Monday

30th Nov 2020

Strasbourg travelling circus must go on, says EU court advisor

  • MEPs want to end the monthly trek to Strasbourg (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Court of Justice was accused of being out of touch after its top advisor insisted that the European Parliament could not scrap its monthly plenary sessions in Strasbourg.

In a legal opinion issued on Thursday (6 September) the Court's Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi stated that existing case law demanded the continuation of twelve sessions per year. Although the opinion is not legally binding, Advocate General opinions are usually endorsed by the Luxembourg-based court.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In March 2011, MEPs amended their calendar to scrap plenary sessions scheduled for October 2012 and 2013 by merging two sessions into one week. In response, the French government, supported by Luxembourg, which also hosts Parliament offices, called on the Court to overturn the Parliament's decision claiming that they were in breach of the treaties.

Mengozzi claimed that the Parliament's legal team had failed to justify its changes its calendar in what he described as a move to "artificially split into two" the October session.

The EU treaties require the Parliament to hold twelve plenary sessions in Strasbourg, under a protocol agreed in 1992 at the EU summit in Edinburgh chaired by John Major, a former UK Prime Minister.

However, the cross-party single seat group of MEPs, which campaigns for the Parliament to have all plenary sessions in Brussels, has sought to find ways to minimise the Strasbourg sessions. Supporters of the single seat campaign say that the Strasbourg sessions are expensive, with research indicating an annual cost of over €200 million per year.

Others claim that the monthly trek, which sees MEPs and officials uprooted from their Brussels offices, damages both the environment the public perception of the Parliament.

British Conservative Ashley Fox, one of the MEPs to table amendments to the calendar, accused the Court of being "completely out of touch" and making "a warped interpretation of EU treaties."

Meanwhile, Rebecca Harms, co-leader of the Green MEPs said that Mengozzi's position was “at odds with legal advice given to MEPs ... so there is hope that the ECJ will not follow today's recommendation."

She also called on governments to re-open debate on the issue, adding that "the taboo on the EP's senseless seat arrangement must be ended."

However, others saw reason to be encouraged.

They take heart in the fact that Mengozzi asked for the parliamentary calendar as a whole to be examined.

In July 2012, MEPs voted 432–218 for a single seat. Parliament President Martin Schulz is among the most prominent supporters of retaining the Strasbourg sessions.

MEPs tell Buzek to seek end to Strasbourg seat

MEPs have called for a meeting with EU leaders to discuss the scrapping of parliament's Strasbourg and Luxembourg seats, also opting to delay their approval of the Council of Ministers' 2009 budget until later this year.

Analysis

When two become one - the Strasbourg super-session

Thousands of EU officials will return to Brussels wearier than usual on Friday but, on balance, will probably be grateful for a Parliament decision that saved them from another round-trip.

EU court backs France over €200m Strasbourg sessions

The European Court of Justice has backed the French government in its dispute with the European Parliament over the much maligned Strasbourg plenary sessions, ruling that the assembly had breached treaty requirements for twelve plenary sessions per year.

Feature

EU Parliament: Strasbourg, or the climate?

A report of the European Parliament's environmental management unit proposes a treaty change to move the European Parliament's headquarters from Strasbourg to Brussels - in order for the institution to become climate-neutral by 2030.

Opinion

German presidency's broken promises on 'fair tax'

At the start of the German presidency of the EU Council it committed itself to a "fair taxation" agenda. But as we enter the final leg of its six-month term, time is running out to make good on this promise.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. EU taxpayers in the dark on US corona-drug deal
  2. EU debates first names to go on human rights blacklist
  3. Lithuania bids to host EU cyber-centre
  4. Amnesty exposes Amazon staff conditions on 'Black Friday'
  5. Unblocking Brexit and budget in focus This WEEK
  6. 25 years on: what next for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation?
  7. Erdoğan jails hundreds for life, as EU weighs relations
  8. Italian energy giant director advising EU foreign policy chief

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us