EU lawmakers still stuck with Strasbourg

6th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

STRASBOURG, April 6, 2006 (AFP) - A group of EU lawmakers mounted a revolt against the EU parliament's long-disputed second home in France this week, but left empty-handed again Thursday at the end of a monthly trudge to Strasbourg.

STRASBOURG, April 6, 2006 (AFP) - A group of EU lawmakers mounted a revolt against the EU parliament's long-disputed second home in France this week, but left empty-handed again Thursday at the end of a monthly trudge to Strasbourg.

A campaign to abandon Strasbourg, highlighted by more than 100 deputies in the latest protest, stands little chance of ending the monthly mass migrations to the eastern French city, chiefly due to stiff resistance from Paris.

To the disgust of many Europeans and a small band of cost-conscious EU lawmakers, the EU assembly forces thousands of deputies, aides, lobbyists and journalists to swap Brussels for the capital of the Alsace region for one week every month.

Trying to revive past revolts, a group of MEPs sought this week to stall setting the schedule for Strasbourg sessions in 2007 while they try to garner support for keeping the parliament in Brussels.

Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a partisan of turning the parliament's hulking Strasbourg headquarters into a European university, says his colleagues need a blunt wake-up call.

But he lamented: "As long as member states remain attached to Strasbourg, there will be 12 sessions in Strasbourg" per year.

Although most of its meetings are in Brussels, under EU treaty rules Strasbourg is officially the headquarters of the parliament and a reverse of roles would require unanimous accord by the EU's 25 member states.

Since they can do little to change the situation, reform-minded MEPs want at least to make their gripes be heard.

To that end, a member of the Liberal political group, Alexander Alvaro, has garnered the support of about 140 mostly British, Dutch and Scandinavian MEPs for his "Parliamentary Reform Campaign".

The young German euro deputy has penned a declaration decrying the use of the Strasbourg facilities for only 48 days a year as "a considerable waste, seen as such by the public and which harms the European Union's reputation".

The text, which Alvaro hopes will win the backing of all 732 MEPs, stresses that "all necessary facilities" are in the Belgian capital.

The Brussels base also "makes it easier to have exchanges with high-level officials", Alvaro said.

His colleague and reform partisan Jorgo Chatzimarkakis said that he had "nothing against Strasbourg. But apart from more parking and bigger offices, we are fed up of having to shuttle back and forth."

According to him, the mass monthly march to Strasbourg costs EUR 200 million per year.

"There's not only the transport costs, but the heating and cleaning costs when we are not there," he said.

The text suggests that Strasbourg could be compensated for the loss of the EU assembly by transferring regular EU summits — currently held four times a year in Brussels — to the French city.

Chatzimarkakis said the buildings could even provide a headquarters for the European Technology Institute, which EU leaders agreed last month to create on the model of the world-famous US Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MTI).

But France has rejected such proposals outright.

French Socialist MEP Catherine Trautmann called for "the unfair battle against Strasbourg to be stopped" and pointed out that Brussels backers had already secured a big expansion of the facilities there as well as the reduction of the number of Strasbourg sessions.

The former Strasbourg mayor said that parliament "gains in image and independence" by not being in Brussels all the time.

Rallying to Strasbourg's defence, conservative French MEP Alain Lamassoure said that the Strasbourg question "touches on a symbol of European construction".

In any case, there is "no chance in the near future" that Paris would abandon Strasbourg, Lamassoure said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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