The terrorist attacks that rocked Brussels on Tuesday morning, leaving more than 30 dead and over 180 injured, struck at the heart of European governing institutions in a city that serves as both Belgium's capital and the de facto capital of the European Union.
Two explosions tore through the city's bustling Zaventem airport and, an hour later, a bomb struck the Maelbeek metro station, a crucial transit hub in the area known colloquially as the European Quarter, home to numerous high-profile Eureopean institutions.
EU officials suspended most functions in the wake of the attacks and restricted access to sites in the vicinity of the blast.
“The European institutions are hosted in Brussels thanks to the generosity of Belgium's government and its people,” said Donald Tusk, chief of the Council of the EU, whose headquarters sit less than a quarter-mile from the Maelbeek station. “The European Union returns this solidarity now and will fulfill its role to help Brussels, Belgium and Europe as a whole counter the terror threat that we are all facing.”
Here are some of the most important buildings and institutions in the area surrounding the blast.
- European Commission: The executive governing body of the EU, the European Commission proposes legislation, enforces European law and implements EU policies. Currently headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission occupies the Berlaymont, an iconic building located less than a mile from the Maelbeek station.
- Council of the European Union: A body of ministers that serves as the voice of EU member states, the Council of the European Union negotiates and adopts laws and, with the European Parliament, ratifies annual budgets. The ministers meet in the Justus Lipsius building, just across the street from the European Commission.
- European Council: Not to be confused with the above, the European Council is not a legislating institution but an EU group of ministers that meets regularly to direct the overall political priorities for the EU. The body meets in the same building as the Council of the European Union.
- Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection: The department of the EU responsible for relief assistance is located a block away from the station.
European Parliament: This body acts as a co-legislator with the European Commission in legislating for the European Union. Members are elected directly by voters in member states. The Parliament's headquarters are located about a quarter mile south of the Maelbeek station.
NATO is also headquartered in Brussels, a few miles from both the metro station and the airport where explosions occurred. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday announced an increased security alert at the headquarters, calling the bombings "an attack on our values and on our open societies."