Friday, March 11, 2011

Single Seat

This week I led the way within the Socialists & Democrats group in gathering support for a cross-party initiative to condense two Strasbourg sessions into one. I am delighted to say that we were successful in this campaign as on Tuesday a majority of MEPs voted to approve our amendment.

This is not as arcane as it sounds.  It is a win for the taxpayer as it will decrease the costs involved in what has become known as the 'Travelling Circus' of MEPs moving between Brussels and Strasbourg for 12 monthly sessions. The amendment will also help decrease the European Parliament's carbon footprint.

As a result of a deal made by Europe’s leaders, including John Major, in 1992, MEPs have to have 12 sessions in Strasbourg a year. Strasbourg as a city holds important historical significance for Europe, having changed hands between France and Germany five times during the years 1870 to 1945. The fact that the city hosts the European Parliament symbolises the important role European integration has played in avoiding war in Europe on the scale seen during the two World Wars of the 20th century. Whilst I understand the historical and political importance of Strasbourg for the European movement, we have to think about the practical implications.

The amendment passed this week will only mean one less trip to Strasbourg a year, however it is part of a broader issue. I am a supporter of having a single seat for the European Parliament, which makes sense for many reasons. Firstly, the European Parliament is the only elected assembly in the world which does not have one sole parliament. Strasbourg itself costs over 200 million Euros a year and produces a large and totally unnecessary carbon footprint. Given the amount of work we do at EU level to combat climate change, this kind of waste is unjustifiable.

Many people agree.  Over 1.3 million people have signed an online petition to scrap Strasbourg and a majority of MEPs also share my view on this issue. MEPs, however, are not in a position to abolish Strasbourg as only a unanimous vote by the governments of EU countries could do this. Hopefully this calendar amendment will raise the issue of the single seat and force member states into coming round to the most sensible, cost effective decision to end the travelling circus once and for all.


1 comment:

  1. Quite right Glenis. To Edinburgh's shame the original deal was struck in Scotlan's capital by John Major - the Tories are to blame!