NATO begins work on half-billion-euro HQ

AFP, Thursday 16 Dec 2010

NATO begins building half-billion-euro headquarters clearly stating the organization will continue to have a strong international presence

NATO laid the first stone Thursday for its half-billion-euro headquarters, already one year behind schedule, that will replace a Cold War-era complex used since 1967 as a temporary facility.

"In building these new headquarters, we are making a clear statement: that the Alliance will continue to play a major role in maintaining international peace and stability," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"In an unpredictable world, NATO is here to stay. And NATO will stay here in Brussels," he said at a groundbreaking ceremony alongside Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme.

Slated for completion in June 2015, the 251,000-square-metre building is being built across the street from the current headquarters, where 4,000 people from the 28-nation alliance work.

The groundbreaking for the new complex comes one month after NATO leaders agreed to cut 5,000 staff in its military command structure across several nations, saving what officials said would be millions of euros.

The Western alliance hastily moved from Paris to Brussels in 1967, one year after French President Charles De Gaulle pulled his country out of NATO's integrated military command over perceived US dominance.

France returned to NATO's command last year.

The new complex, estimated to cost 480 million euros in 2003, was designed by US and Belgian architectural firms. It is being built on a 40-hectare lot that once housed military barracks.

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