Fresh boost for single seat campaign

28-May-2013 @ 16:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Further backing for the European Parliament single-seat campaign came today in a key decision by MEPs on the Petitions Committee - despite attempts to cut short the debate and suppress the initiative.
Conservative MEP Giles Chichester, who has responsibility for drafting the committee's opinion on the issue, stoutly resisted attempts by French, Greek and Romanian MEPs to declare the opinion out of order.
He said: "Some MEPs for some reason want to continue the wasteful travelling circus between Brussels and Strasbourg. They were trying every trick in the book to stop this opinion going ahead. But we stuck to our guns and continued work on an opinion which I hope will add clout to the campaign for a common sense solution."
The Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee, under the guidance of another Conservative MEP Ashley Fox, is preparing a report on how the Parliament should bring its will to bear on the single seat question.
The advice from Mr Chichester's Petitions Committee will now feed into that report.
Most of the European Parliament's work is done at its huge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 754 MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp to Strasbourg in France.
The trek costs an estimated £160 million a year, in a report now 10 years out-of-date, and needlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. Despite a clear majority of MEPs opposing the arrangement, it remains in place because of a stipulation in the EU treaties to stage 12 sessions a year in Strasbourg.
Today's committee opinion notes that the parliament has received several petitions in protest, one signed by more than a million EU citizens. Despite that, repeated attempts by the committee since 2006 to put the issue on parliament's agenda have been obstructed.
The opinion says plainly that the Parliament would be "more effective, cost-efficient and respectful of the environment if it were located in a single place."
It notes: "The continuation of the monthly migration between Brussels and Strasbourg has become a symbolic negative issue among most EU citizens which is detrimental to the Parliament's reputation."
Finally, the opinion calls for Parliament to stage a defining debate on the issue and "if an appropriate majority vote is recorded, recommends that Parliament propose treaty changes under Article 48."
Mr Chichester said: "Stubborn self-interest and backroom fixes are the only reason this arrangement is still in place. We are saying: let's get the whole thing properly debated and decided by elected representatives, let's have the whole discussion out in the open and let's come to a solution that shows some accountability to the electorate."
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