6th September 2012
I am bitterly disappointed with the advice given by the European Court’s Chief Advisor, the ‘Advocate General’, who is now recommending that the Court rejects moves to curb the cost of the monthly Strasbourg shuffle and overturn the decision by MEPs to cut the number of times we travel to the French city.
The ECJ's 'Advocate General' delivered an opinion saying that amendments to the Parliament's 2012 and 2013 calendars, tabled by myself, are not compatible with EU treaties which state that the Parliament must hold 12 sessions per year in Strasbourg.
MEPs cannot change the EU's treaties but they do control their calendar. In March 2011, the European Parliament adopted my calendar amendment that moved the two post-summer sessions into one week, with a one-day gap in between. That way, it was believed by Parliament's legal services that the treaties could be honoured whilst reducing the costs and environmental consequences of two return trips in a month.
My amendment received support from across all political groups and was adopted by a large majority of 104. However, unsurprisingly given the vested interests, France and Luxembourg announced that they would challenge the decision before the court. French Senators, including the Mayor of Strasbourg, railed against 'L'Amendment Fox' last year during a debate on the subject.
The Advocate General's opinion is upheld around four fifths of the time. The final judgment of the Court is expected after the Parliament has held its two sessions in the week of the 22nd October.
I believe that the Advocate General is completely out of touch. Sadly this is not the first time we have seen the ECJ rejecting common sense and reason in order to push a warped interpretation of EU treaties.
I believe that our calendar amendment stands up legally and it certainly stands up morally.
By only travelling to Strasbourg 11 times this year we will save 15 million euros and prevent the needless emission of 1600 tonnes of CO2. The European Parliament will never be able to take the moral high ground on fiscal discipline or the environment until it ends this profligacy.
The only people that benefit from our monthly trek are the hoteliers and restaurateurs of Strasbourg. Unfortunately, we will never see one seat for the Parliament until the French government decides to put the wider interests of taxpayers ahead of the vested interests of its ninth largest city.
MEPs have repeated their calls for the Parliament to have one seat following the adoption of my Amendment. It is clear that a growing majority of the Parliament is against continuing the current arrangement.
When making its final ruling, the Court must show some common sense and disregard the advice of its Advocate General.