The time to open a new visitor's center for the European Parliament could have been better.
With the eurozone teetering on the brink of destruction and the European Union as a whole going from crisis and crisis, one can't help to wonder if the 5,400-square-meter, three-story Parlamentarium that opened last week would soon turn into a museum documenting a long-gone Euro-federalist dream instead.
The skeptics already grumble that it is a pure propaganda center aimed to stoke the egos of the members of the European Parliament. That it cost 6 million euros ($8.2 million) more than the original estimates, pushing up the total bill to 21 million euros ($29 million) and opened three years behind schedule further added to the gleeful insults.
It is, however, quite an impressive building and the interior is not too bad either. The entry is free and tourists are guided through the state-of-the-art exhibition by an electronic multimedia guide available in 23 languages.
Everything is high-tech and interactive and one gets quite a thorough explanation of how the EU developed and how the European Parliament functions. You also have video-recorded life stories of a selection of EU citizens in various member states.
No doubt EU-friendly but hardly propaganda, especially if one considers that Euroskeptic Parliament members have been allowed to leave both audio and video messages to visitors saying that Brussels should have less power than it currently enjoys.
So what about information about the countries in the Balkans and to the east that one day aspire to join the club? Not much. There was, however, one interesting but perhaps worrying aspect for them.
In one part of the center, visitors are encouraged to vote on a number of questions concerning the EU. One of them asks whether the EU should allow more countries to join. Of the close to 700 that have cast their vote so far, only 44 percent said "yes," 39 percent answered "no," and the other 18 percent abstained.
EU enlargement does not seem to be high on the agenda, even for EU citizens.
-- Rikard Jozwiak