Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

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.

Poland to face EU top court on rule of law

The EU commission is expected to refer Poland to the EU's top court over firing supreme court judges, but Warsaw refused to commit on Tuesday that it will implement future EU court rulings.

EP triggers sanctions procedure, Hungary calls 'fraud'

The parliament launched a sanctions procedure against Hungary in an unprecedented vote that required a two-thirds majority from MEPs. Hungary is calling the vote a "fraud" and a "petty revenge" for its hardline migration policy.

Juncker calls for 'global' Europe

In his final State of the Union address, Jean-Claude Juncker warned of "exaggerated nationalism" in Europe - and said the EU should play a more dominant role in shaping world events, as the US withdraws from the global stage.

Orban's allies want concessions ahead of critical vote

MEPs in Strasbourg debated triggering the Article 7 sanctions procedure against Hungary, for infringing EU rules and values - while prime minister Viktor Orban claimed the parliament was about to punish Hungarians for protecting Europe's borders from immigrants.

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us