Common wisdom among followers of the European Union has it that the rotating six-month EU Presidency doesn't matter anymore now that Brussels has a permanent EU president and a foreign policy chief setting the agenda. Just don't tell that to the Poles.
Today they opened their ultramodern permanent representation to the EU, exactly six weeks before Poland is slated to take over the EU Presidency for the first time in the country's history. The imposing glass and steel building cost a whopping 40 million euros and will house 300 Polish diplomats.
Its price tag didn't prevent Polish luminaries at the event -- including Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorksi, and Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament -- from beaming with pride at what they call the "smartest building in Belgium." And the fanfare didn't stop there.
The building previously hosted the Belgian Post but has been completely refurbished with all sorts of modern technologies to make it energy efficient and generally environmentally friendly. This was something that the Polish were quick to point out, in light of accusations in recent years that they were polluting the EU with cheap coal.
Tusk also noted that the makeover from a dusty, old processing center for parcels to a modern embassy took just 13 months and said he hoped the Polish presidency would work with the same sort of speed, energy, and efficiency.
Buzek then struck a more historical tone and expressed joy that the building's address is Rue Simon Stevin, named after a 16th-century Flemish engineer who, for a short while, lived in the Polish city of Gdansk. Buzek, himself an engineer, said he hoped Stevin's forward-looking approach to science would inspire today's Polish diplomatic corps.
EU President Herman Van Rompuy was also invited to the event. Not quite as triumphant as his Polish peers, he instead congratulated the Polish on moving closer to the heart of the EU. At least physically. The new building is a stone's throw from the seats of the European Commission and the EU Council. That's a marked improvement from the old Polish representation, situated some 15 minutes from the EU quarter, by metro and tram.
Von Rompuy could be slightly worried that Warsaw will try to upstage him in the next half year. In light of that country's smart, new, and imposing arrival in the heart of the EU quarter, he might be onto something.
-- Rikard Jozwiak