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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
EU Commission gets hi-tech home
The renovated Berlaymont building, home to the European Commission, Brussels, Belgium
A long wait... the European Commission returns home
The controversial Berlaymont building in the centre of Brussels, home to the European Commission, has finally reopened after a costly makeover.

The transformation from 1960s modernist block into a hi-tech headquarters for Europe's policy-makers took 13 years.

The four-pronged glass and steel structure sparked fierce controversy as the opening date was delayed and costs spiralled above 600m euros ($755m).

The debacle earned the building the nickname "Berlaymonster".

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt admitted many of the officials present at the building's inauguration were probably breathing a sigh of relief.

"We all know this enterprise has taken quite some doing," he said.

Star-shaped symbol

In 1991 the Berlaymont was hurriedly evacuated when asbestos was found throughout the structure.

The renovation has been dogged with disagreements about everything from contracts and completion dates to the origin of the wood used to furnish the offices.

But now the star-shaped building, a model of modernism when it was built in 1967, boasts tilting, heat-sensitive window slats, state-of-the-art air conditioning and energy-saving ceilings.

The Commission, backed up by some 2,700 EU bureaucrats, is expected to move in on 1 November.

Outgoing European Commission President Romano Prodi said the building represented both the institution's past and its future.

"The Berlaymont was more than a workplace, more than a big building. It was the flagship, the symbol of Europe," Mr Prodi said.

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