BIG NEWS: In landmark vote, MEPs back call for single seat by massive majority; propose to initiate future treaty change - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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BIG NEWS: In landmark vote, MEPs back call for single seat by massive majority; propose to initiate future treaty change

Wednesday, 20 November 2013
In a landmark vote, the European Parliament today took a major step towards scrapping the notorious Strasbourg ‘Travelling Circus’. Today MEPs (in Strasbourg) adopted a report co-authored by South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox setting out a roadmap for reform and argues that the EU Treaty should be revised in accordance with their will.

"This vote is an overwhelming endorsement of our campaign to scrap the parliament's dual seat system,Mr Fox said after the vote. “So long as such outrageous wastefulness continues, I do not think MEPs can look voters in the eye. Today's vote is not the end of the travelling circus, but it may be the beginning of the end."

The report, which is not legally-binding, was passed with 483 votes in favour to 141 against.

All of the South West MEPs – with the exception of the Earl of Dartmouth who was ABSENTvoted in favour.

The Earl later dismissed this move asnot worth the paper it is written on. It is an empty PR exercise.” Whereas Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson said: “Travelling to Strasbourg every month is bonkers when most of the EU’s work gets done in Brussels. It is not only wasting public money, but the environmental costs are also astronomical. When MPs at Westminster criticise the waste of money involved I remind them that the House of Commons, along with other national parliaments, voted to ratify the treaty negotiated under the chairmanship of then UK Prime Minister John Major.

The report, drafted jointly with German Green MEP Gerald Hafner, focuses on the economic and environmental costs of the dual-seat system, as well as the weight of public sentiment which is deeply opposed. It was voted through the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament on 14th October by 22 votes to four.

It does NOT specifically ask for the single seat to be in Brussels, leaving room for the French to still make a convincing case for Strasbourg. It would be “more effective, cost-efficient and respectful of the environment if it were located in a single place,” the resolution states.

In his speech during the Parliamentary debate on the report on Tuesday, Mr Fox said: “We all understand why Strasbourg was chosen as the seat of the Council of Europe after the Second World War. And we understand why the first European parliamentary assembly chose to sit here as well. It was a symbol of reconciliation between France and Germany. It was a good choice. But times change and what was a symbol of reconciliation in 1950 is now a symbol of waste: a waste of time, a waste of energy and a waste of taxpayers’ money."

"If Members approve this tomorrow, we will have started an important process of reform. We will save hours of time and make this Parliament more effective. We will save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year and, most important of all, we will save hundreds of millions of euros of taxpayers’ money.

Speaking in the debate, fellow South West Conservative MEP Giles Chichester, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Petitions, said: “The monthly migration between Brussels and Strasbourg has become a symbolic negative issue for most EU citizens. We asked the administration to make a comprehensive analysis of the potential savings for our budget if Parliament had only one place of work. We called on Parliament to debate the matter and, if an appropriate vote is recorded on this report, on which I congratulate my colleague and his fellow rapporteur, we recommend that Parliament initiate a Treaty revision procedure under Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union.

Concluding the debate, Mr Fox noted: “We have had a lot of contributions tonight, but interestingly, only four Members have spoken against the report – and all four of them are French! I think it is quite amusing when French colleagues say that to attack Strasbourg is to attack Europe. Nonsense! Nonsense on stilts. It is pro-European to be pro-reform because the issue of this travelling circus – which is a bad joke with European taxpayers – brings the EU into disrepute, and French Members here should confess what they are doing.

As expected, French national delegations voted against a key paragraph that would commit the European Parliament itself to initiate an ordinary treaty revision procedure, to propose the necessary changes that would allow the Parliament to decide on its location.

The response by Paris was immediate and categorical: “Our position remains the same: that we are attached to the EU seat in Strasbourg,” Romain Nadal, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France, told the New York Times by telephone. “It is a matter involving not only France but all Europeans. Strasbourg is a symbolic city, one of Europe’s capitals.

In spite of the strong calls for a single seat of the European Parliament, the monthly meetings in Strasbourg are set in the European Treaties and can be changed only if national governments reach unanimous decision in the Council.

The fight continues.

Read also:
Strasbourg EP seat ‘lies dormant for 89 per cent of the year’ (Policy Review)

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