Thursday

23rd Mar 2017

Ash cloud to disrupt EU parliament session

  • The Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which also erupted in 1821, 1612 and 920, has so far released 130 million tonnes of ash, which is made up mostly of silicon particles (Photo: nasa.org)

EU officials expect there to be too few MEPs in Strasbourg on Monday (19 April) to make voting possible because of the volcanic ash cloud over Europe.

"There may not be enough MEPs to form a quorum. Those who were stuck in Brussels anyway can make it. But some of them have to take three flights to get there," said a parliament official.

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.

At least one third of the parliament's 736 deputies have to be present in plenary for a vote to be legally valid. Some MEPs were unable to fly home from the EU capital last week when ash from a volcano in Iceland grounded flights across Europe. But many others are now stuck in their constituencies.

EU officials have been asked to make the trip from Brussels to Strasbourg anyway. The heads of the parliament's political groups will then meet in the French city to decide what to do.

If there are not enough MEPs, options include formally opening the session and then immediately closing it, sending everyone home; holding debates only but not votes, which could take place later; having no debates or votes but ploughing through the rest of the schedule.

The situation has restarted chatter about the folly of having multiple seats for the EU parliament, an obligation under the EU treaty.

It has also led to jokes at MEPs' expense. "If they held the votes by written procedure, it would set a dangerous precedent. None of them would ever come to parliament anymore," one EU official quipped.

The EU has already put off a number of events on Monday. A meeting of agriculture ministers in Luxembourg, Croatia accession talks in Brussels and a trip by EU and IMF officials to Athens have all fallen victim to the ash. Pakistan has also postponed a summit with EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, many top guests did not make the funeral of late Polish president Lech Kaczynski in Krakow on Sunday.

The Vatican Cardinal due to say mass, US President Barack Obama, German leader Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy of France were among the vast majority of foreign VIPs who did not come.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev braved the ash and flew in, while delegations from Poland's neighbouring countries drove or took trains.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, who set out by car from Brussels on Thursday, was the only senior EU figure present.

"We have seen that all those grand phrases about European unity are really nothing but cliches," Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a eurosceptic and a personal friend of Lech Kaczynski, who drove from Prague to Krakow, said on Czech TV.

After last week telling airlines they must compensate passengers as normal, the European Commission at the weekend changed direction and created a high-level group to explore the option of financial aid to air carriers, which have been haemorrhaging €230 million a day since the volcano struck.

EU transport ministers will on Monday also hold a special videoconference about safety after airlines over the weekend complained that the travel ban is too strict.

The Brussels-based air traffic body, Eurocontrol, on Sunday evening said that 19,000 out of 24,000 flights were cancelled on the day, with airspace partly or fully closed in 17 EU countries. It predicted "positive evolution" in the coming days and said isolated pockets of "upper airspace" are becoming ash-free.

Terror attack shuts down UK parliament

[Updated] Westminster, and its surrounding areas, has been sealed off after a car drove into several people and one policeman was stabbed. At least three people have been killed.

La présidentielle française sous cyber-alerte maximale

Le président francais Francois Hollande a mobilisé "tous les moyens nécessaires" pour contrer d'éventuelle cyber-attaques avant l'election présidentielle d'avril et mai. Mais les partis politiques restent vulnérables.

EU doing well in global energy ranking

The majority of countries in the top-20 of the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index are members of the European Union, with Switzerland leading the list.

Child migrants endure 'abysmal conditions'

The Council of Europe's special representative on migration and refugees released a report that says minors in Europe are enduring "abysmal conditions".

News in Brief

  1. Russia invites EU diplomats to occupied Crimea
  2. UK parliament in lockdown after reported attack
  3. Brussels attacks remembered with minute of silence and noise
  4. Magnitsky's lawyer injured near Moscow
  5. Trump to travel to Brussels on 25 May for Nato summit
  6. Polish defence minister accuses Tusk of treason
  7. Fillon slips in polls as new allegations emerge
  8. Brexit summit for EU-27 will be on 29 April

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Advertisements
  2. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  3. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  4. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  6. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  7. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  8. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  10. Malta EU 2017Consumer Protection Laws to Be Strengthened by EU-Wide Cooperation
  11. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  12. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst

Latest News

  1. EU declaration to voice unity in troubled times
  2. Terror attack shuts down UK parliament
  3. Catalonia and Scotland at core of Europe's geopolitical conundrum
  4. La présidentielle française sous cyber-alerte maximale
  5. EU doing well in global energy ranking
  6. Child migrants endure 'abysmal conditions'
  7. French socialist woos Europe with new vision
  8. EU to Macedonia: 'Stop playing with fire'