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    Love in the European Quarter

    Brussels has the highest number of single people in Belgium.

    BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES
    Weekly analysis and untold stories
    With SAMUEL STOLTON

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    Love in the European Quarter

    The news earlier this week that Brussels has the highest number of single people in Belgium is hardly surprising, given the nature of how people live and work in the country’s capital.

    Recently published figures show that three Brussels municipalities top the national charts when it comes to singletons  – with 62% of Ixelles residents identifying as romantically unattached, followed by 54% of those based in Etterbeek and Saint-Gilles.

    A common complaint that I hear from employees across EU institutions is the fact that they experience a lack of time to invest into their long-term romantic engagements. As a result, ‘love’ becomes a mere afterthought to careerist commitments, notwithstanding the fact that many have had to relocate to Brussels solely for the purpose of their work, leaving in their wake chronicles of love, and as a result, loss, from their ‘home’ countries.


    Sent out every Friday afternoon, BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES brings the untold stories about the characters driving the policies affecting our lives. Analysis not found anywhere else, The Brussels Times’ Samuel Stolton helps you make sense of what is happening in Brussels.

    If you want to receive Brussels behind the scenes straight to your inbox every Friday, subscribe to the newsletter here.


    Consequently, the social and historical institutions of marriage and companionship are resigned to the footnotes of this Brussels diary, and, that which emerges is a patchwork of romantic engagements that are facilitated through a catalogue of casual encounters – which, in itself redefines the very notion of love in the European quarter.

    That being said, there is of course no reason why romantic long-term assemblies don’t work between individuals in ‘The Bubble.’ Engagements are often contracted between those who find themselves crossing paths on a day-to-day basis.

    In this vein, there are stories of members in the Commission’s Spokespersons Service forming amorous affairs with one of the many journalists they work with, or Cabinet members surreptitiously orchestrating enamoured relationships with one another – it begins with the blossoming of a chance relationship realized in the holding of a gaze for longer than is necessary, followed by two sets of feet stroking under the office table, leading to the delicious debauchery of a good, old-fashioned stockroom shag.

    Although it must be said that I would imagine such specific engagements to be of rare occurrence in the European Commission. There is an institutional dissimilarity in how love works in the EU quarter. The European Commission is generally considered more of a conservative playmate, where any successful relationships tend to function with a mechanical efficiency amid the cold, steely practicality of the Brussels’ love market.

    Moreover, any relationships contracted between individuals in the Commission are most probably hierarchical – I’ve never heard of a junior cabinet member and a Commission barista, for example, coming together in a symphony of infatuation. In the Berlaymont at least, romance operates in silos.


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    The European Parliament, meanwhile, and I can personally attest to this, is more of a laissez-faire concourse of sexual liberalism that takes place in the domain of an unyielded, frenzied, lusty populace – a multifarious tapestry of erotic cultures and tastes.

    In the Parliament, it’s the Strasbourg weeks that are most bountiful in terms of carnal delicacies. The institution, believing that it is transported to another safe-sexual time-space province where the traditional social contracts of continence and modesty no longer maintain their influence, affords itself a certain freedom in contracting erotic assignations. MEPs, secretariat staff, trainees, cleaners – they are all in on the act, and why on earth shouldn’t they be, I pray thee tell.

    To my knowledge, in the European Council, there is simply too much division between stakeholders for any notion of romance to be entertained. Across the Permanent Representations, I would imagine that there is a certain embarrassment in forming relations with members of other ‘rival’ perm reps, being as they are so bent on distinguishing themselves from one another. In this respect, inter-EU relations are most probably solely permitted between national groupings and states of whom at least share a political parallelism.

    For many of the Brussels singletons in the European Quarter, technology can also serve its purpose. However, one EU official told me this week that the use of Tinder is becoming more and more ‘platonic’ – paving the way for a host of other applications that are designed solely to satisfy the intrinsic, indefatigable, insatiable, animal drive for intercourse. A whore-house catalogue of licentious fonctionnaires, if you will.

    In the Brussels bubble, love does indeed work in bizarre ways. It’s divergent to other global metropolitan centres in the fact that there is some form of an established professional commonality between actors in this theatre. It’s a stage of shared desires and needs but deficient in the necessary cultural expectations of marriage or long-term commitment.

    Brussels is truly a playground of sexual yearnings but lacks in the overbearing and occasionally foreboding subliminal contracts to long-term engagements, which historically have propped up the operation of micro-cultures and social civilisations across the continent. In the bubble at least, this won’t change anytime soon.


    Sent out every Friday afternoon, BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES brings the untold stories about the characters driving the policies affecting our lives. Analysis not found anywhere else, The Brussels Times’ Samuel Stolton helps you make sense of what is happening in Brussels.

    If you want to receive Brussels behind the scenes straight to your inbox every Friday, subscribe to the newsletter here.