MEPs to decide over EU Parliament's Strasbourg site
(AFP) Backers of a contested bid to move the European Parliament's seat from Strasbourg in France to Brussels scored a point Wednesday when a vote ruled that MEPs should have the last word.
A resolution adopted by 483 votes to 141, with 34 abstentions, called for a change in the European Union treaty to allow parliament itself, rather than member states by unanimous vote, to decide on where it should sit.
At present, parliament sits either in the Belgian capital or in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, with more than 700 deputies and officials commuting between the two for a few days a month.
Administration of the parliament is based separately in Luxembourg.
The parliament would be "more effective, cost-efficient and respectful of the environment if it were located in a single place," the resolution said.
It estimated extra annual costs of the shuttle between the two cities at 156-204 million euros, including the additional cost of the Strasbourg site at 103 million euros.
Carbon dioxide emissions linked to the to-ing and fro-ing were estimated at between 11,000 and 19,000 tonnes.
"The continuation of the monthly migration between Brussels and Strasbourg has amongst most EU citizens become a symbolic, negative issue" at a time when governments are making socially painful cuts in budgets, the resolution noted.
A symbol of Franco-German reconciliation when decided on in the 1950s, the decision to give the seat to the French city on the German border is laid down in the EU's treaty which cannot be changed without a unanimous agreement -- a change France would never agree to.
In their text however, MEPs proposed using another article enabling parliament to kick off a treaty revision procedure after commissioning an opinion survey to gauge European citizens' sentiment on the matter.
French MEP Philippe Boulland slammed the resolution, saying it was simply "not serious" to "reduce the parliament to a cost representing 10 cents per year per inhabitant."
But British MEP Ashley Fox, one of the sponsors of the resolution, said only four MEPs stood up to voice their opposition "and they were all French."
British eurosceptic party UKIP was highly critical of the move, saying it was "an empty PR exercise by MEPs embarrassed by the ridiculous waste, but they already know it is a waste of time and effort for both France and Luxembourg will shoot this fox.
"A veto looms and MEPs know it," it said.