Back in 2005, the European Parliament decided to establish a new public Visitors’ Centre at its premises in Brussels, the so called “Parlamentarium.” According to Marjory Vanden Broeke, a parliament spokeswoman at the time, the existing visitor centre “…is too small to meet the fast-growing demand from individuals and visitor and school groups.” Hence, the European Parliament felt the need to have the 6,000 square metre space to accommodate 500,000 visitors annually. But one could ask why is the European Parliament spending taxpayer’s money on another visitors centre.
Unsurprisingly, the answer is to increase citizens’ interest in the institution. It is interesting to note that the European Parliament since the first elections in 1979 has been acquiring more powers through the treaties whereas the voter turnout has been declining over the years.
The Centre’s purpose is to explain the European Parliament’s role in EU decision making and “in representing citizens and their concerns.” Moreover, it will also inform the so called 500,000 annual visitors, in the EU’s 23 official languages, “on the historical development and impact of European integration on European societies” and “on each citizen’s daily life.” The European Parliament is therefore spending taxpayers’ money in a EU propaganda centre.
The centre was initially estimated to cost €15m and it was due to open before the European Elections in June 2009. However, as the majority of Brussels’ projects, it is delayed and over budget. The construction has only started last August and the European Parliament has already spent €23m in this state-of-the-art venue, which will have interactive features allowing visitors to simulate the work of an MEP.
The Parlamentarium has now been estimated to cost €31.6 million and is expected to open its doors next October. However, the costs are likely to be higher. Once again the European Parliament has missed the point, it will never get closer to citizens spending their money in a project that, in fact, it does not need. Who can trust the EU institutions?