MEPs’ Challenge the Strasbourg Travelling Circus

Labour Party

Many of you will recall the number of times I have raged on this blog about the European Parliament’s wasteful practice of decamping and moving to Strasbourg for four days every month.

Well, we now have the tiniest amount of progress. Yesterday MEPs voted for a procedural amendment, which it is hoped will reopen the debate about changing the rules that currently require the European Parliament to meet in Strasbourg, even though most of its work is done in Brussels.

Under a 1992 agreement between European leaders at the time, brokered by former Tory Prime Minister John Major, the European Parliament is obliged to meet for 12 sessions every year in Strasbourg.

However, with most of the EU institutions based in Brussels, the majority of mine and all my MEP colleagues’ duties are undertaken in the Belgian capital.  Very many of us would rather that all our work is done there.

However, because the Strasbourg decision is locked into a treaty, MEPs are unable to change it.

Today we voted on the calendar of meetings for 2012, and elected to hold two separate sessions in a single week. This change alone will save millions of euros as thousands of journeys will not need to be taken by MEPs and officials.

It is also hoped that today’s decision will add pressure on European governments to revisit the whole issue of holding meetings of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

While not earth shattering, yesterday’s vote was a small victory for common sense, but much more importantly it sends a clear signal to European leaders that MEPs themselves do not back the current ridiculous travelling circus of going to Strasbourg.

The European Parliament’s trips to Strasbourg are costly, wasteful and utterly incomprehensible to anyone outside the EU bubble.

We still have a long way to go, but MEPs have made it clear to government ministers that the Strasbourg status quo is expensive, disruptive and completely ridiculous.