BIG NEWS: SW MEP Ashley Fox left ‘bitterly disappointed’ as ECJ rejects move to reduce number of Strasbourg sessions - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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BIG NEWS: SW MEP Ashley Fox left ‘bitterly disappointed’ as ECJ rejects move to reduce number of Strasbourg sessions

Thursday, 13 December 2012
The European Court of Justice has today rejected and annulled the Fox Amendment that sought to change the Parliamentary calendar to reduce the number of trips MEPs must make to Strasbourg each year, ruling it as unconstitutional and leaving , a ruling that has left amendment author Ashley Fox ‘bitterly disappointed’.

In a statement of the ruling today on Joined Cases C 237/11 and C 238/11, the European Court of Justice said: “It is not disputed that the Parliament departed, by the contested votes of March 2011, from the draft calendars adopted by the Conference of Presidents in so far as concerns the periods of monthly plenary part-sessions scheduled for October 2012 and 2013. It is apparent from those votes that the periods of monthly plenary part-sessions, each lasting four days, scheduled for October 2012 and 2013, were replaced by two periods of part-sessions lasting two days each. The Court finds that the periods of plenary part-sessions as provided for in the contested votes for October 2012 and 2013 do not satisfy the requirements resulting from the Treaties concerning the seats of the institutions.

The statement goes on to explicitly explain that (my emphasis) “even if the disadvantages and costs engendered by the plurality of places of work – as described by the Parliament – are acknowledged, it is not for the Parliament or the Court to remedy that situation; rather, it is for the Member States to do so, if appropriate, in the exercise of their competence to determine the seats of the institutions” .

South West Conservative MEP Mr Fox, whose amendment was challenged by France in the European Court, said he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ at the decision.

His amendment, adopted by large majority in March 2011, reduced the number of annual trips to Strasbourg by putting two separate plenary sessions into one week in September. This happened in September this year and was due to happen again next year. In light of the ruling, political group leaders will meet in January to re-adapt the Parliaments calendar for 2013 for adoption in the January plenary session.

As a Campaign-leader on this issue I believe that the ruling is undemocratic and will prove counterproductive. Our long-term battle will continue to end the wasteful treks to Strasbourg altogether - and will eventually prevail,he said.

This decision is not unexpected because the court received legal advice along these lines from the Advocate General earlier this year, but it is still bitterly disappointing. Still, this case is no more than a skirmish in our longer-term war to stop the ridiculous two-seat travelling circus altogether. The fight continues and I am sure before long we will succeed.

The obligation for the European Parliament to hold 12 part-sessions per year in the French city of Strasbourg is enshrined in the Treaty of Amsterdam of 1997, an operation that has been calculated to cost €170 million per year. MEPs have voted on numerous occasions in favour of a single seat for the European Parliament but European treaties can only be changed with unanimous consent from all EU member states – a scenario that remains rather unimaginable.

But he has vowed to continue his fight and his e-petition launched in September seeks to achieve 100,000 signatures to persuade the UK Government to intervene.

Unsurprisingly, the French authorities have welcomed this ruling in favour of the Strasbourg seat.

The fight continues.

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