MEPs set to strike a blow for end to Strasbourg circus

14-Oct-2013 @ 9:0

Ashley Fox Ashley Fox

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

MEPs set to strike a blow for end to Strasbourg circus

The European Parliament is set today (Monday) to take ahistoric vote, committing itself to work for changes to the EU's treaties inorder to scrap the notorious Strasbourg "travelling circus".

The vote is seen as a landmark decision backing acampaign by Conservative MEP Ashley Fox to stop the wasteful two-seat system,which sees parliamentary sittings shuttling back and forth between Belgium andFrance on a monthly basis.

Mr Fox, Conservative MEP for the South West of Englandand Gibraltar, is behind a hard-hitting report setting out a roadmap forreform, which will be put before the parliament's Constitutional AffairsCommittee today.

He said: "Ifervently hope that today's vote will be seen as a real turning point in thislong and difficult campaign. It should be the point where MEPs take a stand,align themselves firmly and decisively with the people and with common sense,and say this madness must stop.

His report, drafted jointly with German Green MEP GeraldHafner, focuses on the economic andenvironmental costs of the dual-seat system, as well as the weight of pubicsentiment which is deeply opposed. The present arrangement is simplyunsustainable, it argues, and MEPs should be allowed to decide for themselveswhere the parliament sits.

Most of the European Parliament's work is done at itshuge complex of offices and debating chambers in Brussels, but once a month 766MEPs, 3,000 staff and 25 trucks carrying documents and equipment all decamp toStrasbourg in France to sit there for three days.

A report by the Parliament Secretary General last weekput the annual cost at €102 million, but Conservative MEPs say "invisible" costs such asamortisation of buildings, and money wasted on unused floor space brings thetrue cost to €156m, or £131m. It alsoneedlessly pumps 20,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Mr Fox said: "Unless something changes this is setto cost taxpayers something approaching a billion pounds over the course of theEU's next seven-year budget programme. Think what else the money could buy interms of genuine investment to make Europe more competitive and moreprosperous.

"Think how foolish the parliament looks when itallows this while lecturing its citizens about climate change."

"How can it be remotely sensible in such challengingtimes?

"I believe today is the day we start to roll backthis nonsense. From here on we take the debate to the Presidents and Premiersin the European Council to help us win the treaty change we need. It will stillbe a long struggle, but this can be a telling blow for change."

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