A small step, but a big statement of MEP’s desire to not sit in Strasbourg - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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A small step, but a big statement of MEP’s desire to not sit in Strasbourg

Thursday, 10 March 2011
European Parliament in StrasbourgMembers of the European Parliament yesterday voted to reduce their required sittings in Strasbourg, albeit slightly, by removing one of their monthly plenary sessions in the French city from the 2012 parliamentary calendar.

The vote, on an amendment tabled by South West MEP Ashley Fox, was passed in a secret ballot with the amendments adopted by 357 votes in favour, 255 against and 41 abstentions (2012 calendar) and 356 votes in favour, 253 against and 35 abstentions (2013 calendar) respectively. As a result, one of the four-day plenary meetings scheduled to be held after the summer recess in September or October 2012 and 2013 will be removed and instead combined with another session.

This “double-session” will take place over the course of a single week.

While the change is relatively small, it is a big step for the Parliament and somewhat of a victory for British MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, a fervent campaigner to abandon the Strasbourg seat. Last month he published a report that found that more than 90 per cent of MEPs and their staff would prefer to abolish the Parliament’s Strasbourg seat altogether. In addition, the study also claimed that it would save the EU €180m a year and spare some 19,000 tonnes in carbon emissions.

"Today's vote clearly shows that a majority of MEPs are fed up with the parliament's constant travel between Brussels and Strasbourg,” he said. "The parliament has been silent on this issue for far too long, but spoke out today”.

While the French-German border town is undisputedly a beautiful place, the Parliament’s seat is not, and what has been described for years as the "travelling circus" is set to carry on. Leaving Strasbourg for good may well be impossible since the European treaties secure its place.

Changing the treaties would require unanimous support from all the EU’s 27 member states - and this is a change that France would never accept. As such, in an interview with Touteleurope.eu, the French Europe Minister Laurent Wauquiez yesterday said: "there must be no ambiguity. The French government will never agree to call into question again the European Parliament’s seat in Strasbourg…To be clearer, if we need to refer the matter to the ECJ, we will do it."

So as the March plenary session draws to a close later today, MEPs will leave knowing they will be walking the same corridors again in just a few weeks time.

Update: 14/03: reaction from Ashley Fox MEP:


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