Is the European Parliament’s new visitor centre worth its hefty price tag?
This huge price tag is not the entry fee to take a tour around the European Parliament’s new visitor centre (because that is free), but the 20 million euros spent on building the ‘Parlamentarium’ in the first place. The oddly named visitor centre opened up last week and Jurzy Buzek, President of the European Union Parliament said that he was ‘convinced the new Parlamentarium will be a great success.’ This new facility is only in Brussels. The other parliament buildings in Strasbourg and Luxembourg do not have the same sort of investment seen in this visitor centre, but tours can be arranged without the need for an extravagant centre.
The idea behind this new is to create a space for the people of Europe and around the world to see what exactly their glorious MEPs do on a day to day basis, what the parliamentary process is and ultimately how the parliament affects the lives of European citizens. The centre boasts state of the art media and a 360° cinema showing a film of the plenary sessions, aiming to give the experience of being in the front row. Everything about this centre is visitor friendly; along with being accommodating to families and the disabled, the guides are available in 23 different languages.
Anyone who has ever visited Brussels may have seen the European Parliament complex on a tour bus. If indeed this is the case, one will have listened to a taped guide about the impressive building- but that was about it, as tourists are generally more preoccupied about not missing the mannequin pis. With the parliament and other EU institutions desperately trying to increase their public visibility, the powers that be decided that tourists merely seeing the buildings out of a bus window did not represent the transparency with which the parliament tries to live by. Therefore this visitor centre is a step in the right direction to encourage visitors, especially by being open on weekends, something which the parliament is not officially.
With negative opinion of some European citizens towards the European Union growing, this new centre could be seen as a waste of money, especially with the current state of Europe’s economy. With most countries feeling the strain, it could be questioned if spending this amount shows insensitivity to the current climate. On the other hand this could be the EU holding out her hand to the public to get them more involved and encourage a better understanding of the EU, rather than just being an impersonalised institution.
Visitors can learn about the contributions the European parliament has made to its member states, by taking a virtual tour through Europe. With the next MEP elections under three years away, it may not be too early to start reengaging or continuing the interest people have with the EU parliament and the MEPs that they have elected in.
Can enough visitors ever visit the Parlamentarium to warrant spending 20million euros or could the money have been better spent in another area not involved in public relations and media?
Having not personally visited the centre (but having been one of the many tourists who took a tour bus and wonders what goes on in that momentous building), I would be very interested (leave comments below- ed) if you have paid a visit to the Brussels Parlamentarium since its opening. Can the cost be justified by the Parliamentarium’s lofty ideals of creating a feeling of European involvement and teaching visitors how MEPs decisions directly affect everyday life, or is it too early to tell?
More information can be found on the Paralamentarium website: