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European Court branded ‘out of touch’ as legal adviser rejects MEP bid to stop the Strasbourg commute

Thursday, 6 September 2012
South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox has branded the European Court of Justice ‘out of touch’ after a legal opinion released today on his bid to reduce the number of trips MEPs must make to Strasbourg advised its rejection.

The ECJ’s Advocate General delivered an opinion (pdf) saying that amendments to the European Parliament’s 2012 and 2013 calendars – known as the ‘Fox Amendments’ - are not compatible with existing EU treaties, a claim that bemuses Mr Fox.

I believe that our calendar amendment stands up legally and it certainly stands up morally,Mr Fox said today in a statement. “The Advocate General must be completely out of touch. Unfortunately, it is not the first time we have seen the ECJ rejecting common sense and reason in order to push a warped interpretation of EU treaties.

The only people that benefit from our monthly trek are the hoteliers and restaurateurs of Strasbourg. Unfortunately, we will never see one seat for the parliament until the French government decides to put the wider interests of taxpayers ahead of its own vested interests.

“When making its final ruling, the court must show some common sense and disregard the advice of its Advocate General,” he said.

The Advocate General’s opinion is upheld around four times out five, and so while this is not the definitive decision it represents a major setback in the campaign for a Single Seat for the European Parliament.

Existing European treaties state that the European Parliament must hold 12 sessions per year in Strasbourg and since MEPs do not sit in August during the summer recess they usually hold two post-summer sessions just a week apart. This arrangement results in MEPs, hundreds of staff members and tonnes of paperwork being shunted backwards and forwards at great and unnecessary expense.

In March 2011, MEPs voted in a secret ballot to approve the Fox Amendment to alter the Parliament’s calendar for 2012 and 2013. Instead of holding two weeks of three-day’s business in October 2012 there will be a condensed double session occupying one whole week (22nd-26th) thus removing one whole migration for MEPs and Parliament staff.

The French Government was most unhappy at this vote and decided to take the matter before the European Court of Justice.

The Advocate General’s opinion (pdf) today supports France's case. While noting that “the length of the plenary sessions is not expressly defined in the Treaties or the Protocols or by the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament” the Advocate General’s opinion rules that this arrangement has meant the session has “been artificially split into two in order to meet, no less artificially, the requirements of the Treaties”.

As such, “the Advocate General takes the view that the two sessions scheduled for the same week in October cannot be classified, taken separately, as monthly plenary sessions within the meaning of the Treaties.

The final judgement of the Court is expected after the parliament has held its two sessions in the week of the 22nd October. So at the very least one trip has been saved...

The fight continues.


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