MEPs to press for treaty change for Single Seat following ECJ ruling

Today the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in Case C-237/11 (Joined Cases C-237/11, C-238/11), France v European Parliament against MEPs’ decision to merge two Strasbourg plenary sessions into one week in October.

Senior Liberal Democrat MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, European Parliament Vice President and co-founder of the cross-party Single Seat campaign commented:

The ruling is regrettable, even though we expected it. There is now a compelling case for a change to the Treaty to remove this wasteful obligation imposed by EU governments. We urge governments to respond to MEPs’ recent overwhelming vote for a single seat as well as public demand. MEPs, who are facing elections in 2014, will now examine their new powers to initiate the treaty change necessary to achieve a single seat.

This week the French government is halving its three-year subsidy to Strasbourg’s European activities from €117 million to €47 million. The figures speak for themselves.

On 23 October 88 per cent of MEPs voted for a single seat. MEPs also invited EU governments to produce a roadmap for change by 30 June 2013. Mr McMillan-Scott added:

It is indefensible – especially in this economic climate – that governments waste some €180 million each year by forcing the European Parliament to meet for four days a month at its official ‘seat’ in Strasbourg and keep half its staff in Luxembourg, not to speak of the extra 19,000 tonnes of CO2 produced by this travelling circus. MEPs want to provide an efficient oversight of the EU’s political institutions – which are all based in Brussels, the parliament’s principle place of work. Parliament is about to examine its new powers to initiate treaty change.

So far 1.27 million European have signed a petition to base the European Parliament only in Brussels. MEPs are preparing to reply to that petition.

On 9 March 2010, the European Parliament voted by 357 votes to 255, with 41 abstentions and by 356 votes to 253, with 35 abstentions in secret ballots for amendments to the 2012 and 2013 calendars of its monthly four-day sessions at its official ‘seat’ in Strasbourg. These amendments allowed two of the Parliament’s sessions to be held during the same week in October – sessions of two days each. France – joined by Luxembourg – challenged the decision in the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The oral hearing was held in Luxembourg on 5 June 2012.

On 6 September 2012, the ECJ’s Advocate-General Paolo Mengozzi produced his 78-paragraph Opinion which on the one hand sustained France’s contention that 12 sessions a year in Strasbourg “were in the Treaty”, but said that the length of the sessions was not stipulated, pointing out however that any modification of their length needs to be “coherent”. He also invited the parliament to invoke its powers under article 48 of the EU Treaty to seek treaty change and noted the strong opposition of the Parliament to its current arrangements.

The additional cost of the two meeting places, plus maintaining some 50 per cent of its administrative staff in Luxembourg, amounts to €180 million and 19.000 tonnes of CO2.

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  • to peter.tyzack, do you think all UK government departments should be in Whitehall? Is it really a problem to have administration in different places around the country?

    Clearly having a parliament in two different places is wasteful, but surely, much of the administration can be anywhere.

  • Jedi,
    if sums like 180m and 19,000 tonnes are ‘window dressing’ then your windows are much bigger than most.

    Whether or not you accept the legitimacy of EU institutions these competences have been assumed because national governments are incompetent.

    Look at the European Arrest Warrant for example – many dangerous criminals who formerly escaped across borders are now subject to justice. You’re implying that this is a bad thing, and you sound like a fool for it.

  • Can’t the MEP’s make a point by refusing to actually go to Strasbourg and boycotting the process entirely?

    If they didn’t actually go there, then de facto the European Parliament would only have one seat.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Dec '12 - 9:41am

    A boycott would not make sense as it would mean the Commission and Council would get their way on everything discussed in the Strasbourg sessions. Cutting off your nose…

  • @Alex Macfie
    “A boycott would not make sense as it would mean the Commission and Council would get their way on everything discussed in the Strasbourg sessions. Cutting off your nose…”

    What legitimacy would their decisions have if MEPs were simply not present? Surely there has to be quorum for sessions to operate?

  • jedi,
    “extradition treaties before the EAW… worked quite well.”

    It’s an opinion, I guess. But I don’t think complacency on crime is much of a vote winner.

  • jedi,
    your view of legitimacy is one-sided.

    Legitimacy is more than just consent to and the creation of political authority, it also involves the moral and practical justification based of the exercise of such political authority – that authority must be effective.

    Even the harshest anti-European can’t claim the EU isn’t hugely effective in many areas, and I don’t see how dealing with global issues such as the changing climate, internet protocols or trafficking networks can be helped without competent offices to hold accountable.

  • jedi,
    the EAW is a political triumph, now we have it we must ensure it isn’t abused. We have asserted a competency, now we must accept the responsibility that goes with it.

    Apparently you’re not competent and don’t like responsibility. I wouldn’t vote for you.

  • Sarah’s position on EAW’s seems perfectly OK to me.

    They are useful and should be kept:

    But need careful monitoring (as above).

    That’s pretty much my position with the police having power’s of arrest in the UK – I still believe in that but don’t think that the detail and operation is above criticism.

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