News / Europe

EU Lawmakers Seek to End Costly 'Traveling Circus'

FILE - A member of the European Parliament attends a debate on the state of union, in Strasbourg, September 11, 2013.
FILE - A member of the European Parliament attends a debate on the state of union, in Strasbourg, September 11, 2013.
Reuters
The European Parliament will agree on Wednesday to scrap its second headquarters in Strasbourg and end what lawmakers say is a 200-million-euro-a-year traveling circus between the French city and Brussels.

But France, keen to keep a symbol of its status as a founding member of the European Union, is likely to veto the decision when it is taken before national leaders.

At a time of intensified demands for budget cuts and  economic hardship across Europe, EU leaders and many lawmakers want to stop the vast cost of having two parliamentary bases and use Brussels, the EU's main seat, as the sole headquarters.

EU law, however, says that the parliament, the only elected body among the EU's institutions and one of increasing clout, must have a four-day session once a month in Strasbourg.

That entails 766 members and their staff moving 430 kilometers (270 miles) from Belgium to the eastern French city, which is actually closer to Munich than to Brussels.

Reams of parliamentary documents must also be shifted and a large number of reporters and lobbyists also have to tag along.

The monthly move is estimated to cost between 156 million and 204 million euros ($275 million) a year, but also has an environmental impact that Green MEPs and many others find unacceptable at a time of heightened climate awareness.

Roughly 2,400 parliament staff also work in Luxembourg.

Since the European Union's Lisbon treaty came into force in 2009 - giving the European Parliament new powers - a growing number of MEPs have campaigned against the costly set-up, with the most vocal opponent Britain's Edward McMillan-Scott.

“Over 75 percent of lawmakers want to end the costly and inefficient monthly, four-day trek to Strasbourg from our home in the political capital of the European Union,” said McMillan-Scott, a British Liberal Democrat.

Vacant

The glass and steel Strasbourg building stands almost vacant for more than 300 days a year and accrues 12 million euros in maintenance costs.

France, however, has defended its right to host the assembly and all the business it brings.

In the latest of several rulings in France's favor, the European Court of Justice last year annulled a European Parliament decision to reduce the number of sessions in Strasbourg, saying it is for EU governments to decide changes.

EU governments must all agree on granting a single seat to the parliament, effectively giving France a veto on any campaign seeking to put an end to the two-seat arrangement.

Lawmakers still hope to garner enough public support to eventually pressure France to give in, building on a 2006 petition that was endorsed by more than 1 million EU citizens.

EU lawmakers argue the parliament has undergone a transformation since it was created as an assembly in 1952, moving from a consultative body without the power to propose legislation to a house representing a 28-nation bloc of 500 million and co-legislating with governments.

“The traveling circus between difference workplaces leads to unjustifiable costs and environmental damage that can no longer be explained to the public,” Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) said in a statement.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs