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Giving up the Strasbourg junket

Mark Mardell | 00:01 UK time, Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The leader of Labour's MEPs, Gary Titley, won't be standing in the next round of Euro elections… and he's partly blaming the monthly trip to Strasbourg.

One of the things that's struck me since doing this job is that many people in the UK think that holding the main Parliamentary session every month in the delightful French city is a money-wasting junket hugely enjoyed by journalists, MEPs and researchers.

Gary Titley
In fact it's a money-wasting junket loathed by journalists, MEPs and researchers.

Miserable journey

"The constant travelling inevitably takes its toll," says Mr Titley. "I can no longer tolerate the shifting of the Parliament lock, stock and barrel to Strasbourg one week a month.

"It's a miserable journey and it's always a problem," he told me.

"Monday is a day where people exchange stories about where their luggage went astray and what else went wrong."

He says it actually undermines the European Parliament real strength: "The plenary sessions in Strasbourg are a bit like a local authority's council meeting. All the deals have been done: this is for public display.

"We're condemned to these visits whether they are needed or not and they're often padded out with debates saying we are against sin. The real work is in committees which don't have enough time to do their really important job properly, undermined by journeys we don't actually need. We can't do the job properly while we go on this circus."

And he says that it undermines one of the European Union's latest values: "This is not only a colossal waste of time and money, but also undermines the EU's hard work to tackle climate change, as the monthly move is producing 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 13.000 transatlantic round-trip flights."

But Strasbourg is regarded as such a powerful symbol of Franco-German reconciliation, and the travelling road show such an important source of income for the city, that it's unlikely there will be any change in the near future.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 02:11 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

Dear Mr Mardell,

Because there is no other forum to say it, may I please point out here that the people of Venezuela have just voted on changes to their Constitution in a democratic referendum (and rejected them). The people of Europe have been denied the same democratic right by politicians who seem determined to have their own way, no matter what the people (the people they supposedly represent) may think about it.

Which is the true democracy?

By the way, isn't it interesting that Mr Titley should confess that the plenary sessions in Strasbourg are just "for public display" and that "All the deals have been done". So much for democracy, EU-style!!

  • 2.
  • At 04:00 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • harry starks wrote:

The Strasbourg Parliament building is already used also by the Council of Europe (nothing to do with the EU), is it not? Surely the French can be offered something else as compensation, if the European Parliament were to retire from Strasbourg? There seem to be so many free-standing EU bodies ( such as the ECB, EMEA, European Drugs Monitoring Centre etc).

  • 3.
  • At 07:57 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

It's always been known that Strasbourg was a sop to the French for an agreement with the Germans and I guess it's a bit of a Holy Cow just like the CAP policy. However the continued use of Strasbourg has no place in the EU of tomorrow, and if it's carbon emissions are the same as 13,000 transatlantic round-trip flights, then enough said. The real question for the moment though is whether Brussels will be suitable as the sole capital of Europe if Belgium splits as is looking ever more likely. Maybe Luxembourg should become the capital of the EU instead of Brussels and Strasbourg, as there are already many EU institutions there.

  • 4.
  • At 08:19 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Brian Abbott wrote:

And you wonder why so many in the UK are Euro-sceptics?

  • 5.
  • At 08:39 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Simon, Paris wrote:

I agree entirely with Mark's comments. I love Strasbourg, it is a beautiful and highly symbolic city.

But unfortunately the most of the Commission and parliamentary work is done in Brussels rendering the parliamentary sessions in the Alsatian capital a huge waste of time and money.

If it were up to me, I'd move all EU institutions to Strasbourg permanently. Imagine - no more horrible grey mornings at Gare du Midi!!!

  • 6.
  • At 08:40 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

To politician Gary Titley.

Long commute, lost bags, unpleasant, overcrowding... Welcome to the real world faced by Britons every day. Yes, it is hell and after 10 years of this criminally negligent government there is no sight of it getting any better.

  • 7.
  • At 08:56 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • DavidC wrote:

Why don't the MEP's, journalists and research rebel? Just refuse to go one month. Surely nobody can order parlimentarians to meet in a particular building? Vote Strasburg a wedge of cash (50% of what it all costs?) for the next 10 years and then eveybodys happy

  • 8.
  • At 09:08 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Liberty Valence wrote:

Well done, Gary Titley, denouncing the absurdity of the MEPs' monthly Strasbourg exodus. This is yet another reason among dozens why the current UK government should refuse to sign the Lisbon Treaty until this absurdity, & all the EU's other absurdities, is/are all ironed out!

But as the current PM is only able to stand up to those over whom he is higher in rank, & is completely unable to out-talk & out-manoeuvre those whom he has no rank or authority over, then this obvious solution of refusing to co-operate with any of the EU's many childish features regreatbly is unlikely to occur. So, as he does not have the political courage to stand up for Britain against the other EU members, he should at least have the courage to trust the British people to stand up to the EU for him - by holding a REFERENDUM on the currently proposed very devious, & very negative towards Britain, Lisbon treaty!

  • 9.
  • At 09:36 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • john somer wrote:

And what is the UK government doing to change that silly situation ?

  • 10.
  • At 10:23 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Paul Chandler wrote:

Well - we cannot be seen to be upsetting the french / germans can we? Despite this being a major waste of time & resources nothing is likely to be done. A very good indication as to why the EU is becoming more and more disliked across europe.

  • 11.
  • At 10:48 AM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Neil Small wrote:

Rather than moan about the travelling, why does he not focus on teh EU accounts scandal that occurs every year? Thirteen years and still they cannot be signed off.

No wonder every other country wants to join, or at least their leaders do.

  • 12.
  • At 12:00 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"But Strasbourg is regarded as such a powerful symbol of Franco-German reconciliation".

One would think that it'd suffice to hold meetings in Brussels, since the city such a powerful symbol of Franco-Dutch cooperation.

This seems to be a prime example of the confusion in western society regarding the relationship between material and immaterial things:

On one hand postmodernist theorists tell us that there is no difference between a simulation and the thing it simulates. Global companies also spend millions daily to support a thriving propaganda industry intent on persuading consumers to buy things they don't need but must buy in order to keep the corporate economy going. On the other hand, any symbolic action which does not directly earn money is considered a pointless (and silly) waste of time and money.

Presumably, one makes an alcoholic beggar happy if one gives him money -which he then uses to make the shopkeeper happy by buying alcohol -who then makes the government happy by providing tax revenue. Can creating so much happiness be a waste of money?

Perhaps we should also abandon Christmas -because that too is an expensive hassle.... or maybe (as we read on Evan Davis's blog) we must (or at least the Americans must) continue to spend because otherwise it would trigger a global recession.

So perhaps we should give a big thanks to all those selfless people who sacrifice themselves by participating in the great European ritual that helps keep the world spinning.

  • 14.
  • At 12:06 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Ganesh Sittampalam wrote:

If the MEPs don't like it and nothing important happens, why don't they just refuse to go? That'd be pretty effective at exposing it as a waste of time.

  • 15.
  • At 12:07 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

I understand the French desire to retain an institution in their country, but it does seem ridiculous.

Is there no EU institution that could be sited there to satisfy France? The Courts of Justice & Auditors are in Luxembourg as an example.

Having said all that ... Strasbourg is a fantastic city and truly delightful.

  • 16.
  • At 12:15 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

undermines the EU's hard work to tackle climate change

This kind of stuff drives me insane. When will those clowns finally admit that climate change is a natural phenomenon and that we can do nothing about it but adapt?

All this climate scaremongering is done solely to secure more money and more powers. The environment is in the best state it has been in since the start of the industrial revolution.

Did you know the EU actually pays NGO's for the purpose of lobbying the EU? So that they can use the lobbying as 'evidence' that 'the people' demand action?

What they want is to create a new aristocracy, a socalled progressive elite that can run our affairs without us getting a say, and this elite will have many privileges which will slowly be denied to us (think flights, driving cars etc which will increasingly be taxed to pay for useless Brussels bureaucrats).

  • 17.
  • At 12:16 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • A Portuguese Socialist Europhile wrote:

Strasburg is important for France and Germany, it's a fine litle city and one of the names more associated with the EU.

Why not just putting the EP there once and for all? It's not like Belgium is in much state to argue against it anyhow.

  • 18.
  • At 12:17 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • M Rodriguez wrote:

I completely agree with the move to Strasbourg, or even that the permanent seat of the European Parliament (EP) is in the French city.
But why isn't France making sure that there is a High Speed Train (HST) connection from Strasbourg to Brussels, so all this talk of money and time waste and ecological footprint is ended? I think that without a HST between Brussels and Strasbourg it is just a matter of time (and it won't be too much) that the seat of the EP is completely transferred to Brussels.

By the way, I also think that it is a symbol of reconciliation, but nowadays the EP could also be placed in any Central European city, also as a symbol of reconciliation after overcoming the long division of Europe by the "Iron Curtain". I think that this was already mentioned in one of Mark's previous posts... Maybe Budapest or Prague as homage to their revolutionary attempts in 1956 and 1968?

Last, but not least, if multinational companies have several seats worldwide, and, even more, if South Africa can afford having three capitals, one for each branch of the division of powers (Pretoria for the Executive, Cape Town for the Legislative, and Bloemfontein for the Judiciary), why it can not be the same with the E.U. (Brussels for the executive, Strasbourg for the Legislative, and Luxembourg for the Judiciary)?
For sure, with a modern and fast train link between the three of them, that geographical dispersion would not affect work, and it would contribute to the clarity of the working of the E.U. - no more "Brussels has decided" in the media, without knowing who in the jungle of the European Institutions was responsible for a decision.

  • 19.
  • At 01:12 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Ray, Durham City wrote:

At last! Someone 'at the top' beginning to see the waste of time it all really is!
Good for him and he gets my vote next time.

  • 20.
  • At 01:14 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Darren Weekes wrote:

Why not shift the whole caboodle, permanently, to Strasbourg? As Mark says, it's a fantastic city - certainly far more interesting than dull and dowdy Brussels and would project a far better image for a European "capital city". And just think how much it would irk the Belgians! It would be worth it, just to do that!

  • 21.
  • At 01:15 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

I defy anyone to defend the monthly transfer of the European Parliament to Strasbourg.

  • 22.
  • At 01:53 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Irrational, hypocritical, wasteful, irrelavent, and just for show, the junkets are the quintessential European and EU substitute for an actual democratic government which respects its constituents, holds true to its principles, and is of genuine value. Of course it will remain unchanged. It's a symbol and constant reminder of why the entire concept of the EU has already proven an abject failure. Carry on.

  • 23.
  • At 03:40 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • andy williams wrote:

Not a lot more can be said by this article, it says it all really.

Forgive my scepticism, but I smell a rat here. Titley has resigned just a week after nominations closed to decide who will be on the lists for Labour at the 2009 elections.

In 2004 he was number 1 on the list in the North West, with Arlene McCarthy number 2. That would be the other way around this time. Does he not have the stomach for a fight any more? Or are there some complicated deals going on that we are unaware of? This timing is just too much of a co-incidence.

  • 25.
  • At 05:28 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • nads wrote:

Why don't they just STAY in Strasburg? I was always under the impression that the European Parliament IS in Strasburg, what are they doing away from it 3 weeks a month?

  • 26.
  • At 05:58 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Derek Tunnicliffe wrote:

I agree, it's a "money-wasting junket" in a delightful city. But moaning and hand-wringing won't change things, especailly as far as France is concerned.

The only solution likely to gain grudging support from the French would be some guaranteed long-term use of the Strasbourg facilities for, say, some departments, or committes - or something like that. Haven't a clue what this might be - do you?

  • 27.
  • At 06:06 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

"A money-wasting junket" aptly describes most of the EU's activities. How long did Gary Titley have to ride on the gravy train to learn close-up what most of us can see clearly from afar.

It's refreshing that he's candid about it though. FYI, Margot Wallstrom EU Commission Vice President and former Environment Commissioner has also made called for the traveling circus to settle down. The French, however, are likely to stick to their 'Non!'.

  • 28.
  • At 06:07 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Mark Nelson wrote:

Typical EU. At least Muslims only go to Mecca once a year. MEPs do it monthly! Stuck on a past of Franco-German hostility despite it being firmly a non-issue for more than half a century, but willing to waste time, money and the environment in the pilgrimage.

Very sad, also very amusing.

I seem to remember the old EU countries blaming the new EU countries for being stuck in the past. But, oh, I forgot, your Franco-German past is sacred.

Pathetic double standard that insults all non French or German EU citizens. Like I said, typical EU.

Mark, Tallinn.

  • 29.
  • At 08:12 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Neil Basset wrote:

Whether you are pro or anti E.U. perhaps this is something we can unite on. This charade needs to be brought to an end.

The pro E.U. people will get rid of a thorn in their side that can always be thrown at them. The anti-E.U. people may feel they are being listened to.

From the carbon emissions alone surely all can agree this needs to be brought to an end.

  • 30.
  • At 09:18 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

The Strasbourg junket, which costs European taxpayers hundreds of millions of euros every year, is an absolute disgrace and it is extraordinary that the media don't make more of this scandal. It panders to people's worst preconceptions about the EU.

It is often said that nothing will be done about it because the French will not allow the European Parliament to pull out of Strasbourg which of course derives substantial benefits from the monthly visit by thousands of well-heeled MEP's, officials and lobbyists. More to the point, I believe, is that it suits the Council - the member states, which frequently oppose Parliament in codecision matters - only too well that the Parliament should continue to be seen as a travelling circus, a waste of time and money.

If international reconciliation really were so important a concern, shouldn't the Parliament by now have been moved to... Frankfurt an der Oder?

  • 31.
  • At 09:53 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Lukas wrote:

I think the idea of building the European Institute of Technology in Strasburg using the infrastructure of the Parliament would be the best solution. Not only would France get something equivalent in prestige but it couuld effectively help Europe through top notch research.
Greetings from Medford (near MIT)

  • 32.
  • At 10:27 PM on 04 Dec 2007,
  • Andrew Rowntree wrote:

I’m afraid that details such as this are the very reason why I cannot understand the need for the EU in its present form. When an organisation trying to play it big on the world stage must demean itself with these petty little compromises it is impossible for it to achieve anything of significance for the good of its people in a timely manner. Imagine living in London if the Tube, all trains and buses shut down for one week a month (as nothing happens in Strasbourg).

Also if the entire Parliament must move to prop up a cities economy (as all historical reasons for the move have been largely forgotten) then surely it would be more beneficial for the Parliament to move to a new city every week of the year. I’m sure there are cities all over the EU desperate for this cash cow to arrive in town.

  • 33.
  • At 02:07 AM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • JP Lee wrote:

Agree that it's a waste of energy time and bucks. Why not just keep it all in Brussels and find an alternative for the EU Strasbourg site? I'm sure with all those new countries that have joined there must be some extra need for space. Just put a EU organisation in Strasbourg that will stay there and has no need for a traveling circus.
JPL- A Euro in Hong Kong.

  • 34.
  • At 06:07 AM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • Tomas Bech Madsen wrote:

If only fiscally responsible and common sense Britain had involved herself deeper in the EU over the years, France wouldn't have been strong enough to keep the Strasbourg circus.

  • 35.
  • At 07:25 AM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • steveh wrote:

So, we could save 20,000 tons of CO2 by scrapping the Strasbourg junket - image how much we could save by ditching the whole lot!
Wasn't the Maastrict treaty supposed to encourage localisation of EU functions?

Hmmm, isn't that the same reason that at one if not more f his predecessors gave. Before taking up lucrative lobbying contracts which involve far more travelling?

Not that Strasbourg isn't a waste of time, money and effort.

  • 37.
  • At 11:02 AM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • Rid wrote:

The Strasbourg plenary sessions are inscribed in the Treaties and France will certainly not give up this privilege (or right?).
Here's the solution : moving the European Parliament permanently to Strasbourg.
No more traveling road show then!

  • 38.
  • At 02:04 PM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • Paul Lashmana wrote:

Being a Belgian (and former Bruxellois), I'm hardly an unbiased party in this. So it's even less surprising that I agree that the round-trip to Strasbourg a shameful waste is. I do understand the politics behind it, but the question is how long this can continue.
Still, one could try to find other responsabilites that could be based there.

  • 39.
  • At 03:35 PM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • Kabri Ali wrote:

Strasbourg is the original seat of the European Parliament. Cutting ties with Brussels would be better to ensure that the institutions are spread out. This would avoid any possibility of creating a capital for an EU superstate.

And given that MEPS claim expenses for the trips that are way above the actual cost of their travel I'm sure they're not totally gutted about the monthly trek - it's a nice little earner. Gary Titley has been an MEP for over ten years so he's struggled on with it for quite a while and must have known about the trips before he stood for election.

Did he jump or was he pushed might be a better subject for this column...

  • 40.
  • At 04:12 PM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • Common Sense wrote:

The sentiments of this article are entirely correct. Only the French desire to retain the financial and prestige advantage built in to holding plenary sessions in Strasbourg, coupled with their unwillingness to consider perfectly reasonable alternatives which would allow a retention of advantage and prestige, albeit with some waste, whilst solving the problem of the sheer enormous volume of wasted time and greenhouse gas emissions stops progress on this matter. The oneseat campaign showed how much support there is for change, but the French have a veto and are being bloody-minded about it. It is time for the leaders of the other member states of the EU to put proper pressure on Sarkozy to get this anomaly sorted out.

  • 41.
  • At 04:21 PM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

The European Union? Wasting money for no good reason?

Surely not!

This case makes about as much sense as the entire EU Superstate project itself.

  • 42.
  • At 04:36 PM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • P.Dough wrote:

Fine work Mark in bringing it yet again to the fore, to the masses, and applause MEP Titley for being counted regarding this sickening waste of funding. Too much pomp, too much symbolism and oath-making is unhealthy: it's these incumbent, colossal wastes of time and money that have the stink of corruption and mismanagement. The circus must cease. A proper grip on the real work must be gained. A responsible decision must be taken to dump plenary sessions in Strasbourg, such waste just cannot be tolerated.

  • 43.
  • At 04:44 PM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • Justin wrote:

I am very pro-Europe but I have to agree with Mr. Titley.

Every time I read about the EU I am struck by the obvious colossal amount of red tape in which it operates.

The British Ministry Of Defence appears resourceful compared to the waste that goes on inside EU bodies.

The EU is an excellent organisation which will prove vital in protecting Europes collective interests in the 21st century.

But the waste that goes on within it is completley unnecessary and needs to be sorted out.

  • 44.
  • At 05:51 PM on 05 Dec 2007,
  • Sean Schneider wrote:

Dear Mark,

Loathed is probably the most gentle term you could use for how those who work at the EP feel about going to Strasbourg each month. In all my time there I cannot cite a single administrator or assistant that enjoyed the monthy trip. If it were up to the Parliament itself we would not do it, but the real decision is made by the goverments of the Member States, cemented at the Edinburgh Summit in 1992.

It was with some pleasure, after after touring the E.U. Parliamentary building in Strasburg, I tore up some E.U. flags while standing on its forecourt.

That building is an arrogant display of opulence. It is a demonstration of how massive amounts of material wealth can be wasted for no useful reason.

Add to that its obvious 'Pagan' symbology and one gets a taste of what the E.U. is really about.

This junket is ENJOYED by MEPs - French MEPs, that is. Anyway, MEPs are not allowed to decide where do they want to meet. The EU is dominated by France and Germany, and French president Nicolas Sarkozy has already made it clear he will never axe the Strasbourg seat. The climate? He doesn't care about it!

  • 47.
  • At 08:51 AM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • Luke wrote:

Being a belgian European, I aggree totally with Gary Titley.Stop the monthly meetings in Strasbourg !
Sarkozy will of course not accept that, because he thinks 'France' before Europe, we have to do the contrary and push Europe forward !
Even G.B. should do and think so !

I do not know somebody in Belgium who thinks Strasbourg meetings are a must for the growth and strenght of Europe.
Stop these costly meetings in Strasbourg a s a p !

Tell Mr. Ripley and G.B. in the same spirit to join the €, it is also a way to enforce the European idea!

  • 48.
  • At 09:54 AM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • James wrote:

If the MEPs don't like Strasbourg, why don't they just refuse to go? or if they do go, why don't they refuse to speak? I understand the Strasbourg deal was cooked up by the Council of Ministers rather than by MEPs, so why don't the MEPs just flex their muscles and say it is no longer acceptable.

  • 49.
  • At 10:49 AM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • AK wrote:

Why don't all of them, including the French MEPs, just refuse to go? They have been elected by and are the most representative body of the people in the EU (the ones who vote anyway!)- who's going to "make" them go and waste taxpayers' money? France and Germany are the biggest buddies in the EU and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Anyway, the main EU buildings are in Belgium, which seems a very good compromise. How about letting the French keep their awful CAP policy almost intact in return for giving up the circus to Strasbourg? That would be interesting!

  • 50.
  • At 02:51 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • Desmond FitzGerald wrote:

If Mr Titley is so concerned about the EU wasting money maybe he can lead by example and publish receipts for all the expenses he claims and put a motion to the Parliament to end Strasbourg and to help ith ave a chance of passing include an add on to allow the city be offered incentives to find a replacement income scource even if they clash with current EU regulations.

Just walking away because doing something to change the system is too much like hard work pretty much sums up Mr Titley's generation of politicans - from all parties.

He might also take some time to wonder why it is that if he is leader of Labour MEPs why it is that no one has ever heard of him?

  • 51.
  • At 02:52 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

I quite agree - I used to dislike it as an MEP assistant (although I enjoyed it when I didn't go down - it was a week of peace and quiet to get some work done). When I swapped to being a lobbyist it had a brief charm, as it's a slightly less frantic experience, but once that had faded it once more became a burden.

If you oppose it you can sign the petition http://www.oneseat.eu/ but despite over one million signatories it hasn't had an impact. That's because the EP's location is put down in paper in the Amsterdam Treaty and you need a unanimous decision of the member states to change it (including France).

  • 52.
  • At 03:43 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • David Baugh wrote:

A propos the article about the redundancy of Strasbourg in terms of getting EC business done: it would seem to some of us an appropriate emblem for the EC as a whole i.e. needless posturing at the - considerable - expense of reality.

  • 53.
  • At 03:45 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • Christopher wrote:

I totally agree and I ask why more people are not saying this !! its a about time to sort it out its a complete waste, but I'm sure that Sarko will use this a chip with the EU and not give it up with out getting something out of it for France !

When will we give up this Nationalist approach to Europe and start talking about the European interest I'm sick to death of hearing Gorden Brown harp on about the "British national interest" starting to sound like the BNP

  • 54.
  • At 07:37 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • Richard Carlos Severini wrote:

Wouldn't another reason for keeping the Parliament in Strasbourg, and even reinforce its position there, be the presence in the same city of the Council of Europe, an older and much larger international organisation than the EU, with which there is a lot of cooperation on many levels ?

  • 55.
  • At 08:06 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • Elisabeth Wittens wrote:

At least the Parliament in Strasbourg has some economy of scale and brings the EU into direct proximity with the (wider, older) Council of Europe. And let's not forget the Secretariat in Luxembourg, a third key stopover for MEPs: closer to Brussels, but with a decent train link long overdue. Why not shift that to Brussels too?

Surely travel is part and parcel of being an MEP or European official. There is similar environmental and cost wastage in the current policy of planting decentralised EU agencies across Europe (among the fastest growing parts of the EU apparatus). Yet each time a new one comes along, EU member states compete to have it placed in one of their cities.

  • 56.
  • At 10:36 PM on 06 Dec 2007,
  • AK wrote:

Why don't all of them, including the French MEPs, just refuse to go? They have been elected by and are the most representative body of the people in the EU (the ones who vote anyway!)- who's going to "make" them go and waste taxpayers' money? France and Germany are the biggest buddies in the EU and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Anyway, the main EU buildings are in Belgium, which seems a very good compromise. How about letting the French keep their awful CAP policy almost intact in return for giving up the circus to Strasbourg? That would be interesting!

  • 57.
  • At 12:31 AM on 07 Dec 2007,
  • Terence Johnson wrote:

While there are good historical reasons why the parliament was set up like this originally, those have now been outlived largely thanks to the success of the European Union.

It is now time to do away with the constant shuttling back and forth. Strasbourg need not lose out entirely, because the facility could be retained as a standby location, and used to host intergovernmental conferences and similar events (much like the UN facility in Geneva, which can host the General Assembly if New York is unavailable).

The economic growth the Strasbourg has enjoyed as a result of being a host city for many years has also reached the point of sustainability, and with the new high speed link to Paris, the city will be remain better off than one might expect.

  • 58.
  • At 12:31 PM on 07 Dec 2007,
  • Angryjohn wrote:

Does anyone have anything good to say about this issue? Depsite all those petitions and signatures, has anyone in the EU actually defended it?

  • 59.
  • At 01:12 PM on 07 Dec 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Brussels is not enough as a powerful symbol of successful Dutch-French cooperation?

  • 60.
  • At 07:16 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Norbert wrote:

MEPs do like Strasbourg, what they don't like is travelling there. The city is awkward to reach and doesn't have enough hotel beds available. A good business model would be to set up a large hotel there, you'd be safe on income for as long as France is in the EU. I imagine it's difficult to get a permit there as you're threatening the existing ones...

The scandal is not the fact that the parliament is holding plenary sessions there. What is scandalous is rather the fact that plenary sessions are often attended by less than one third of MEPs. But that means that they're already doing what many people are suggesting in this blog - just stay away. (Whether they do so to save the environment is unknown) You see: even if the MEPs do refuse to go to Strasbourg, it doesn't make a difference. Strasbourg is there to stay - profit from it while you can!

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