A parliamentary committee adopted a report that calls on member states to abolish MEPs' monthly commute from Brussels to Strasbourg. The latest attempt to reduce the number of parliamentary seats might force the Council to discuss a treaty change.
The constitutional affairs committee adopted a report yesterday (14 October) calling on the Parliament to push for a revision of the EU treaties, with the aim of scrapping Strasbourg as Parliamentary seat.
If MEPs pass such a motion for treaty revision at a plenary session, EU member states will be obliged to answer the call.
The committee report stressed once again that Parliament wanted to determine its own working arrangements, and to choose where their meetings are held. Rapporteurs Ashley Fox and Gerald Häfner repeated the Parliament’s wish that “in order to fulfill its function deriving from the treaties and the expectations of the electorate – Parliament needs the right to organise itself”.
Long-standing issue to reduce costs
The issue of the EU legislature's location has been on-going for many years but if Parliament adopts the motion, it will be a first proper step to start dialogue between the Parliament, Council and Commission.
The Parliament’s back-and-forth between Brussels and Strasbourg costs European taxpayers an estimated €102 million per year, the Parliament's secretary general, Klaus Welle, said last week.
The location of the seats of the European Parliament is defined in the EU treaties (Protocol 6, Lisbon Treaty) and can only be changed if member states agree to a treaty change at a European summit meeting.
Having laid hold of the Parliamentary seat in Strasbourg at the 1992 Edinburgh European summit, France is extremely unlikely to waive this right. It has been backed by other member states, including Belgium and Luxembourg.
French MEPs have also consistently voted to keep the issue off the agenda. The parliamentary seat offers plenty of advantages to France and is an important symbol of France’s position in the EU.
Last April, MEPs voted in favour of an amendment urging the member states to take up the issue of the Parliament’s seat in a next revision of the treaty, a vote that Parliament watchdog VoteWatch selected as one of the ten votes that shaped the 2009-2014 legislature.
In March 2011, MEPs voted in favour of reducing the Strasbourg sessions in time. The decision was annulled after France took the European Parliament to the European Court of Justice, which ruled that it was unconstitutional in December 2012.
In 2006, a ‘One Seat’ campaign led by a group of parliamentarians including current home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström gathered one million signatures in a petition over a period of less than five months. The petition did not get any follow-up from member states.