NATO to complete move to new billion euro HQ by mid-June


Brussels (AFP)

NATO said Wednesday it will complete the move to its new billion euro headquarters by summer next year, more than two years behind schedule after hold-ups caused by unexploded World War II bombs and fears of cyber attack.

The futuristic glass and steel structure of eight interlinked wings will replace a low-slung warren of drab 1960s prefab office units that was only meant to be temporary but has lasted half a century.

The 29-member alliance will start the final phase of the transfer on March 19 next year and the process will take 12 weeks, spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told AFP.

The move aims to be completed around a month before the NATO summit on July 11 and 12.

"The move is a complex logistical undertaking, involving not just NATO civilian and military staff, but also personnel from diplomatic and military representations of all 29 allies and 19 partner nations," Lungescu said.

"NATO headquarters is unique among international organisations in that it is home both to the international staff and to the diplomatic representations of allies and partners."

NATO unveiled the new 1.17-billion-euro building ($1.37 billion) with much fanfare in May under the gaze of US President Donald Trump -- who could not resist a barb about the building's cost as he unveiled a 9/11 memorial outside the main entrance.

The building, which will house some 4,000 staff, sits on the site of a former Belgian airfield bombed by both sides in World War II, and Lungescu said the discovery of unexploded ordnance had contributed to delays. The move was originally due for completion in 2015.

Extra time was also needed to make sure the new buildling's IT systems were secure enough to withstand the growing threat of cyber warfare. NATO says its networks come under hundreds of cyber attacks each month.

A diplomatic source said the final cost of the buliding could be more than 1.2 billion euros.