Thursday

18th Jul 2019

EU parliament ceiling collapse saved €1.7 million

Travel and accommodation savings of nearly €2 million were made in 2008 when MEPs were forced to relocate to Brussels due to a collapsed ceiling in the European Parliament's Strasbourg plenary chamber, according to documents published this month.

Responding to recent questions from MEPs, parliament's top official, Klaus Welle, estimated that the additional costs associated with holding two September sessions in Brussels as opposed to Strasbourg amounted to €818,740, largely due to train and hotel cancellation fees.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Parliament's ceiling, shortly after the August 2008 collapse (Photo: strastv)

When subtracted from the €2,549,826 in additional savings however, the net difference was a gain of €1,731,086, said the secretary general.

The unexpected saving in EU taxpayers' money stems from the partial collapse of the Strasbourg 'hemicycle' ceiling on the 8 August 2008 while MEPs were away on their summer holidays.

Reports at the time suggested a first part of the ceiling came crashing down around 6pm in Strasbourg, followed by another section four hours later. The event, remarked some European newspaper readers the following morning, was a "superb metaphor" for the European Union.

Since then, parliament's plenary ceiling has been installed with a complex system of sensors so that any movement triggers an alarm before pieces of plaster start to fall.

The 2008 event restarted the long-running debate over the EU's "traveling circus" under which MEPs hold committee meetings in Brussels but plenary sessions in the northern French city of Strasbourg.

Parliament's secretariat estimates that the additional cost involved in dividing the legislature's political business between Brussels and Strasbourg amounts to about €10 million for each of the 12 main plenary sessions per year, the September 2008 savings being curtailed due to its last-minute nature.

The decision to divide the majority of parliament's work between the two locations was formalised in a 1992 agreement, but originally dates back to an offer by the Council of Europe (1949) to allow the European Coal and Steel Community's 'Common Assembly' (1952) to use its plenary chamber for meetings.

The Common Assembly gradually developed into the European Parliament, with members opting to conduct most of their business in Brussels, close to the other EU institutions. French politicians however have been reluctant let go of the additional revenue generated for Strasbourg hotels and restaurants when the 700-plus MEPs roll into town for three days a month.

In his written answers to MEPs this month, Mr Welle also puts an estimate on the travel and accommodation costs of carting parliamentary officials between Brussels and Luxembourg, the latter being home to a major part of parliament's administrative staff.

"7,052 missions were undertaken between Luxembourg and Brussels," reported the document, amounting to a total cost of €1,910,443.

The formal decision to locate over 2,000 members of parliament's staff in Luxembourg dates back to a 1996 agreement between the Luxembourgish Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and parliament's president at the time, Klaus Hansch.

An updated deal was agreed between parliament's president Nicole Fontaine and Mr Juncker in the year 2000, under which its was "stated that the majority of new posts following enlargements would be assigned to Luxembourg".

Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency

Appalled over Coca-Cola sponsoring the recent Romanian EU presidency, MEPs have asked Finland, the new holders of the rotating post, to put an end to such practices. But Helsinki, whose presidency is sponsored by BMW, has no such plan.

EU commission has first-ever woman president

Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday obtained a narrow majority of support in the European Parliament to become the first-ever female president of the European Commission.

Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post

European Commission presidential-hopeful Ursula von Der Leyen delivered her key appeal in the European Parliament to secure the post. Her appeal appeared to appease most of the political groups - but a lack of specifics, and opposition from Greens remain.

Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again

Poland's former prime minister, Beata Szydlo, has cried foul after failing to get an EP committee chair a second time, in a fiasco which could spell trouble for the European Commission presidency vote on Tuesday.

Anti-separatist Spanish MEPs dominate liberty committee

The European Parliament's powerful civil liberties committee (Libe) has elected anti-separatist Spanish MEPs for its chair and vice-chair positions. The issue risks complicating efforts by pro-Catalan factions to have the debate on independence raised to the EU level.

Orban ally's bid to chair EP committee in trouble

Former communication chief of the Hungary's Fidesz party, Balazs Hidvegi, wants a senior spot on the European Parliament committee working on migration and law. His nomination was delayed following a surprise decision by the centre-right EPP group.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  2. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  3. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  4. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  5. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  6. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  7. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency
  8. MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us