Every week, I meet in the EP groups from all over Europe, and the only thing that people know about, if any, is the travelling circus the EP is forced to endure every month when they move to the second seat in Strasbourg for 4 days. This discredits the EP entirely in the public eye because it’s the EP that is held responsible even though the blame lies squarely with the heads of state. We can talk all we like about White Papers and Communication Strategies, but when this issue is the only thing people know about the EU, it’s a waste of time.
The EP is the only democratically-elected parliament in the world that is not allowed to take a vote on where they actually want to have their plenary sessions. For democrats such as the European Federalists, this should be a fight worth taking up in order to have efficient and accountable lawmaking on a European level. Most people recognise the efficiency loss (and the waste of money) of not having the important institutions in the same place. While identifying the symbolic value of Strasbourg as a location for some of the EP’s sessions, most agree that the EU should pick one city as the location of its parliament. A cross-European poll at the beginning of May showed 68% of respondents believe the European Parliament should have just one seat - and 76% of those believe that the seat should be in Brussels. There are a number of proposals as to what the buildings in Strasbourg could be used for whilst not forgetting the historic value of Strasbourg as symbol of European integration. For example, establishing a Strasbourg Institute of Technology is one of them. Some think the seat of the EP should solely be based in Strasbourg. The problem would remain, however, of not having the institutions in the same place. The EP has fought its way to spend most of its time in Brussels, and that’s for good reason. Sending the EP to Strasbourg is more than a money issue: it’s about keeping the EP weak and unimportant.
Take for example the foreign policymaking of the Council. Formally there is no need for them to consult the EP, but in Brussels the EP can demand their presence and they can come over because they are just around the block. The EP’s job is also to scrutinise the Commission and the Council and being in the same place is therefore very important. The travelling circus symbolises all that is worst about how decisions are made in the EU, and it shows absolute contempt for the citizens’, their elected representatives and any pretence at democracy at the European level. That is why this campaign is of the utmost importance.
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See also : Strasbourg, natural home of the European Parliament by Emmanuel Vallens