Sunday

17th Nov 2019

MEPs find new line of attack against Strasbourg

Upcoming elections, a changed political context, and new powers to change the EU treaty have put wind in the sails of MEPs hoping to persuade governments to drop Strasbourg as a seat for the European Parliament.

The topic has been on the fringes of the political agenda for over 20 years, but according to British Liberal MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, a leading single-seat campaigner, the "omerta" on the previously sensitive issue has been broken.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

But still euro deputies are careful not to couch the discussion in terms of Brussels versus the French city of Strasbourg, to where the entire parliament decamps once a month.

Instead, they say it is an issue of necessary self-determination for a parliament that has come of age in terms of its legislative powers.

Where the EU institutions sit is fixed by the EU treaties and can only be changed by member states.

Deputies have long complained about the difficulty of getting there – transport routes to Strasbourg are notoriously poor – as well as about the estimated €180 million a year it costs the taxpayer and the CO2 emissions it entails.

"We should talk about the simple right of parliament to take its own decisions, to organise its own work," said German Green deputy Gerald Haefner during a seminar on the issue on Tuesday (23 April).

He is co-authoring a report by the constitutional affairs committee, to be ready by the end of the year, on how parliament can put into practise a new power to make proposals to change the EU treaty - necessary for this seat issue.

Haefner said he plans to draft a report that will make it difficult for his colleagues to say No, with French MEPs normally keen to maintain the status quo. The report will stress the importance of the parliament deciding its own fate rather than being the "puppet" of other institutions.

Haefner wants to keep the emotive and political issue of what happens to Strasbourg - which fears the loss of the monthly influx of free-spending MEPs, assistants and lobbyists - out of the discussion.

"If we vote for that the next step would be to enter into negotiations with the council (member states). It will then end up in a European Convention. We will then negotiate on questions of compensation [for Strasbourg]," he noted.

Ideas for compensation range from moving an EU court there to setting up a new university.

Ken Daly, a lawyer advising the single seat campaign, noted that if there was "political will" a "simple" treaty change could be made, something that has already happened three times in the last two years, including to set up the eurozone bailout fund (ESM).

For his part, McMillan-Scott is challenging EU member states to come up with a “roadmap” for a single seat by the end of June, something MEPs overwhelming called for in a vote last October.

Ahead of the June 2014 European election, where the costly "travelling circus" as it colloquially known is often a doorstep issue, McMillan-Scott and his fellow one-seaters also want political parties to put the single seat issue into their party manifestos and those running for election to sign a pledge on it.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

Far-right Vox celebrates, as Spain left without majority

Although the governing Socialists Party (PSOE) won the most seats at Sunday's elections, the political deadlock continues with a deeply-fragmented scenario, in which the far-right Vox party is in a strong position while the centre has become irrelevant.

Can Sunday's election end Spain's endless deadlock?

Uncertainty surrounding this weekend's Spanish election - the fourth in four years - is rising, as polls suggest that the outcome of Sunday's vote could be as inconclusive April's election. Thousands of police are on the streets of Barcelona.

New Romanian commissioner completes line-up, bar UK

Ursula von der Leyen has chosen Alina Valean to be Romania's new commissioner. She will get the transport portfolio, putting an end to speculation that Hungary might lose the enlargement portfolio.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. France unveils new model EU enlargement
  2. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  3. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  4. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  5. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  6. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  7. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  8. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us