Justus Lipsius

The Justus Lipsius or ‘Consilium’ building is the headquarters of the EU Council of Ministers, located at 175 rue de la Loi in Brussels. Opened in 1995, the monumental, nine-storey, pink-granite building was constructed on the site of several run-down residential streets, one of which was named after Justus Lipsius, the Latinised version of Joest Lips, a sixteenth-century Flemish philosopher who played an important role in the Renaissance revival of stoicism. The Berlaymont, the headquarters of the European Commission, faces the Justus Lipsius building, on the opposite side of rue de la Loi.

The Justus Lipsius building has two parts: a rectangular, northern ‘conference’ wing, facing rue de la Loi, where meetings of the European Council (of EU heads of state and government), the Council of Ministers, COREPER and Council working groups are held; and a southern wing, constructed around three closed courtyards running downhill towards rue Belliard, which houses most of the Council’s 3,200-strong secretariat. Ministerial and COREPER meetings are held in four rooms on the fifth floor of the conference wing, whilst working groups take place in more than a dozen smaller rooms on lower floors. The permanent representations of the 27 member states have also been assigned facilities on the seventh floor of the conference building, even if their principal offices are located elsewhere across the city.

An additional Council building was recently constructed a short distance from the Justus Lipsius complex: the new, fifteen-storey ‘Lex’ building at 145 rue de la Loi houses the Council’s translation and interpretation service, as well as meeting rooms for working groups. Part of the art-deco Résidence Palace – located in between the Justus Lipsius and Lex buildings, and originally built as luxury apartments in the mid-1920s – is currently being converted and expanded for use as the venue for future meetings of the European Council. Due to come on stream in 2013, a large glass atrium will house a spectacular egg-shaped chamber for the summit meetings of EU heads of government.

From 1958 to 1971, the Council was located in the centre of Brussels, at 2 rue Ravenstein, on the Mont des Arts. This building was subsequently occupied by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) until 2004. From 1971 to 1995, the Council was housed in the 17-storey Charlemagne building (at 170 rue de la Loi), next to the Berlaymont. The Charlemagne subsequently reverted to the Commission and (after extensive renovation) became the home to the latter’s directorate-general for external relations, as well as a conference centre, before it served as the initial premises of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in 2010.

September 2012

Copyright: Anthony Teasdale, 2012

Citation: The Penguin Companion to European Union (2012), additional website entry

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