What’s in a name? A building by any other name…. September 4, 2007Posted by franklittle in Architecture, Culture, European Politics, European Union.
The European Parliament is completing the construction of two new extensions to the already massive complex of building that make up a home for the 750 MEPs. Currently called the slightly unromantic D4 and D5, they have started to generate a bit of a political dispute about who they should be named after.
The main Parliament building is named after Altiero Spinelli, an Italian anti-fascist who advocated European unification. But who should the extensions, one of which will be occupied by MEPs from the 23 strong far-right Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty, be named after?
In 2005, Polish MEPs proposed the two buildings should be named after Pope John Paul II in tribute to the contribution made by the Catholic Church and Christian tradition to Europe. Recent internal polling of EU Parliament staff threw up Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, John Paul II again and, terrifyingly, Margaret Thatcher, who was the only woman suggested. Willy Brandt currently tops the poll.
It will be interesting to see who they end up with. Partly for political reasons, and partly for the possible entertainment value, but also because we typically name buildings after people not just to honour them, but to connect with the people and citizens who use those buildings. To remind them of their history, of the people who shaped it, of the sacrifices and contributions made.
So who are the current buildings named after? Well, as well as Mr Spinelli mentioned above, we have Pierre Pflimlin (Former mayor of Strasbourg and EU Parliament President), Paul Henri Spaak (Belgian politician seen as one of the founders of the EU), Bertha Von Sutter (Austrian writer). No doubt, important people in their own rights, but hardly names to conjure with.
One wonders then whether naming buildings after politicians and bureaucrats unlikely to be known outside their own countries or the EU elite brings the EU closer to it’s citizen-subjects, or simply reinforces the difference.
More on EU Observer.