16th Aug 2022

One million EU citizens call for Strasbourg to be ditched

More than one million EU citizens have called for the European Parliament to abandon its second home in Strasbourg, while the European Commission has distanced itself from EU communication commissioner Margot Wallstrom's comments on Strasbourg becoming a "negative symbol of wasting money".

The online petition - oneseat.eu - reached the one million mark on Monday (18 September) after a group of MEPs, led by Swedish liberal Cecilia Malmstrom, launched the website in May this year.

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"If the EU is going to be able to deliver results, make decisions and maintain the confidence of the hundreds of millions it represents, it must adopt and get rid of the greatest anomalies," Ms Malmstrom writes on her website.

"To be forced to travel to a second parliament 12 times a year for an extra cost of hundreds of millions of euros a year, is not defensible," she explains, adding that the Strasbourg building is empty the remaining 307 days a year.

Meanwhile the European Commission on Monday distanced itself from recent comments by one of its members, Swedish commissioner Margot Wallstrom.

'Brussels insanity'

"It is obvious that Ms Wallstrom as a politician and as a person is entitled to have an opinion. This needs to be distinguished from the institutional role of the commission," commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger told journalists in Brussels.

"If there is a debate, it is an issue legally for the member states and politically, first and foremost, for the parliament itself," Mr Laitenberger said, adding that the commission should not lecture the parliament in its ways of working.

In an interview with a Brussels-based magazine E!Sharp Ms Wallstrom was quoted as saying that "something that was once a very positive symbol of the European Union, reuniting France and Germany, has now become a negative symbol - of wasting money, bureaucracy and the insanity of the Brussels institutions."

"One has to try both to explain why it was placed there and pay respect to that, but also say that times have changed and now this is impractical and too expensive," she added.

The official seat in Strasbourg has been enshrined in the EU treaty since 1992 with any revision requiring unanimous approval of all member states, something France is unlikely to give.

EU constitution

One French diplomat told the EUobserver that "everybody will take note of the one million citizens but I don't foresee any discussion on EU government level."

"There is no eager and enthusiasm from the people in Brussels to make this a top priority to improve the European Union," another EU diplomat said.

The contact explained that first of all France had a economic and a symbolic interest in keeping the parliament on its soil and even within the parliament there is no unanimous will to put the issue on the agenda.

The right of citizens to form an initiative and become more involved in EU issues was part of the European Constitution.

According to the article, if a petition collects one million signatures, the commission has to look at the issue – but the document was rejected by two member states last year.

Ms Wallstrom's has previously stated that she considers the oneseat.eu initiative a valid one, independently of what happens to the constitution.

Meanwhile, her fellow Swede Ms Malmstrom will on Tuesday (19 September) hold a press conference in Stockholm on how to move on with the initiative now the goal of one million signatures has been reached.

MEPs drop Strasbourg rent scandal investigation

MEPs in the budgetary control committee have signed off the parliament's 2004 accounts after months of blocking the move due to allegations that the parliament was paying too rent for its Strasbourg buildings.

One million EU citizens call for labelling of GM foods

A Greenpeace petition - signed by 1 million EU citizens - calls for the European Commission to legislate that food products such as eggs, meat and milk where the animal has been fed with genetically modified crops should be labelled as such.

We can't do anything about Strasbourg, commission says

MEPs have handed the European Commission a petition of more than one million signatures calling for an end to the "travelling circus" involving the Strasbourg seat of the parliament - but the EU executive has said there is very little it can do about it.

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