Monday

22nd Apr 2019

MEPs shift to Brussels after ceiling collapse

The European Parliament's first plenary session after the summer break will be held in Brussels rather than Strasbourg after part of the ceiling caved in, but few tears are being shed for the loss of a 500 km round trip to the Alsatian capital.

Parliament chief Hans-Gert Poettering decided on Thursday (21 August) that MEPs will remain in Brussels for the 1-4 September session.

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  • The Strasbourg parliament - on hold for now (Photo: StrasTV)

The announcement came after a collapse on 7 August of the ceiling in the main hemicycle in France - around a third of the ceiling has been affected - where a potential 785 MEPs sit to agree legislation.

No one was injured, with the building mainly sitting idle during the summer weeks.

"The preliminary results have revealed that the partial collapse of the ceiling resulted from the breakage of parts holding the suspended ceiling that connects it with the actual structure of the ceiling," said a statement from Mr Poettering's office.

The news has been greeted with glee among some parliamentary officials and assistants - who generally make the five-hour trip crammed in shared cars or by train.

"The general feeling is 'yahoo'," said one parliamentary assistant "except in those offices [in Brussels] where they are happy to get rid of their boss for a week."

"I hope more bits keep falling off," said another.

From the point of view of some, the decision also concerns the ideal month, as the 'Strasbourg session' as it is known takes place twice in September, making up for the Strasbourg-less August.

According to the EU treaty, parliament is obliged to meet 12 times a year in its French seat.

The incident has once again prompted renewed calls to scrap the Strasbourg seat - a regular discussion among MEPs and assistants alike many of whom dislike what they call the "travelling circus" which sees armies of politicians, advisors and lobbyists as well as lorry-loads of documents make the monthly trek.

"We should turn catastrophe into opportunity and meet continuously in Brussels," Chris Davies said according to the BBC, and condemned "the nonsense of the Parliament's perpetual momentum".

Estimates suggest it costs around €200 million a year for the commute. In recent years, the trip has also come under fire for undermining the European Union's general stance on cutting down greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the Strasbourg seat has its staunch supporters too. They say it is a potent symbol of Franco-German reconciliation - with Strasbourg on the border between the two countries. Any decision to change to parliament set would have to be agreed by all 27 member states.

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