MEPs have packed their bags, ready to get back to Strasbourg after a forced six-month hiatus. But moving the entire EU circus to another country may not be the brightest idea right now.
In an unprecedented move, European Parliament President David Sassoli decided in March to avoid the monthly journey to Strasbourg at least until September and hold the plenary sessions in Brussels instead.
Based on a report from the EP’s Medical Service, the health risks were considered to be “significantly higher” if Parliament’s plenary sessions were to take place in Strasbourg in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Now that September has come, no new assessment has been made and hundreds of lawmakers, assistants, policy advisers, employees, administrative officers, lobbyists, translators, journalists, and security personnel are gearing up to resume the old habit of going to Strasbourg.
Sources in the Parliament have confirmed that all the preliminary preparations for the long trek to the Alsace are going as they always have before a Strasbourg session, which is scheduled from 14 to 17 September.
However, rumours have started doing the rounds that the session may not take place in the French city after all.
The situation is evolving and it’s now a 50/50 split. A final decision is expected next week and once again, Sassoli will be the one to make it.
“The European Parliament shall have its seat in Strasbourg where the 12 periods of monthly plenary sessions, including the budget session, shall be held.” This is what the Treaties say in one of the provisions so dear to the French.
French EU affairs secretary Clement Beaune has already spoken to Sassoli about resuming the activities in Strasbourg as soon as possible in the best sanitary conditions.
But Strasbourg is on Belgium’s orange-zone list, so people coming back to Belgium are asked to be tested and self-isolate, though on a voluntary basis.
But even if the situation in Alsace isn’t quite that bad, the question is: it is really worth it?
True, it is no small session, as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will deliver her State of the Union speech, and is also the first one after member states agreed on an unprecedented joint issuing of EU debt.
However, the importance of the session has nothing to do with where it takes place.
How do we react if von der Leyen mentions in her speech the need to reduce unnecessary journeys at this stage of the pandemic, speaking to people who have just made one?
How would Phil Hogan feel after having been forced to resign for not having respected COVID-19 guidelines, when hundreds of people are moving to an orange zone and going back to Belgium just for the sake of the Treaties?
Treaties are important and truly pro-Europeans are required to abide by the Treaties. But in these times it would be better to exercise common sense.
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