EU parliament should house migrants, Green lawmakers say

9th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

The little-used European Parliament's huge futuristic building in the French city of Strasbourg should be turned over to shelter migrants fleeing to Europe, Green lawmakers said Wednesday.

As European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker told parliament of plans for the 28-nation EU to take in some 160,000 refugees, Green party head Philippe Lamberts said MEPs could do their bit by simply decamping to their other building in the Belgian capital Brussels.

"This parliament where we are gathered today, well we use it only 50 days of the year," Lamberts said as lawmakers debated Juncker's address.

"For the other 300 days, the 750 MEP offices, all heated, all with their own shower cubicle, remain empty and useless," he said.

"We propose that this ... perfectly equipped building be used as a temporary home for the migrants and refugees while we do our work in Brussels."

Many already want to do so, bemoaning the time and cost of moving between Strasbourg and Brussels.

But France jealously guards the privilege -- and economic benefits -- of having the assembly meet in this eastern border city.

The Strasbourg building, which sits like a glass-fronted version of Rome's Colosseum on the outskirts of the city, was inaugurated in 1999 by then French president Jacques Chirac as part of a prestige project to host parliament's 12 plenary sessions a year.

For the rest of the time, MEPs work in Brussels, home to the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, and the European Council which groups the bloc's 28 political leaders.

There have been repeated efforts to put parliament once and for all in Brussels -- more than five hours by train to the north -- but France has stoutly fended them off.

French conservative MEP Anne Sander said Lamberts' suggestion was "wacky" and "completely demeaned serious debate on the migrants."

"It is not serious! It seems that any argument can be used to attack Strasbourg, even that!"

© 2015 AFP

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