La Treizième Étoile: 13/03/11 - 20/03/11 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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'The only thing hurt is French pride' - Ashley Fox on the EP's vote to cull Strasbourg travelling circus

Friday, 18 March 2011

South West MEP Ashley Fox, whose amendment to reduce the number of plenary sessions held in Strasbourg was recently adopted by a large majority, had a chat with the EUobserver in Brussels about his efforts to put an end to the Parliament's monthly commute to Strasbourg.

The amendment brought about an angry response by France's EU Affairs minister who threatened to take the Parliament to court, but Mr Fox said the only thing hurt as a result of this 'symbolic' vote was French pride.


France to take South West MEP’s Strasbourg amendment to court

Tuesday, 15 March 2011
The French government has announced its intention to launch immediate legal action against an amendment adopted by the European Parliament last week to reduce the number of plenary sessions held in the Strasbourg seat from 12 to 11 in 2012 and 2013.

The amendment, tabled by Conservative South West MEP Ashley Fox, was passed in a secret ballot by MEPs on Wednesday and will mean one of the four-day plenary meetings scheduled to be held after the summer recess in September or October 2012 and 2013 will be removed and instead combined with another session to make a “double-session” over the course of a single week.

In a communiqué, Laurent Wauquiez, the French minister for EU affairs, said that the vote by MEPs was “regrettable and inopportune” and claimed holding two sessions in one week would “impede the effective functioning of parliamentary work”.

He continued to say that the vote “ignored” the protocol in the EU treaties that states that Strasbourg is the seat of the European Parliament, reiterating his previous comment that “France will do everything in our power to protect the fact that the European Parliament is based in and remains in Strasbourg”.

But Mr Fox has since hit back at the French government, who he says have made a serious tactical error in opting to challenge this decision before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

It was the overwhelming will of the European Parliament, right across the political spectrum, to cut down on the number of journeys that we make between Brussels and Strasbourg,he said in a statement.

France needs to realise that it is fighting a futile battle. The significant support in the parliament for reducing our time in Strasbourg is backed up by even stronger support among our voters. If this court case succeeds then we will go to plan B and propose a three-day session per month, instead of four.

If France loses this case, the gates will be open to further reductions in the number of Strasbourg sessions. If it wins, we will find another way of cutting down on the waste associated with the travelling circus. Either way, the French government has made a tactical mistake in taking this matter to court.

This is, however, not the first time the French government has taken a decision of the European Parliament before the ECJ: in 1996 the court upheld the treaty obligation to hold 12 sessions in Strasbourg after MEPs voted to hold just 11 sessions in Strasbourg in 1992 and 1993, and ten sessions in 1994.

Yet while the Treaty does stipulate that the Parliament must hold 12 monthly plenary sessions in Strasbourg, it doesn’t say how long those sessions should last – which is most likely the reason France did not head back to court over the Parliament’s decision not to sit on Fridays resulting in the current four-day sessions.


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