
Big decisions are taken in Brussels, and the world’s largest corporations, best consultancies, professional associations or NGOs are pretty aware of that.
It appears that around 3,000 such EU Affairs interest groups spend 158 million euro per year only on communication.
But that’s the glamourous part of Brussels and a deceptive indicator of the (presumably prosperous) state of the Union.
Beyond this glorious image, there’s a less appealing one that hasn’t ever struck me in other big cities of the world.
What cannot evade the eyes of tourists (even the richest ones, travelling by limousine) in the European capital is the number of beggars and homeless people.
With the exception of Bucharest, I haven’t seen as many beggars as in Brussels anywhere else in the world.
I didn’t see that many neither in London, nor in Paris, Berlin etc, and I hardly noticed any in Washington, DC.
One wouldn’t see beggars (only protesters – but that’s a different matter) near the White House, (Washington, DC) or Buckingham Palace (London).
Nevertheless, they are omnipresent near the European Commission (pics 3, 6), the European Parliament (pic 9) and Justus Lipsius building of the EU Council (pic 1).
They are not the ingenious street buskers seen in other cities but relatively lousy players (= beggars) who wish to have their ‘performances’ rewarded by passersby.
As long as all important companies want to be seen in Brussels and try to have a say in the intricate EU legislative process, why wouldn’t the begging industry do the same?!
The saddest thing is that many of these destitute people – it’s arguable if begging is profitable or not – use Romanian to swear at photoholics like me :-(
[For all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]