Irish MEPs concerned about parliament sittings in Strasbourg

IRISH MEPS have raised concerns about the environmental and monetary cost of having the European Parliament based in two different cities, with one calling it an “absurd waste of money”.

Grace O’Sullivan and Ciaran Cuffe of the Green Party and Clare Daly of Independents4Change have both raised concerns about the movement of Parliament staff and representatives between Brussels and Strasbourg each month.

Independent studies from 2014 showed that a total of €109 million per year would be saved if the European Parliament decided to permanently transfer all operations to Brussels.

The parliament itself is moved on a monthly basis due to an EU treaty in 1992, which made Strasbourg the official seat of the European Parliament.

This meant that plenary sessions would be held in Strasbourg, France, while parliamentary committees would be held in Brussels, Belgium.

This was changed in 2020 due to the pandemic, with then European Parliament President David Sassoli canceling all sessions in Strasbourg and moving all activities to Brussels.

Parliament then returned to Strasbourg in June 2021, with remote and hybrid voting systems in place to allow MPs to work without being present in the city.

Daly – who raised the issue in a survey by The Good Information Project sent to Ireland’s 13 MPs – said the monthly move of parliament should be stopped by the EU, saying it was a “waste of money”. ‘absurd money’ and bad for the environment.

“People back home don’t realize that every month Parliament gets up and moves from Brussels to Strasbourg to have a week of plenary meetings, then it comes back at the end of the week to resume normal work,” said said Daly in an answer to one of our survey questions.

“700 MEPs, their staff, Parliament staff, Commissioners, thousands of people in all, all moving for no good reason to another city.

Travel costs, accommodation costs, living expenses, the cost of running two huge parliamentary buildings in two different cities, even if only one of them is used at any given time – all paid for by citizens .

“It’s an absurd waste of money and extremely bad for the environment. He should be stopped.

The creation of Strasbourg as the official seat of the European Parliament in 1992, as the information service of the Parliament Remarks“formalised a situation that already existed at the time and which reflected compromises reached several years ago”.

Historical compromise

Historically, the Council of Europe, which focused on cultural and human rights issues after the Second World War, was based in Strasbourg. The first plenary meetings of the “Common Assembly” of the European Coal and Steel Community (which eventually evolved into the European Parliament) were also held there, but over time a larger part of Parliament’s work moved to Brussels, which led to the bilocalization observed today.

“By the early 1990s, the current arrangement was more or less in place, with committees and political groups meeting in Brussels and the main plenary sessions taking place in Strasbourg. A large part of the staff of the Parliament is based in Luxembourg”, notes the site of the Parliament.

Grace O’Sullivan said The newspaper that she had requested that the hybrid continue to operate until the end of 2022 and called the system of travel between the two cities “totally inefficient”.

“I have requested that we can meet hybrids until the end of this year. I am a single parent, I have a daughter who has a moderate to profound intellectual disability, it is a huge challenge for me to be here,” O’Sullivan said.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I can’t stand having to fly here. The trip, for me, is a terrible environmental cost… It’s totally inefficient.

O’Sullivan added that the extra trips made it difficult for her family, saying she could travel 16 hours a week.

“Sometimes that trip will be on a Sunday, which means leaving home, having breakfast with the family, and then leaving at lunchtime.”

O’Sullivan said the EU must work in line with the European Green Deal and use systems that do not damage the environment as much.

The fact is that technology has moved on, we have all moved on… We have to recognize that and we have to move towards systems in line with the European Green Deal, because otherwise we are contradicting the political orientation of Parliament.

keep the peace

Ciaran Cuffe, MEP for the Greens, noted that Strasbourg had played an important role in maintaining peace between France and Germany.

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“I think the most enduring success of the European Union project has been peace within the member states and peace between France and Germany, and I think Strasbourg has a special place in maintaining that. “Cuffe said.

However, he added that the parliament should consider retaining hybrid working methods to reduce the number of MEPs traveling regularly between cities.

“I think we should consider maintaining hybrid working and rethinking our working methods to reduce the number of weekly flights for many MPs.”

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant program from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are those of the author. The European Parliament has no involvement or responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information see here.

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