How much is NATO lunch; and why Serbs can't have hot plates
Filip Cukanovic tells the story from behind the closed NATO door for b92.net; A look at the alliance's HQ, where Serbs, Russians and Israelis are not allowed to have hot platesFilip Cukanovic Source: B92
Aware that most viewers in Serbia will not look at the B92 crew's trip to and reports from the NATO headquarters kindly, I decided to accept the invitation and go to the place from where history has been created for decades now.
The first surprise - the new building. Although it was "opened" a month ago in the presence of Donald Trump, it is not yet in use. Works on the edifice worth EUR 1.3 billion, located opposite the existing building, are ongoing, while the move should begin in the fall.
Until then - there's just the model. And we look at it in the soon-to-be old edifice of the alliance. In order to enter the NATO headquarters, one must go through security checks. Nothing more rigorous than in anywhere else. If one wishes to find a building or nearby streets using Google Street View, one will not succeed, because the global search engine bypasses this part of Brussels, not by accident.
Inside a complex covering several thousand square kilometers and three buildings, up to 3,000 people work every day. This edifice was supposed to be a hospital, and it is not ruled out that it might become one, once the alliance gives it back to the Belgian state.
Until that happens, decisions affecting the creation of global politics are made here every day.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who replied to questions from Serbian reporters for 15 minutes, although he holds several news conferences a day, did not hide this.
His team was not thrilled by our desire to film their boss from various angles, because the room where we met was "not representative enough."
Stoltenberg replied to questions about military neutrality patiently, but after the conversation took the turn toward the use of depleted uranium, his spokesperson asked us to wrap it up.
The media center functions like clockwork - audio and video material, from the meeting of defense ministers that we attended, was arriving on the dot. The staff was obliging and understood its role - to provide journalists with everything, because from here, they were sending the image to the world.
Filming is allowed inside the complex only on precisely determined locations. The hosts like to show the flags of member-states, of which they are proud, in front of the main building. That's the shot you're most likely to see in TV reports.
Employees have at their disposal cycling and running tracks, a gym, and a pool, where the media are not allow - but I heard that those are "nothing special." A menu is put together in the restaurant each day, indicating the number of calories and the prices, of course.
A meat meal of about 1,000 calories can be had for about six euros - three times cheaper than elsewhere in Brussels. The prices ratio is about the same as in the Serbian Assembly. Here though, they also serve sushi, and dozens of other dishes. The restaurant closes at 15:30 hours, except when events are being held.
Not far from the main is the building housing partner states. And over there - on the same floor - are Russian, Israeli, and Serbian missions. We haven't been offered domestic coffee because the staff are not allowed to have a stove, or a hot plate.
Despite these minor problems, they say they are satisfied, at stay at work after 17:00 hours. Partner countries will also move - not to the new building, but another one next to it.
Along with the move, NATO will in 2018 have 46 billion euros more in its coffers, for the defense system.
In the years ahead of us, this figure will only grow.