At a time when Canada is backing out of key NATO surveillance programs to focus on internal defence spending, it seems taxpayers may have to pony up much more than expected toward the construction of a new home for the alliance. Much to the chagrin of NATO’s 28 member countries, the construction consortium responsible for the new $1.6-billion headquarters in Brussels has requested an additional $371 million, and 10 more months, to complete the project.
Oana Lungescu, a spokesperson for NATO, calls the consortium’s request for additional funds part of “a hard commercial negotiation” that is currently under review. But it’s already proven to be an embarrassment for the alliance and, especially, for NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who championed the steel and glass structure as a symbol of a new, modern NATO. According to Der Spiegel magazine, Germany’s ambassador to NATO, Martin Erdmann, said in a con?dential cable that the effect on NATO’s image would be disastrous if “NATO appeared to be incapable of punctually completing a construction project.”
NATO members already had doubts about the project when the Royal BAM Group, based in the Netherlands, successfully bid $300 million less than what NATO had estimated for the project. The request for more money comes from “unforeseen circumstances (including significantly higher security requirements),” says Arno Pronk, a BAM spokesperson, adding there is no backup plan for the project if the funds don’t come through. With the building 80 per cent finished, member states, including Canada, may have no choice but to pay up.