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Single Seat - Constitutional arguments support common sense

28 May 2013

Single Seat - Constitutional arguments support common sense

The European Parliament’s members must ultimately be allowed to decide how the institution should organise its own business: that is the message from a hearing at the Parliament in Brussels organised by its Constitutional Affairs Committee.

The European Parliament’s members must ultimately be allowed to decide how the institution should organise its own business: that is the message from a hearing at the Parliament in Brussels organised by its Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Most importantly, the will of MEPs should be paramount in deciding the key question of where the Parliament holds its sessions, the hearing was told.

Ashley Fox MEP, a leading figure in Single Seat Campaign to scrap wasteful parliamentary sessions in Strasbourg, helped organise the hearing and is the co-author of a report for the committee on “The location of the seats of the EU institutons”.

In advance of the meeting, the Conservative MEP for South West England said: “Most MEPs want the parliament to sit only in Brussels and that majority is growing all the time. They know that the monthly trips to Strasbourg are a huge waste of money, time and energy.

“The travelling circus is an attack on the environment, an insult to the taxpayer and an affront to common sense.”

Most of the European Parliament’s work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 754 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France.

The trek costs £160 million a year and needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Earlier this year the European Parliament voted by 429 MEPs to 184 to call for a single seat. However, stopping the yoyo travel schedule would require a treaty change.

Mr. Fox has launched an e-petition –

www.stopthestrasbourgcircus.com

– which aims to persuade the UK Government to intervene on this key issue by pressing the EU Council to amend treaties to ditch the dual-seat farce.

Experts addressing the hearing included Olivier Costa, of the Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Bordeaux, Richard Whitaker of Leicester University, Herwig Hoffman of Luxembourg University, and Andreas Maurer of Innsbruck University.

Professor Costa told the hearing the parliament’s inability to decide its seat impacted not only on the physical organisation of the assembly but also on its agenda and reactivity.

Professor Whitaker said MEPs suffered negative media coverage over the seat of the parliament even though they were not permitted to decide it. Giving them power over their location would increase the accountability of MEPs for the way they conducted their business.

Mr. Fox said: “The practical and economic arguments for ending the dual-seat system are clear and undeniable. I hope today’s hearing will also start to put in place the key constitutional, legal and philosophical arguments which will underpin our campaign.”

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