by Jerome a Paris
Tue Dec 30th, 2008 at 04:30:50 PM EST
I'm in Strasbourg today, and took the time to finally walk around the new buildings of the European Parliament.
First, the old building: it actually was - and still is - the building of the Council of Europe, which the European Parliament also "borrowed" for many years:
I grew up seeing (the top of) that building from home, and playing in the park which is just across the street from it, so it's a very familiar and homely building to me, even though it does look like a massive hulk. I saw Gorbatchev give a speech there in 1989 (can't remember if it was to the CoE or to the EP). To me, together with the local newspaper which I remember to have a bigger section on European news than any other paper, and the bridge to Germany which I could cross on my owwn on my bike with no papers to go to the swimming pool, these symbolise Europe. I left them to come to France when I moved to Paris.
This is the new building of the European Court of Human Rights, another institution of the Council of Europe. It was built a few years ago as the CoE expanded eastwards and the workload built up. It's the last recourse for many Europeans whose rights have been trampled at home. Even Turkey and Russia take the institution seriously and do not dare defy its decisions. It's another reminder the there's more to Europe than the EU or to Strasbourg than the European Parliament.
Right behind it is the pharmacopée (or European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines & HealthCare, another pioneering Council of Europe organisation which done an amazing behind-the-scenes job to harmonize standards and safety for medical products.
The European quartier is nicely served by a line of the tramway built in recent years, and; like the rest of the city, by a network of real bike lanes that do protect cyclists and allow them to go almost everywhere. Strasbourg is really a city not made for cars only - in that it is closer to Amsterdam or Copenhaguen than to any other French city, and bike use ditto.
That big vessel above is, of course, the new building of the European Parliament, which can also be seen below:
It's nice and impressive; its main problem is of course to be located 400km away from the center of the euro-bureaucracy - and an inconvenient 400km at that. But everybody tells me that the eurocrats have much more pleasant facilities, and a much better time, in Strasbourg than in Brussels. Which is neither here nor there, nor surprising, but is worth mentioning...
In my case, it's always a pleasure to come back to my hometown and re-discover new bits; it's a really nice city to visit, and to live in.