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29th Aug 2016

MEPs to renew battle against Strasbourg seat

  • Surveys indicate strong public support for a single Parliament seat but think that governments should make the final decision. (Photo: EUobserver)

Surveys in five countries have revealed large public support for a single European Parliament seat.

Published on Wednesday (2 July), the poll surveyed more than 1,000 people in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Poland. In all countries an overwhelming majority backed a single seat for Parliament, with between 12 percent and 18 percent supporting the status quo.

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However, majorities in all five also said governments rather than MEPs should decide on the location of the seat.

Carrying out the poll was one of the demands contained in a report passed last year by MEPs, who are anxious to end the so-called "travelling circus", under which the Parliament has three places of work, leading to criticism of multi-million euro waste.

The parliament currently spends 48 days a year in Strasbourg, an arrangement which was agreed by EU leaders at a summit in Edinburgh in 1992. It also retains an administrative centre and facilities to hold parliamentary and ministerial meetings in Luxembourg.

An internal report by the parliament revealed that the annual costs of shuttling MEPs and officials to Strasbourg and maintaining the buildings are more than €100 million. It also results in around 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Most MEPs favour a single seat in Brussels where the bulk of the assembly's legislative work takes place, but the decision lies in the hands of governments. The governments of France and Luxembourg have consistently refused to discuss the matter at EU summits.

The report, by British Conservative Ashley Fox and German Green Gerald Haefner, adopted last November was a bid to break the log-jam.

The non-legislative report did not commit support for either Brussels or Strasbourg. Instead it was calling for the Parliament to use its power under the EU treaties to launch a procedure to change the treaty, with a view to allowing the parliament to decide on the location of its own seat.

Article 48 of the Lisbon treaty allows the Parliament to submit its own proposals to amend the EU treaties, but is yet to be used by deputies.

"We are being held hostage by the Council because citizens don't know that we oppose this system," Haefner, who was not re-elected in Germany in May's European elections, told reporters on Wednesday (3 July).

"If we see something that is rather ridiculous we have to be able to change it," he said, adding that "there is now a legal means to put this on the agenda".

He and fellow Green deputy Ulrike Lunacek, a vice-president of the EU assembly, commented that demanding a single seat should be part of a package of treaty reforms in a bid to break the Franco-Lux resistance.

"I honestly don't think that the French veto is going to stand up," said Haefner.

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