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Symbolic Strasbourg

Mark Mardell | 08:45 UK time, Friday, 24 April 2009

STRASBOURG: It feels like first in, last out. By the time you read this I will be on the long drive back to Brussels, but it seems most MEPs have fled already. Flags at Strasbourg parliament

I was in the parliament late last night, editing a TV piece and although a session had started at 9pm there seemed hardly a soul around. I can't blame them. Strasbourg is a lovely city but if any one thinks MEPs enjoy the monthly trip as a little treat they are mistaken.

It's bad enough having to get back to Brussels - imagine making it to Edinburgh or northern Sweden or Greece. Why don't they change it then? Simple: it's not up to them, it's up to national governments. Former British PM John Major last signed up to it. Few think it's worth taking on the French over a plum prize that makes the city a lot of money.

I was tickled by a full-page advert in the local paper headed "For European democracy for a decentralised and polycentric Europe: Let's reinforce the European Parliament in Strasbourg, capital of democracy and Human Rights!" It continues in even more grandiose terms, tracing the formation of the Council of Europe, Nato and the European Coal and Steel Community. It counters the argument that having a second site of the parliament is obsolete: "For this to be true the very idea of reconciliation between nations would have to be obsolete, the stupidity of the human race would have to be obsolete". "The rest," it concludes, "is trivial".

Right at the bottom there is a little note saying the ad was "made possible by" and there follows a series of logos for Strasbourg hotels and a tax company.

This will be my last blog for a little while, but when I am back it will be on the campaign trail for the European elections.


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