Monday, July 18, 2011

MEPs should have the democratic right to decide where they meet

For those who haven't had a chance to read it over at PlaceLux.EU, here is the open letter that MEPs have sent to the new French secretary of State, Jean Leonetti (taken from MEP Raül Romeva i Rueda's blog).

CM. Jean Leonetti
Secrétaire d'Etat aux affaires européennes
Ministère des Affaires étrangères et européennes
37, Quai d'Orsay
75351 Paris
                                                                                  Brussels, 14 July 2011
Dear Secretary of State,

MEPs should have the democratic right to decide where they meet

Please accept our congratulations on your appointment as France's new Minister for Europe. We wish you success.

There is now an Absolute Majority in the European Parliament in favour of a Single Seat. Following the vote on June 8 on the Multiannual Financial Framework, enough MEPs have now adjusted their record to achieve an absolute majority (373-285) on the paragraph pointing to "the significant savings that could be made if the European Parliament were to have a Single Seat". This Absolute Majority -as well as the 2012/2013 calendar vote in March- fundamentally shifts the debate.

As you know, the EU Treaty requires the European Parliament to hold 12 monthly plenary sessions in Strasbourg. As a result, we meet in Strasbourg 48 days every year. From next year, this will be 45 days, following our vote to hold the two October plenary sessions during the same week to save money, time and the environment. This democratic decision of the Parliament is being contested by France before the European Court of Justice in closed proceedings.

All of the Parliament's other activities take place in Brussels (with the exception of a part of the administration, which is based in Luxembourg). Brussels is where committee and political group meetings are held. It is where most of our staff are based. It is where the other two institutions that form the EU decision-making triangle (the Council and the Commission) are located. Over the last 50 years, Brussels has evolved into the EU's democratic capital. It is where companies, NGOs, national, regional and local governments, industry associations and trade unions all have their offices. It is where the EU press corps has its hub, including technical facilities.

When the European Parliament started meeting in Strasbourg over 50 years ago, it was a consultative assembly with part-time Members who were not directly elected, it was purely advisory and had no powers. Today, it is on a par with the Council of Ministers when it comes to making laws and its Members are full-time legislators, directly elected by the peoples of Europe. Yet unlike national parliaments, it cannot decide when and where it wishes to meet.

Recent votes in the European Parliament as well as several surveys have shown that a majority of MEPs believe the European Parliament should have a Single Seat, in Brussels. The Dutch and UK governments have publicly backed this view. More than 1,25 million European citizens have signed an online petition to this effect.

Over time a number of parliaments have moved to reflect political reality: the US Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington; the French Parliament moved from Versailles to Paris; and more recently, the German Parliament moved from Bonn to Berlin. We believe that in a modern Europe, the European Parliament must be able to do the same. We call on the French government to stop the political and legal posturing on this issue, and to enter into a real debate.

All we ask is that MEPs should be able to exercise their democratic rights and decide when and where to meet. In return, we are ready to help identify alternatives for the city of Strasbourg, both in institutional and in economic terms.

For Strasbourg, a better and brighter future lies ahead. The European Parliament has now far outgrown it. It would be better to find an alternative that matches its facilities and can be a more grateful guest.

Yours sincerely,


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