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24th Aug 2019

MEPs suggest Van Rompuy shift EU summits to Strasbourg

  • The Strasbourg cathedral. Some MEPs appear to be unmoved by its charm (Photo: EUobserver)

Keen to end to their monthly jaunts to the French city of Strasbourg, a group of MEPs have suggested that European Council President Herman Van Rompuy hold his summits there instead.

The idea is one of several contained in a paper published this week by a cross-party group of euro-deputies, whose task is to find an acceptable means of moving parliament's plenary sessions to Brussels where the bulk of its committee work is currently carried out.

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A recent poll suggested as many as 90 percent of MEPs favour the switch from Strasbourg, dubbed 'Stressbourg', but France is bitterly opposed, concerned that the exodus of bon vivant parliamentarians will hurt the city's many restaurants and hotels. The Strasbourg School of Management has put the cost of the parliament leaving at €200 million a year.

Paris says EU treaty rules are on its side, issuing a resounding 'non' when MEPs voted last month to merge two plenary sessions into the same October week in both 2012 and 2013, in a bid to cut down on the costs and annoyances of the infamous traveling circus.

French minister for European Affairs Laurent Wauquiez told the MEPs he would see them in the European Court of Justice, another EU institution targeted by the euro-deputies as they try to provide the veto-holding French with an attractive source of alternative revenue.

The report's authors suggest "creating a European City of Justice by moving the European Court of Justice (and possibly justice-related agencies such as Europol and Eurojust) to Strasbourg."

"This would complement the Court of Human Rights, especially now that the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights has added 'internal' competence, as well as the EU's Ombudsman, whose modest office is based in Strasbourg."

Other options include shunting the little talked-about European Committee of the Regions out of its shiny Jacques Delors building in Brussels and sending them south, with France's rejoining of Nato also enabling a potential relocation of the military alliance's headquarters.

"This is less likely now that Nato has embarked upon a €800 million building project in Brussels," concede the MEPs.

A further suggestion talks about setting up a diplomatic training college for European external action service (EEAS) officials in Strasbourg, where "proximity to the Council of Europe should also create useful synergies for EU diplomats."

The ideas are likely to prove unpopular with the other EU institutions however, with a spokesman for Van Rompuy simply noting that all 27 member states would need to agree before he shifted his non-smoking summit dinners to France.

An official from the Committee of the Regions also said his institution was strongly opposed to any relocation.

"We are definitely against it," he told this website. "The members of the committee come to Brussels only five times a year, and it's key that they have good access to other EU officials when they do."

"Also the budgets of the two institutions are totally different."

British MEP Ashley Fox calls the commute a 'traveling circus'

EUOBSERVER / EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, BRUSSELS (17 March 2011) British MEP from the European Conservatives and Reformists Ashley Fox wants to see an end to the European Parliament's monthly commute to Strasbourg.

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