Thursday

19th Sep 2019

Strasbourg seat unlikely to see debate at EU summit

The Austrian chancellor has warned the European Parliament's chief not to create a fuss over the two seats of the bloc's legislature at the EU leaders summit next month.

The parliament's president, Josep Borrell, was tasked by the political group chiefs in the EU assembly to raise the issue with governments at the 16-17 June meeting in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But the Austrian presidency has moved to prevent a clash on the matter with French president Jacques Chirac.

"The Austrian chancellor has told Mr Borrell very clearly this is not something we can change," a senior EU diplomat told the Financial Times, adding that the parliament's leader "would be stupid" to create a fuss on the subject.

Similar concerns have been expressed by several MEPs during the debate on the issue, particularly heated after the outbreak of the scandal over the rent payments to the city of Strasbourg last month.

"It is a pure demagogy to say we're going to leave Strasbourg," French vice-president of the parliament, Green MEP Gerard Onesta told the EUobserver.

"France will not agree to change anything," he added, pointing out that changing the parliament's seat would need unanimous support from all 25 leaders.

Around 170,000 people recently signed a petition to have just one seat for the European Parliament. The move has been introduced as a model citizens' intiative as envisaged by the EU constitution.

Under the constitution, EU institutions would be obliged to deal with any issues endorsed by 1 million or more petition signatories.

Symbols versus figures

The €200 million arrangement, often dubbed Europe's "travelling circus" as MEPs once a month move between Brussels and Strasbourg with their staff and crates of documents, has been questioned several times, last time in 2000 during the Nice treaty talks.

But the official seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg has been enshrined in the EU treaty since 1992, and removing the clause could at worst require a full revision of the content in the treaty.

Paris considers the Strasbourg seat a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation and a matter of national prestige.

The mayor of Strasbourg, Fabienne Keller, stressed the fact at her hearing with MEPs over the rent allegations earlier this month.

She said the choice of the Alsatian capital was "made to underline that Europe was constructed to guarantee peace".

"I would say its the meetings that you have in Brussels that cost €200 million a year", she argued.

Meanwhile, centre-right MEPs have been warned by their German leader Hans-Gert Pottering about the potential damage the Strasbourg city rent scandal could do to the EU's image in France.

"He said that following the rejection of the EU constitution in France this could be another serious blow for support to Europe from the French citizens and we do not want to allow this to happen," said one MEP.

The city of Strasbourg has been accused of cashing around €80 million since 1979 from a deal with the European Parliament, including €22 million on insuring itself against the risk that the legislature would leave - despite the treaty-based provision guaranteeing its official seat there.

Strasbourg mayor fights back in EU rent scandal

The mayor of Strasbourg has hit back at allegations concerning rent-overcharging for the European Parliament, urging MEPs to keep the debate separate from discussions on the two seats of the EU assembly. But deputies appeared unconvinced by her arguments.

Opinion

France should let the parliament go

Unless France drops its opposition to the European Parliament vacating its Strasbourg seat, it may find that the Parliament simply takes matters into its own hands, argues Peter Sain ley Berry.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

News in Brief

  1. EU adds €100m to research and Erasmus budgets
  2. Ambassador: UK Poles should 'seriously consider' leaving
  3. Trump's UK ambassador stirs up anti-EU feeling
  4. Brexit chaos is lesson to other EU states, ECB governor says
  5. EU condemns Israel's latest land grab
  6. Scotland to keep some laws aligned with EU after Brexit
  7. Spain to hold fresh election in November
  8. Turkey ups pressure on visa-free entry into EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. A new Commission for the one percent
  2. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'
  3. Germany adopts blockchain strategy and says no to Libra
  4. Revanchist Russia continues to rewrite European history
  5. How EU trains discriminate against the disabled
  6. These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission
  7. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  8. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us