5th June 2018
France should engage in constructive discussions to end the European Parliament's costly treks to Strasbourg, not rely on the courts to obstruct change, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said today.
Mr Fox was speaking following publication of an Advocate General's opinion supporting France's claim that Parliament's adoption of the EU's 2017 budget at an "exceptional" sitting in Brussels, and not in Strasbourg, breached the EU Treaty.
The opinion, even if adopted by the European Court of Justice, will have little practical effect as the budget can be adopted retrospectively at a future Strasbourg sitting. But it underlines the continuing legal force of the treaty clause requiring that "the European Parliament shall have its seat in Strasbourg where the 12 periods of monthly plenary sessions, including the budget session, shall be held."
Maintaining two parliamentary seats costs EU taxpayers an estimated €114 million a year and the monthly commute between Brussels and Strasbourg by MEPs and staff annually pumps 19,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Mr Fox, the leading British member of the Parliament's cross-party Single Seat Group which campaigns for the institution to be based in one location, regretted France's decision to pursue the case.
He said: "This opinion is not unexpected as the Treaty is quite clear, but it is disappointing that the French Government continues to ignore the demand for change from across Europe.
"The Parliament itself has voted overwhelmingly for a single seat and more than a million citizens signed a petition calling for an end to this wasteful, time consuming and environmentally damaging practice. But France wields a veto and, by pursuing this legal action, has indicated it remains in no mood to negotiate.
"I urge President Macron to reconsider. It is in the EU's own interests to end what has become one of the clearest and most public examples of its inefficiency.
"In 1957 Strasbourg was a symbol of reconciliation. Now it's a symbol of all that is wrong with the European Union."