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A tale of two cities - The seat of the European Parliament

November 25, 2013 7:54 PM
By Deborah Newton-Cook
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Recently the European Parliament was in Strasbourg for a plenary session.

single seatNow the fact that the European Parliament has to go to Strasbourg at all is a legacy of the Second World War. Strasbourg has changed nationality five times in the last 100 years or so, between Germany and France due to various wars.

But it is a city of huge significance to both these two countries, and also for Luxembourg.

Now when Sir John Major MP, and then Prime Minister, chaired a European Summit in Edinburgh in 1992, when the UK held the Presidency of the European Council, the seat of the European Parliament was re-affirmed as Strasbourg.

The Members of the European Parliament do not have a say in this matter.

They have voted many times to move it officially to Brussels, where they meet most of the time.

This issue has been referred to the European Court of Justice on various occasions, but each time the European Parliament loses because it requires a change in the Treaty, and by a unanimous decision, of now 28 member states.

The irony is that the UK now does want the seat of the European Parliament to be in Brussels.

Because it costs the European Parliament at least €200m per year to attend 12 sessions of four days in Strasbourg.

To say nothing of the costs incurred by the European Commission and Council to attend as well.

Which is, of course, paid for by our taxpayers' money.

A few years ago, a Swedish Liberal MEP - now the Swedish European Commissioner - Cecilia Malmström launched a "One Seat" campaign and over 1million citizens signed a petition to get the seat fixed in Brussels.

To no avail.

So in November the subject came up, yet again.

And again, the European Parliament voted to have its seat fixed in Brussels.

This is a clearly expressed desire by our elected MEPs for this to happen.

Bill Newton Dunn MEP and Strasbourg trunks

Bill Newton Dunn with his Strasbourg Trunks

France, in particular, exercises its veto to block this.

But the vote was not a vote against France. Nor indeed, Strasbourg which is a beautiful University city.

Just a vote for sanity and efficiency: financial, political and practical.

It would also save a considerable amount of CO2 emissions, as there are no direct flights outside of France to actually get to Strasbourg. And to say nothing of the CO2 emissions from lorries which transport all the trunks up and down the road between the two Cities.

There is no end to the suggestions of how the buildings could be used.

And on a full time basis - Not just 48 days per year!

Which in times of national austerity in various member states is incongruous, to put it mildly.

Why should we citizens put up with this nonsense?

Just ask an MEP's assistant if they enjoy having to go to Strasbourg.

They all say No, too.

As I have worked as an MEP's assistant for 10 years I know what it is like.

U-KIP East Midlands MEP Roger Helmer and team hard at work in the European Parliament again…

Roger Helmer - Did he forget to vote or just sleep?

Now how did UKIP's East Midlands MEPs - Roger Helmer and Derek Clark vote?

Well, they had an opportunity to vote for "One Seat" for the European Parliament. In Brussels.

But they did not.

They abstained.

As it was the report was passed by a large majority: for 483, against 141, abstentions 34.

In fact three UKIP MEPs abstained, none voted against, but none in favour either.

Nigel Farage had a good excuse, because he was in hospital recovering from a back operation.

But really.

If they make public statements about the EU being a waste of money and then have a vote to say that we want to save a minimum of €200 million of taxpayers' money PER YEAR, by fixing the seat of the European Parliament in Brussels, then I would have voted in favour of it.

As did all our Liberal Democrat MEPs.

Well, at least you get what is written on the tin when you vote Liberal Democrat. Unlike UKIP, or Labour for that matter.