Thursday

17th Jan 2019

Over 90 percent of EU Parliament staff feel sick of Strasbourg

  • Strasbourg: collapsing ceilings, greedy hotels and weary MEPs dictated to by France (Photo: anonymous)

A majority of MEPs and their assistants want to end monthly trips to Strasbourg and hold parliament sessions in Brussels only, a fresh study has revealed. The British government immediately backed the proposal, but for that to happen, the EU treaty would have to be changed.

Some 88 percent of MEPs and assistants want to have their own say on where the European Parliament meets, with 91 percent preferring Brussels, a newly-published survey carried out by Zurich University in 2011 says.

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

Support for scrapping Strasbourg has been constant for the past 10 years: 69 percent in 2000, 72 percent in 2006 and 70 percent in 2010. But the latest figures show a spike in favour of change.

The data was presented on Thursday as part of a major review called A Tale of Two Cities and was commissioned by a group of 10 current and former MEPs.

Forty percent of the people surveyed also said Strasbourg's poor transport, accommodation and working environment have a serious impact on their professional performance.

The change would save €180 million a year and 19,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, the study added.

In 2002, it was estimated that if the Parliament had a single seat, 317 full-time staff posts could be abolished, a figure likely to have increased following enlargement.

The Zurich findings are the latest in a long series of Quixotic attempts to break the impasse on Strasbourg. But all efforts smash against the wall of member states - EU countries, notably France, would have to amend the EU treaty to make the move. And there is no political will to do it.

In its current form, the EU treaty says that "the European Parliament shall have its seat in Strasbourg where the 12 periods of monthly plenary sessions, including the budget session, shall be held. The periods of additional plenary sessions shall be held in Brussels. The committees of the European Parliament shall meet in Brussels. The General Secretariat of the European Parliament and its departments shall remain in Luxembourg."

British Liberal MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who led the Zurich initiative, says that times are changing because the EU legislature gained new powers under the Lisbon Treaty and should decide for itself where to congregate.

"The European Parliament serves 500 million people. In today's climate, the economic and environmental cost of two seats can no longer be justified. The two-seat arrangement is an anachronism," he said in a press statement.

His working group aims to break the taboo on top-level discussions on the issue.

Anti-Strasbourg chatter has been fuelled in recent years by events such as the collapse of the plenary chamber's ceiling in 2008, another ceiling collapse in 2009 and travel chaos due to the Icelandic ash cloud last year.

The gripe list also includes strikes by French transport workers. Only six EU capitals have direct flights to the city, meaning MEPs shuttle around EU airports to get to meetings and break the session early on Thursday to get home for the weekend.

Hotel profiteering in Strasbourg is considered a growing problem: Anecdotal evidence and spot-checks suggest that Strasbourg hotels routinely double their prices during plenary sessions, the report notes.

The British government quickly welcomed the study amid a climate of crisis-related austerity.

"The report not only makes clear what a huge and unnecessary waste of time and resource it is for the European Parliament to have a seat both in Brussels and in Strasbourg, as this Government has always argued, but also shows a dramatic change in sentiment amongst MEPs towards one seat," a UK government spokesman said in a press statement.

There was no communique from Paris.

German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

Germany's domestic spy agency, the BfV, is to start monitoring the far-right AfD party in a move endorsed by the government, but decried as a witch-hunt by the party's leaders.

EU warns Romania over corruption amnesty

Juncker warned Romania's government not to move ahead with plans to grant amnesty for corruption, as more than 200 EU laws await decisions during Bucharest's presidency.

Romania mired in corruption woes as presidency begins

With the country's de facto leader filing a lawsuit at the EU's top court over report accusing him of corruption, and concerns of the country's rule of law, Romania's EU presidency kicked off in Bucharest to a rocky start.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us