When during the presidency of the European Union in 2022, Czech diplomacy needed reinforcements in the order of dozens of diplomats, it rented two floors of offices in a business building near the EU institutions. The bill for three years of stay – between 2020 and 2023 – in the extra premises was 43 million crowns.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially claimed that it was only a temporary lease, essentially a crisis solution. Seznam News has now found out that Czech diplomats have taken up residence in the building. And they will stay there until at least 2025.
The Permanent Representation to the European Union is the largest and perhaps the most important Czech embassy abroad. About 150 Czech diplomats and officials work there, lobbying for the vital interests of the Czech Republic in the European space. At the same time, however, it must function temporarily.
The state has been dealing with a long-term and complicated problem of how to create a background for its people in the EU capital at a time when it wants to strengthen in Brussels.
The current machinations with real estate are also the result of the decision of the cabinet of former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) at the last minute, literally before signing, to back out of the purchase of the new flagship headquarters of the Czech Republic in Brussels.
With a fertilizer company
The extension of the lease at the Rue de Trone address in Brussels was confirmed to Seznam Zprávám by Daniel Drake, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The validity of the lease agreement for the object Rue Trone 130, Brussels has been extended. The amendment regulates the length of the lease until midnight on August 19, 2025,” he explained.
Permanent EU diplomats are supposed to work there due to the reconstruction of the seat of the Czech representation.
The temporary building has a good location, as it is not far from the European Parliament, but it is a standard office building. Its owner is the company GLL Trone Holding.
Czech diplomats and experts share an address there with the private company Tessenderlo Group, which is a major Belgian player in agriculture - for example in the production of fertilizers.
List of reports offices visited during the presidency. These are diplomatic spaces in the style of “openspace” offices. The austerity of the glass offices is broken up by large colorful sofas in blue, yellow or green. At the same time, details such as whether and under what conditions it is possible to place state symbols in commercial spaces, such as the flag that every state has at its offices abroad, had to be resolved at the same time.
The end of the ambassador
How to solve the Czech office background in Brussels, where the Czech future is largely decided, has been discussed in diplomacy for a long time.
As already mentioned in the introduction, during the government of Andrej Babiš, a plan was made to buy a modern building, where all our institutions operating in Brussels would be located, including, for example, the Czech cultural center. The budget was between 600 and 700 million crowns.
The Euractive server, specializing in EU affairs, wrote that according to Czech diplomats, the investment in the new house should return to the Czech Republic in 15 years and bring about 50 million extra crowns at that time.
Among other things, it was supposed to save on rent or costs for the necessary reconstruction of buildings that are used in Brussels. The existing building of the Permanent Representation in Brussels’ Rue Caroly was to be sold.
The plan was so advanced that Prime Minister Babiš went to see the building in person. The real estate operation was also part of the National Investment Plan, which the then government presented as a showcase of its visions for the Czech Republic.
The government cited the covid pandemic as the official reason why the plan ultimately fell through. The Lockdown of spring 2020 allegedly complicated everything so much that moving to the Presidency was no longer pursued, and more savings also began.
Shortly after this decision, Jakub Dürr, who was involved in the project to purchase the super residence, ended his post as ambassador to the EU.