EUROPEAN COMMISSION: KINNOCK AT ODDS WITH BELGIUM OVER BILL FOR BERLAYMONT.

PositionBuilding in Belgium - Brief Article

Berlaymont 2000 SA acknowledges that since the 1997 agreement was signed, project cost estimates have spiralled to Euro 500 million. A Belgian Parliament report has even put the final figure as high as Euro 570 million. Likewise, the date for the end of work, deferred initially from 2000 to 2004, may finally be even later still. Fortis, which controls 15% of Berlaymont 2000 SA capital, has decided to place its shares on the market from March 31, thereby interrupting the anticipated payment of a Euro 670 million credit line.At the meeting, Mr Kinnock and the Belgian Minister disagreed on several points. Mr Daems insisted that a contract, which included the cost overruns compared to the original estimates for the work, should be signed by March 31. This demand was rejected outright by the Commission Vice-President. The Commission is only prepared to pay for additional work which it had asked to be done. Mr Kinnock stated clearly that a contract could not be concluded until a financial assessment had been finalised and the possible penalties for late completion had been spelt out. Without being under time pressure, the EU executive is demanding that the building is ready for January 1, 2005 in time for the next team of Commissioners.The Commission originally moved into the Berlaymont in 1967. The discovery of asbestos and other risks in the building in 1991 forced the executive to leave the star-shaped building and take up residence in a number of other buildings in Brussels, including the Breydel. The Belgian authorities have covered relocation costs (Euro 31 million per year), while the Commission has continued to pay rent on the Berlaymont (Euro 14.25 million in 2001). Asbestos removal work began in 1995 and was officially concluded in 1999. Renovation...

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