22 September 2006

European Parliament - Organisation

Dear readers,

Yesterday, the petition for a unique seat of the European Parliament reached the million threshold needed and was presented to the European Commission (according to the rules of the European Constitution rejected in the Dutch and French referendums). The petition seems genuinely simple and asks a good question: why pay millions of euros in taxes to keep the "circus" that obliges the European Parliament and its representatives to work both in Strasbourg (its official seat) and Brussels (where its commissions are gathering most of the time: European Parliament Organisation)? The question is relevant, as this is tax money in a region where taxes are already high enough in general. It is also interesting to note that it is extremely unlikely that this petition will be answered positively, as any change would require the unanimous aproval of all member States, approval that France won't ever give.

The MEPs behind this petition, though, are anything but genuinely concerned about taxpayers money. They are, in my opinion, simply manipulating European citizens in a very nasty way. This is the reason which made me always refuse to sign this petition. Not because I am French (I couldn't care less about the Strasbourg issue) but because I can see the political and personal interests behind the move. The Strasbourg seat is highly symbolic and as many other European institutions was intended to show that Europe has no specific center or capital city (arguably) but is equally supported and supportive for its members. These MEPs calculation is that putting the Parliament seat in Brussel will reinforce centralism, therefore making the EU impopular with more decentralized countries (Germany for instance) or already Europeanophobic ones (like the U.K.). Additionnally, it would annoy France politicians, usually pro-European.

But what if we look at facts? What is so wrong in the European Parliament seat in Strasbourg? Well, actually nothing. Strasbourg is conveniently central, as a nice airport (not too far from the center and not congested in any way) and good connections by train and highway with European countries. These train connections will even been improved soon with the high speed train between Paris and Strasbourg. Needless to say that living costs in Strasbourg are far lower than in Brussels. So please, where is the rationnal in dropping Strasbourg? Wouldn't it be far more cost effective, if tax money was really the issue, to actually drop the parliamentary commissions in Brussels? Isn't it true, in fact, that the only Parliament building in Brussels (dubbed by facetious Belgians "God's Caprice", alledgedly from a cheese name whose shape looks very much like the said building) costs far more than all EU institutional buildings in Strasbourg?

In my opinion, the good solution, tax money wise (and the only politically feasible), for the European Union, would be to scrap the Brussels parliamentary commissions, reinstate them in Strasbourg and stop this waste of money indeed. The current Brussels building could easily be reused by the European Commission which singularly lacks of a single proper building that it could be identified with. Soemthing very important too, symbolically. But a stronger Union is not what the current petition supporters really want, of course...

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