Monday

23rd Jan 2017

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 12 plenary sessions per year.

The case was brought before the ECJ after MEPs adopted two amendments to parliament's calendar of plenary sessions for 2012 and 2013, scrapping one of the two sessions planned for October and merging the two into one week-long session.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • EU court - Parliament must hold 12 Strasbourg sessions per year (Photo: Architecture Studio)

In a statement released on Thursday (13 December), the court said that "the periods of plenary part-sessions as provided for in the contested votes for October 2012 and 2013 do not satisfy the requirements resulting from the Treaties concerning the seats of the institutions."

With the October 2012 'super-session' having already taken place, the court annulled Parliament's vote on the 2013 calendar.

The annual cost of the Strasbourg sessions, which see several thousand MEPs and officials uprooted to the Alsace for four days per month, is estimated at €200 million.

The judgement did not come as a surprise to parliament, with Paolo Mengozzi, the advocate general of the Luxembourg-based court, having issued a legal opinion in September to the effect that existing case law demanded the continuation of 12 sessions per year.

The steering committee of the cross-party Single Seat group, which campaigns for Brussels to be formally recognised as the assembly's sole location, admitted that "he ruling is regrettable, but we expected it."

The group said there was "a compelling case for a change to the treaty to remove this wasteful obligation imposed by EU governments" and added that MEPs would "examine their new powers to initiate the Treaty change necessary to achieve a single seat."

The mood among MEPs has evolved in recent years, with a clear majority now in favour of a single seat in Brussels.

Although Parliament has previously used non-binding initiative reports to demand changes to the EU treaties, it has no control over where it sits.

EU leaders agreed a deal on the location of the EU institutions in 1992. The decision was then added as a protocol to the EU treaties in the Amsterdam treaty.

For his part, French leader Francois Hollande said in a statement: "This judgment bears witness to Europe's attachment to respect for the treaties on the seats of the institutions and its desire to see Strasbourg, the symbolic town of European reconciliation, fully play its role as parliamentary capital."

The ruling comes as parliament faces a further dilemma over its part-sessions, with the Parliament chamber in Brussels closed for repair until November 2013 after cracks in the ceiling beams were discovered.

Far-right groups pledge allegiance ahead of elections

Far-right leaders Le Pen, Wilders, Petry and others gathered in Koblenz in the hope of gaining political momentum ahead of national elections this year. The event was met with thousands of protestors.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden to host EU social summit
  2. US Congress may Trump-proof Russia sanctions
  3. Fury over UK 'cover up' of failed missile test
  4. Theresa May: I will not be afraid to stand up to Trump
  5. Brexit will destroy NI peace deal, says Gerry Adams
  6. EU housing price increase by 4.3%
  7. EU trade chief says UK deal will take 'couple of years'
  8. German defence spending boost not enough for Nato goal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Influence of Turkish Politics in Europe After the Coup Attempt
  2. World VisionEU Urged to do Better Ahead of Helsinki Conference on Syria
  3. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  4. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  5. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  6. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  7. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  9. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  10. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  11. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London

Latest News

  1. EU says milk protest 'difficult to understand'
  2. Future of euro on EU agenda This WEEK
  3. Pope warns populism could lead to 'saviours' like Hitler
  4. How the EU can protect the world’s forest by tackling corruption
  5. Leftist newcomer takes lead in French Socialist primary
  6. Far-right groups pledge allegiance ahead of elections
  7. Trump pledges US-first foreign policy
  8. GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room