Following on from my recent post about the European Parliament and Strasbourg, I am very happy that one MEP is doing something about. Swedish Liberal Cecilia Malmström has launched www.oneseat.eu – an online petition calling for one seat of the European Parliament, and for that seat to be in Brussels. So go ahead and sign! It will take less than a minute of your time. I suspect that a certain guy who used to be chair of JEF in Sweden and who works for Cecilia might well be behind the initiative… 🙂

12 Comments

  1. Emmanuel Vallens

    @Alison:

    what keeps the Parliament weak is the fact that (1) the choice of the Commission does not depend on the parliamentary majority elected at European elections, (2) it cannot initiate legislation and has to rely on the Commission’s goodwill for that, (3) it has the last world over only half of the EU expenses, and (4) no say at all on the resources side of the EU budget.

    Don’t change this and having the EP in Brussels will not make it stronger, but simply strengthen the ivory tower effect of the EU more or less inbred élite.
    Change this, and I can assure that it will not make any difference if the EP is in Strasbourg, because, even in Strasbourg it will be taken seriously by the Commission and the Council.

    @Chris:

    It is a French site, because I do not know any other easy to access online archive of the opening ceremony of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary Assembly and to Churchill’s speech. If you feel that the French are not entitled to speak about Europe just because they’re French (surely the French are bad and only think about themselves while the rest of Europe is nice (especially the most anti-Strasbourg and pro-European nations such as Britain, the Netherlands, Poland etc…) and care for for the European idea), you might want to have a look at http://www.ena.lu/mce.cfm, a very good Luxembourg’s website.

    Plus, I’m not suggesting the EU (i.e. you) should pay for the investments to be made in Strasbourg: that’s the responsibility of the French and local authorities in Strasbourg, because THEY are ultimately responsible for the bad connections with the rest of Europe.

    But your last sentence says it all as well: this petition is about money. It is driven by mere short-term financial considerations, and that was the point I was making in my third message on this page.

  2. Emmanuel,
    The fact that the link you posted is pointing to a french site says it all, it not european, its about the french influence on Europe. For me, Strasbough stands for national influences, Brussels for the european thought. Therefore, Brussels would be my choice always.
    Your reply that Strasbough would be fine if we invest enough in it, is of course ridiculous. This petition is against spending a lot of money, not about sending even more money to a single location.

  3. Alison

    Strasbourg is only “historic capital of Europe’s democracy and reconciliation between peoples” if you are French or German (I might possibly include Luxembourg too, if you insist). For most of the rest of the EU’s 300 million citizens, it does not carry this emotional symbolism. What sending the EP to Strasbourg symbolises is an EU which is arrogant and wasteful of its taxpayers money; which is designed to serve political elites and not the people it claims to represent; and which shows contempt for the citizens and proper democratic decision-making. Keeping the EP away from decision-making in BXL makes the EP weak and will keep it weak. One last point, people in the Council would love it if the EP were in Strasbourg all the time: they would never have to go over there and explain themselves.

  4. Robert

    Currently, the EU is moving away from symbolism to practicalities and that’s how the choice of location should be addressed. EU citizens would be unlikely to look favourably on a choice that is politically motivated and will cost more to ‘manage’ (e.g. travel) than other locations. They would be even more annoyed if EU money was spent after the event improving transport links when that cost could have been avoided.

    That isn’t an abstract argument anymore – it is really the core of whether the EU can survive and re-connect with its citizens. Arbitrary, wasteful decisions would have disasterous consequences.

    It’s worth noting two things:

    1) Strasbourg already has the Council of Europe and the ECtHR. It’s already an established location for European affairs so I don’t think it’s losing out.

    2) With the recent expansion, maybe it’s worth reconsidering where the ‘heart’ of Europe is. Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg may feel close for Germany and Austria but not so for Greece (and maybe, in time, Turkey).

  5. The problem is this: I have no difficulty with EU institutions being based in different cities. Yet we have to acknowledge that – even today with good eCommunications etc. – a lot of politics is done in face-to-face meetings. By sending an institution to a geographically distinct location you can weaken it… The EP would not be able to perform its scrutiny of the European Commission as well from Strasbourg as from Brussels.

    On the other hand, having the EP in Strasbourg, and the Council and the Commission in Brussels would seriously weaken the role of the European Parliament. It would be increasingly marginalised in the institutional triangle.

    Now, if the proposal was to send the Council to Strasbourg and keep the EP and Commission in Brussels, that would be fine.

  6. Well, there’s that as well, of course (Strasbourg would be much more harmed than Brussels if the Parliament left; actually I’ve met many Brussellers who’d be happy to see one EU institution leave), but the essence of the matter is

    1. that of symbols, Strasbourg being the historical capital of Europe’s democracy and reconciliation between peoples (as opposed to Brussels, which isn’t the symbol of anything, except division between Walloons and Flemish)

    2. that of vision. It depends what you want to make of Europe. If you want it to be turned into a traditional 20th-century based (old fashioned, if you ask me) federal State, that’s fair enough. If you want it to be a new, federal, highly decentralised and post-statist political order, then the physical separation of institutions should be rather positive, in order to avoid the ivory-tower effect, and can be very practicable, provided the appropriate transport (planes and high-speed trains) and communication (visio-conferences, etc.) means are set up.

    Of course, it is much easier to say “let’s scrap the Strasbourg seat” than to demand improvements of transport links. But I think it is a short-sighted vision.

  7. Robert

    Well, Emmanuel, deciding to choose Strasbourg based on transport links that may happen in the future really isn’t the best way to decide. It really would give the impression (that a lot of Eurosceptics latch on to) that being in Strasbourg is nothing to do with practicalities and everything to do with job creation and subsidising the city.

  8. @ Robert and VXL: indeed. That’s why I support the single seat of the Parliament, but in Strasbourg, and, obviously, under the condition of a huge improvement of transport links. TGV and ICE will be there next year, but direct flight connections to all European capitals are clearly needed.

    VXL: the website is already in French, no need to translate it.

  9. I signed with great enthusiasm. I will try and translate the datas presented there in order to promote the petition in France. Manu, it is ok to spend some money on a symbol, like statues or flags, but is is outrageous ta waste millions of euros every year and to weaken the work of uor elected reprentatives in the process just because the French president supports the interests of one of its cities.

  10. Robert

    In response to Emmanuel, I believe one of the main reasons not to base the EP in Strasbourg is the poor transport links – something that has frequently been highlighted by MEPs. Hence most of them lobbying for Brussels as the seat.

    … and then there’s the supposedly overcharging by the city of Strasbourg.

  11. Before signing, I suggest you just have a look at this, reflect on history and consider the value of having this single seat in Strasbourg, not Brussels:
    http://www.ina.fr:80/archivespourtous/index.php?vue=notice&id_notice=AFE85003193

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