The owner of a popular steak restaurant in the EU quarter has described as “nonsense” a warning from the EU security service of foreign spies operating in his premises. A report last week from the EU’s own security service EDEO warned that there are at least 250 Chinese and 200 Russian spies operating in Brussels, the vast majority of them involved in espionage against the EU – both political and economic.
Included in the report was a warning to “stay away” from “a popular steak-house” in the vicinity of the Berlaymont headquarters of the EU Commission. Philippe Wiener, owner of Meet Meat, a steak restaurant on Rue Stevin, recognised his business as the one referred to.
“That has to be my restaurant,” he told De Standaard. “It’s really the only one in the area.” And he dismissed the warning from EDEO. “Practically every member of the Commission has come to eat here at some point, not to mention a whole lot of other top politicians. They’re not coming here for meetings or to discuss important matters. We don’t hold the European summits here, you know. They do come here to meet their friends, though.”
The warning on spying came in an internal report by EDEO, leaked to the German newspaper Die Welt. The question of spies in the capital – home to both the EU and Nato – has been known for years. Wiener however dismissed the possibility his restaurant might be a place where shadowy men would snoop on the conversations of others.
“Usually I see the same people sitting here,” he said. “It’s a regular clientele, a lot of Japanese and Italians. Sometimes some Chinese people in the evenings, but those are people from the banking world. I rarely have Russian clients. Those are more likely in my other restaurant in Uccle, which is situated just beside the Russian embassy.”
Sometime the Belgian intelligence service comes calling, if there’s an EU summit on the calendar.
“Then they check out everything. But real spying? This is a brasserie, there’s always a lot of noise. If you’re able to record a conversation here and later understand what was said, then you must be some kind of superman.”