There are two European Parliaments. One in Brussels, Belgium, and one in Strasbourg, France.
766 MEPs and over 3000 members of staff travel every month from Brussels to Strasbourg for the chamber’s plenary sessions.
MEPs say this monthly shuttle costs over €150 million, approximately 10% of the Parliament’s yearly budget and almost 19000 tones of CO2 emissions.
In a bid to save money, time and the environment, the Parliament now wants to decide when and where it meets.
‘In the 4 years that I’ve been an MEP, the question i’m most frequently asked by my constituency, is why there are two European parliaments ? It’s a good question, and I challenge anyone here o provide a convincing answer. Why do we spend 150 millions of euros a year maintaining two parliaments and traveling between them ? At the time of austerity at home, when national governments making painful spending cuts, how can we justify these expenditure ? Why as we lecture our constituency on reducing CO2 emissions, do we emit 90 thousands tons of stuff every year, commuting between Strasbourg and Brussels ?’, said British ECR MEP Ashley Fox.
‘We know where the key is, and this Parliament since the Lisbon treaty has become a co-legislator, that are leveled with the Council, and if we are to exercise scrutiny, if we are directly elected by the citizens in this legislative process, it’s not acceptable that this Parliament is dealt with some kind of agency or any old institution being told when and where and how we have to meet,’ said German Green MEP Gerald Häfner.
But things are not that easy. Stopping the MEPs monthly shuttle and making Brussels their permanent headquarters would require a change in the EU treaties, a change that must be approved by all 28 member states.
And France, as a host of the monthly sessions and recipient of EU funds for maintaining the parliament’s building, does not like the idea.
‘I would just like to remind you the state of the legislation, of the law : the European parliament has one single seat, that is Strasbourg, it is in the Treaties : one single seat, Strasbourg. And several working places, true, for different Parliamentary activities,” said French EPP MEP Constance Le Grip.
In the border between France and Germany, Strasbourg was chosen to host the parliament building as a symbol of European reconciliation after World War II.
Tuesday’s vote calls on EU leaders to initiate a treaty change right after the next European Parliament has been elected in May next year. Until then and probably after then, the debate is likely to continue.