Why Did Brussels Became the Capital of the EU?

The question in the title is a real question asked by people, but it is actually misleading. The story about the EU capital is a bit more complicated.

The most important EU institutions are located in several cities. Apart from Brussels, this includes Luxembourg City, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg.

In other words, the EU could be described as an example of a “country” with multiple capitals. Brussels is the largest of the mentioned cities, and for most people it is a de facto European Union capital.

So what is the capital of Europe?

This is an actual question that people ask, but the correct answer is that there is no capital of Europe because this is a continent that includes many countries. Therefore there can be no single capital.

But indeed, there exists a continent that has its capital. This is about Australia of course, which is both a continent and a country.

Why did Brussels become the capital of the EU?

This is again an actual question, but as mentioned above, it is a bit misleading. There are several cities that host the EU institutions. So strictly speaking, the EU is a country with several capitals, it has it around four.

So Brussels is not the only EU capital, but it looks as the most important of four cities that host the EU institutions.

But why Brussels in any case? This all is related to the history of the EU. It started with Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Germany, and France. If you visualize this on the map, you realize that it was convenient to have the capital that is more or less centrally located. This is why Brussels was a natural choice for the capital.

On the other hand, it was also a good way to keep the center of power outside of the already powerful centers like Paris and Berlin. Did you know that France wanted Strasbourg as a capital? Well, even this was seen as too much French for some.

So it seems that Belgium as a country was seen as small and unimportant enough so that its capital is chosen. I just wonder why not Luxembourg City, perhaps Luxembourg as a country was too small and insignificant.

Aside from Brussels, where are the main EU institutions located? What other city contains the EU’s main governing bodies?

There are seven important institutions of the European Union that are distributed in four different cities mentioned above. This is how the EU power is distributed:

Brussels

This could be described as the most important political center of the EU. Here you have headquarters of the College of the Commissioners, and the European Council. Also the European Parliament holds its meeting in Brussels.

Luxembourg City

This is an example of a capital city that has the same name as the country. Out of seven most important EU institutions, only the European Council and European Central Bank do not have the seat in this city.

Strasbourg

The city is mainly involved in the functioning of the EU Parliament which is divided between Brussels, Luxembourg City and Strasbourg.

So imagine, you have a huge number of the EU Parliament members, 705 to be precise. Now add to this their supporting stuff, and now imagine all this together with materials moving continuously from one place to another.

Something tells me that something is terribly wrong here. Can this all really have any future?

Frankfurt am Main

This German city is an important industrial center in its country, but it is far less known with regards to the EU organizational structure. However, it is the host of the European Central Bank.

You can see more in this video, please have a look:

In summary, I hope you realize how complicated the European Union has become. I mentioned its four crucial capitals, but in fact, there is yet another important city that plays a major role. This is about The Hague in the Netherlands, which is the fixed seat of the Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol).

By the way, did you know that many consider Brussels as the most boring big capital city in Europe. There may be some truth in this. Check also my separate text about the oldest capital cities in Europe.

Let me know if you have questions, there is a comment box below. Thank you for reading.

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