28th Sep 2023

MEPs to rent new Strasbourg office — parliament's 28th building

  • The second chamber of the European Parliament on the Stasbourg skyline. In total, the parliament currently has 27 buildings across Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg (Photo: Robert Scarth)
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MEPs in the budget committee on Wednesday (19 July) voted in favour of renting another building in Strasbourg — a move opposed by other lawmakers who call it expensive and unnecessary.

France has been trying to convince the parliament to acquire the newly-built Osmose building in Strasbourg for years.

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But critics argue the building is likely to only be used to host the EU parliament's administration, since the building does not solve the problem of lacking meeting spaces for, for example, trilogues. 

Following the vote in the committee, French MEP Anne Sander from the European People's Party said the decision was an "important step" towards strengthening the MEPs' headquarters in Strasbourg.

But the move was dubbed as "insane" by Green MEP Damian Boeselager, who said the cost of the Osmose deal will add up to the millions being paid "for the circus" of going to Strasbourg every month.

The committee decision, which does not require the blessing of the plenary, was approved with 26 votes in favour, 11 against and three abstentions.

"The simple truth about the Osmose project is we don't need this building in Strasbourg," said Latvian Socialists & Democrats MEP Nils Usakovs, pointing out that questions about "hidden costs" remain unanswered.

The price of the building rent will be €700,000 per year — but annual costs could amount to up to €1.9m if cleaning and security expenses are included, according to estimations.

Additional costs would also include the European Parliament's preliminary work to prepare offices and connect the IT systems to existing premises.

"In a time where many European citizens are struggling to face the consequences of inflation and rise of interest rates, we believe that taxpayers' money should be used in a prudent and responsible way," Usakovs said.

Meanwhile, socialist lawmakers have also raised legal concerns over the leasing contract.

The French authorities are not the owners of the Osmose building at the moment but they plan to buy it before they lease it to the European Parliament for a period of 99 years — which means that the details of the purchase are not known yet.

France has the right to sell this building at any time although the European Parliament would be given first the option to buy it at the maximum price the French authorities paid at the time of the purchase minus the rent already paid.

But if the institution wants to terminate the leasing contract, it will need to wait at least 18 years to do so.

Brussels versus Strasbourg saga

In total, the European Parliament currently has 27 buildings — 17 in Brussels, five in Strasbourg and five in Luxembourg. Having three places of work was agreed upon by EU countries in 1992.

However, the institution itself has voiced many times its preference to become a single-seat institution, assuming "its responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint".

Moving MEPs' HQ from Strasbourg to Brussels could generate annual savings of €114m, plus €616m if the Strasbourg buildings are sold off, according to EU auditors' estimates.

But this matter is considered especially sensitive for the French authorities who during the pandemic fought tooth and nail to get MEPs back to Strasbourg as soon as possible.

Around 2,500 people travel from Brussels to Strasbourg once per month which results not only in extra costs but also in what many see as unnecessary travel emissions.

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