The following text about the AEGEE-Europe headoffices was first published in the AEGEE News Bulletin in spring 2001. It was all still valid until 2012, but in 2013 the headoffice moved to a new location, where it still resides.

The first AEGEE headoffice in Brussels
The first AEGEE headoffice in Brussels

The clicking sound of fingers typing on keyboards, people talking, running around – the AEGEE office in Brussels is alive nearly 24 hours a day. Here, in rue Nestor de Tiere 15. Brussels-Schaerbeek, usually seven CD members live and work. Downstairs, one big room is crammed with desks, PCs and folders; on the first and second floor people live, one or two in one room. It wasn’t always like this. The first “office” was the home address of Franck Biancheri, later the offices were set up in Amsterdam and Delft. In these Dutch cities the local antennae hosted AEGEE-Europe.

For several years, the AEGEE-Europe office was nothing else than one table with a PC in the comer of the AEGEE-Delft office. The CD had no place to live, all CD members – at that time there were 16 – were living all over Europe. Every month they were meeting somewhere in Europe, usually at the place of one of the members or at a bigger conference. In the meantime they communicated, via fax and phone, some even had e-mail. The daily board, consisting mainly of the President, the Secretary and the Treasurer were the people who ran AEGEE-Europe. Since they had to meet in Delft often, it was essential that Dutch or Germans held most of these positions. There were several CDs which had four Dutch and four German CD members.

CD Secretary-General Cinnie Krikke after moving to Brussels in January 1996

In 1995, though, the network and the accompanying workload had reached a size which called for a better solution. Moreover, the University of Delft was fed up with hosting AEGEE-Europe. AEGEE could call for free and use free mailing facilities – and made extensive use of this privilege, too. So AEGEE-Europe had to leave by December 1995. The CD of the President Egens van Iterson Scholten decided to take the step which had been discussed for many years: moving to Brussels, the capital of Europe, seat of AEGEE’s biggest sponsor: the European Commission.

Brussels, Office number one

Everything had to be done very fast. The CD managed – in the last minute. Only a few weeks before the deadline of the University of Delft the building in Brussels was found. Actually, the search was not that thorough. The CD members in charge just looked through a couple of buildings and chose a place within a five minutes’ walking distance from the seat of the European Commission, in Saint Peter Street. Then all the files had to be taken there – which was a major enterprise. AEGEE-Delft actually trashed some stuff which couldn’t be transported.

Finally, AEGEE-Europe also needed furniture. The Treasurer Lennert van Dijke offered some old couches from his dormitory. Secretary Connie Krikke and President Christoph Strohm, who were a couple already then, are married today and have four kids, were the only ones who brought a lot of things, too, like the badly needed kitchen equipment.

CD President Christoph Strohm did a lot of plumbing in the first office

During the very first week life there was quite adventurous. The people who worked there had a great task in furbishing the place up. The floor had to be glued, tons of files had to be put on shelves, and President Christoph Strohm proved his qualities as plumber. However, desks were still missing. So, Christoph and Connie used boxes of the “10th anniversary books” which had not all been distributed and put doors of some wardrobes across with the files over the boxes. It worked. Still, this was not the biggest problem. The healing did not work during the first days. Connie and Christoph regularly sent e-mails to AEGEE-L, saying: “It’s coooold here.”

The first office in Brussels was a messy place. It had formerly been a shop. AEGEE had the ground floor, a large, cosy room with lots of space and big windows. The perfect place for an AEGEE gadget shop – but it was supposed to be an office. Still, the problem was the living space. The CD members had to live either in the dark cellar or in some small and poorly renovated rooms on the top floor. The stairs smelled bad. Only one room on the ground floor was nice. Moreover, AEGEE had to share this house with several families, so always there was the problem of leaving the doors open. At one occasion money was stolen from the headoffice. Within days the CD members were annoyed by the fact that little children were running up and down the corridor all day…

Brussels, Office number two

Then came July 1996. Most CD members were on holidays. Brussels was never popular among the CD members then, because most of them did not like the house, the city, the weather, and the isolation from their regular student life. Plus, the members of the CDs of 1996 were not best friends, so suddenly coming to live together in a messy place and sacrificing a lot of personal money was very hard for them. Different from now, there was no allowance for food for CD members. Christoph Strohm was thinking about proposing it, but he didn’t – the financial reserves of AEGEE-Europe did not allow that. At that time there still up to 16 CD members could be elected, this was changed to 9 at the autumn Agora in 1996. Only one decade later the number was further reduced to 7.

The second headoffice in Brussels

Back to 1996. In summer a huge crisis came and this changed everything. The CD discovered that the finances were in a big mess. Being in Brussels, the CD did not have the phone and mailing benefits of the university in Delft anymore, plus they discovered severe accounting errors in budgets and financial reports made before. AEGEE was running out of money and the CD knew that it had to move to a different place, or AEGEE-Europe would go bankrupt within two years.

The CD members who were in Brussels had only one task now. Looking around in the streets for a new office, contacting owners, negotiating. This caused a lot of stress. Finally, they found a much better and cheaper place, owned by Belgacom, the phone company. So in the autumn of 1996 everything was moved to Rue del’Orme 10, Brussels-Schaarbeek. It was one complete house just for AEGEE, with better conditions too. The house had a proper kitchen and one room downstairs and the office on ground floor; it had more living space on ground floor, first floor and under the roof.

There was one fortunate circumstance: the new CD, elected in November 1996, was the best one for the next three years. They all moved to Brussels. Still, as compared to normal living standards, this was very much improvised. And several people said explicitly that they would not like to join the CD, because they could not live in such conditions. Still, the ones who were there had some fun. Constantly, also the working conditions were improving. By January 1996, AEGEE had owned two old computers. In the new office nearly every CD member got a PC to work on.

Brussels, Office number three

Why did then AEGEE Europe move again in the end of 1998? The CD had to move, because the owner wanted to use the house for different purposes. Also, the CD did not keep the house clean; soon mice appeared in the basement kitchen. Again, a tour across Brussels started, but this time the CD members had more time and found an even better location. Actually, there was a huge debate about where to go, because there were a couple of options. The preferred place had a very low rent and perfect conditions but needed to be renovated at great expense.

CD and chicken!

This caused a lot of discussion at the Agora in Hamburg in October 1998. However, this discussion proved to be unnecessary, since AEGEE could not get that place anyway in the end. So they took another one. A bit more expensive, but with no costly renovations necessary. In December 1998 AEGEE-Europe moved there and was quite satisfied with the new place.

This new place, rue Nestor de Tiere 15, Brussels-Schaerbeek, is the same where the headoffice is still today, 12 years later. There are only minor differences. One of its particular features back then was that a bunch of chicken lived in the garden. AEGEE inherited them by signing the rent contract. They were a great attraction among all visitors and a cause for constant jokes. Also a nice anecdote: the place used to be a museum of underwear and for several years after AEGEE moved in mail arrived for the museum, sometimes.

The third AEGEE headoffice

Life is very friendly in the headoffice, with its nice front and backyard and a beautiful social room on the first floor. Life is nice, and despite different working schedules of the CD members, they all meet every day for a common dinner together. And this has not changed over the past decade. Several CDs put effort into refurbishing the house. Many rooms have their stories, for example Metin’s Room in the basement, named after Metin Turan, a CD member from Ankara who was supposed to stay there, but never did. Or the room next to the social room, which has a non-working bathtub inside. It was called “Presidential Bathroom*, because former President Stefan Seidel proclaimed it as his own. In case you want to hear more stories, you have to visit the office. This house is always open for guests if they do not come in too large numbers, announce their stay in advance and cook for the CD – just call or mail to AEGEE-Europe.

Gunnar Erth


More history