15th March 2011
France's Europe Minister has today confirmed that it will take an amendment to reduce the number of European Parliament sittings in Strasbourg, proposed by Conservative MEP Ashley Fox, to the European Court of Justice.
During a vote on the European Parliament's calendars for 2012 and 2013 last week, Mr Fox tabled amendments that merged the two sessions in October into one week. This means that MEPs will still fulfil their treaty obligations to hold 12 sessions in Strasbourg, whilst only having to make 11 trips backwards and forwards. The amendment, which received support from factions right across the chamber, will save EU taxpayers 15 Million Euros and prevent 1600 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being needlessly emitted.
Mr Fox was able to secure a secret ballot of MEPs on his amendments, thus freeing them of the whipping operations by the Franco-German leadership of the two largest political groups. The amendments passed with majorities of over 100. However France is challenging the decision at the ECJ, saying that it violates the Treaty.
Mr Fox said:
"France has made a serious error in challenging this decision. It was the overwhelming will of the European Parliament, right across the political spectrum, to cut down on the number of journeys that we make between Brussels and Strasbourg.
"France needs to realise that it is fighting a futile battle. The significant support in the parliament for reducing our time in Strasbourg is backed up by even stronger support among our voters. If this court case succeeds then we will go to plan B and propose a three-day session per month, instead of four. The costs to Strasbourg hoteliers, restaurants and taxi drivers will be far worse than if we merge two sessions into one week.
"If France loses this case, the gates will be open to further reductions in the number of Strasbourg sessions. If it wins, we will find another way of cutting down on the waste associated with the travelling circus. Either way, the French government has made a tactical mistake in taking this matter to court."