Most MEPs want end to monthly Strasbourg trek


MEPs ARE agitating anew to halt the European Parliament’s commute to Strasbourg, a practice criticised for decades as a wasteful inconvenience but enshrined in the EU treaties.

In a study published yesterday, MEPs and their staff cited “emotional and physical stress” arising from the practice in which thousands of officials move en masse from Brussels for the parliament’s monthly plenary session.

They also criticised damage to the assembly’s reputation due to the vast expense of the “two-seat” system, which is estimated to cost as much as €200 million per year. Every month a fleet of trucks carries files by road between the two cities as MEPs shuttle by rail, road and air between them, something which leads to frequent complaints about the environmental cost of the arrangement.

“There is no way the European Parliament can continue to justify the waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money, the detrimental impact the commute has on the environment due to unwarranted travel,” said Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell.

However, France defends the system because of the economic benefits it brings to Strasbourg. The country has a veto over any change because the two-seat system cannot be scrapped without a unanimous vote of member states.

“It is clear that given a free choice most MEPs today would choose Brussels, where the parliament already conducts most of its work,” said a report for a campaign group chaired by British Liberal Democrat MEP Edward McMillan Scott.

The report, titled A Tale of Two Cities, said most MEPs believe the cost of maintaining two seats cannot be justified.

“They resent the additional stress and the loss of productivity caused by the monthly trek to Strasbourg, and they are concerned about the impact of the two-seat arrangement on the parliament’s public image.”

A University of Zurich survey of 417 MEPs and parliamentary officials found that 88 per cent of respondents said the EU treaties should be changed to allow the parliament decide its own seat.

“The two-seat arrangement is an anachronism,” said Mr McMillan-Scott. “The European Parliament serves 500 million people. In today’s climate, the economic and environmental cost of two seats can no longer be justified.”

MEPs also criticised the fact that the parliament’s official secretariat is based in Luxembourg. “When it’s cold in a meeting room in Brussels, you have to phone Luxembourg,” said a German MEP quoted in the report.