Today the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in Case C-237/11 (Joined Cases C-237/11, C-238/11), France v European Parliament against MEPs’ decision to merge two Strasbourg plenary sessions into one week in October.
Senior Liberal Democrat MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, European Parliament Vice President and co-founder of the cross-party Single Seat campaign commented:
“The ruling is regrettable, even though we expected it. There is now a compelling case for a change to the Treaty to remove this wasteful obligation imposed by EU governments. We urge governments to respond to MEPs’ recent overwhelming vote for a single seat as well as public demand. MEPs, who are facing elections in 2014, will now examine their new powers to initiate the treaty change necessary to achieve a single seat.
This week the French government is halving its three-year subsidy to Strasbourg’s European activities from €117 million to €47 million. The figures speak for themselves.”
On 23 October 88 per cent of MEPs voted for a single seat. MEPs also invited EU governments to produce a roadmap for change by 30 June 2013. Mr McMillan-Scott added:
“It is indefensible – especially in this economic climate - that governments waste some €180 million each year by forcing the European Parliament to meet for four days a month at its official ‘seat’ in Strasbourg and keep half its staff in Luxembourg, not to speak of the extra 19,000 tonnes of CO2 produced by this travelling circus. MEPs want to provide an efficient oversight of the EU’s political institutions – which are all based in Brussels, the parliament’s principle place of work. Parliament is about to examine its new powers to initiate treaty change.”
So far 1.27 million European have signed a petition to base the European Parliament only in Brussels. MEPs are preparing to reply to that petition.
Note to editors:
Protocol 6 of the Treaty of Amsterdam defines 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. The periods of additional plenary sessions shall be held in Brussels. The committees of the European Parliament shall meet in Brussels. The General Secretariat of the European Parliament and its departments shall remain in Luxembourg.”
On 9 March 2010, the European Parliament voted by +357 -255 and 41 abstentions (2012 calendar) and +356 – 253 and 35 abstentions (2013 calendar) respectively in a secret ballot for amendments to the two calendars of its monthly four-day sessions at its official ‘seat’ in Strasbourg. These amendments allowed two of the Parliament’s sessions to be held during the same week in October – sessions of two days each. France – joined by Luxembourg – challenged the decision in the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The oral hearing was held in Luxembourg on 5 June 2012.
On 6 September 2012, the ECJ’s Advocate-General Paolo Mengozzi produced his 78-paragraph Opinion which on the one hand sustained France’s contention that 12 sessions a year in Strasbourg “were in the Treaty”, but said that the length of the sessions was not stipulated, pointing out however that any modification of their length needs to be “coherent”. He also invited the parliament to invoke its powers under article 48 of the EU Treaty to seek treaty change and noted the strong opposition of the Parliament to its current arrangements.
Single Seat’s pro bono legal advsiers Sidley Austin LLP’s analysed the legal cases here. The additional cost of the two meeting places, plus maintaining some 50 per cent of its administrative staff in Luxembourg, amounts to €180 million and 19.000 tonnes of CO2. Since 2006, 1.27 Europeans have signed the OneSeat online petition calling for MEPs to meet only in Brussels. An increasing number of ministers are backing this move.
In the last two years, MEPs have voted consistently and with increasing majorities for a Single Seat, reflecting the economic climate.
See the ECJ ruling: http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2012-12/cp120168en.pdf