Brought back to Strasbourg



BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES
Weekly analysis and untold stories
With SAMUEL STOLTON

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Brought back to Strasbourg

For many months now, the President of Parliament Davide Sassoli has succeeded in stalling the French. That is, until next week.

The government of President Macron has long tolerated, with gritted teeth, the “force majeure” imposed by Sassoli during the coronavirus epidemic, which saw the monthly session of Parliament in Strasbourg take place from Brussels.


BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES is a weekly newsletter that tells untold stories about the people who drive the policies that affect our lives. An analysis not found elsewhere, Samuel Stolton of the Brussels Times helps you understand what is happening in Brussels. If you would like to receive Behind the Scenes of Brussels straight to your inbox every week, subscribe to the newsletter here.


And if the French had suffered, against their will, the moratorium on the stay of the Parliament in Strasbourg, they did not hesitate to rejoice that next week, the traveling circus of the European Parliament is again free to hold its plenary session. monthly in the city.

In a recent interview with a regional newspaper, the Latest news from Alsace, President Macron spoke of the importance of the “Strasbourg” dimension of EU institutional affairs.

“If Brussels is the office capital of Europe, Strasbourg is the capital of its heart and soul: this is where its values ​​are defended. RFI the president reported as having said, adding that the Elysee Palace had been unambiguous in their welcome back to the city.

Regular readers of this column will be familiar with the centuries-old historical and cultural ties that the French have in the city of Strasbourg. The country has long taken into account the conclusions of the European Council of the Edinburgh summit in 1992, which provided for Strasbourg to hold 12 monthly plenary sessions per year. The commitments were then annexed to the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997.

But since then, there has been no shortage of calls for the modification of treaties and the abolition of the traveling circus.

Lithuanian MEP Rasa Juknevičienė, who has a background in health care, recently launched a petition to galvanize MEPs’ support against Sassoli’s surrender to the French.

More than 60 MEPs signed the letter, accusing the decision to resuscitate the trip to Strasbourg as “too hasty” and putting “European Parliament staff at unnecessary risk”.

More broadly, critics have traditionally cited the environmental impact of the 2,500 individuals who make the monthly commute, as well as the cost, launched at 114 million euros per year, as reasons why the trip should be phased out.

For the city itself, the mayor of Strasbourg Jeanne Barseghian is aware of the many advantages that the Strasbourg seat brings to the local hotel industry and has tried to allay the fears emanating from European parliamentarians.

Next week, such attempts will include the tempting offer of an on-site vaccination center on the premises of the Parliament in Strasbourg, which will provide vaccines to members and staff present.

And despite the fact that those who go to Strasbourg can skip the line in terms of access to vaccines that might have been difficult to find elsewhere, parliamentarians are mostly not convinced.

Witold Wasczykowski MEP from the European Conservatives and Reformists group said Reuters that the only option should be to cancel the trip, while Socialists and Democrats MEP Iratxe Garcia said there was more consensus among MEPs to postpone the trip to Strasbourg until July.

The problem has been further exacerbated by the fact that upon their return to Brussels, if staff and members have been in Strasbourg for more than 48 hours, they will need to be quarantined.

Next week, many are unlikely to travel to Strasbourg for the European Parliament plenary. With opposition to the movement coming from all political corners of Parliament, there is a very real risk that it will turn into some sort of ‘ghost session’ where the majority of members have chosen to participate virtually, as part of the process. ‘a hybrid configuration.

However, with each plenary sitting that passes without members in the hemicycle, it is clear that the French will become more and more impatient over time. But here again, this impatience will be matched only by those on the other side of the debate, who are calling for the permanent abolition of the Strasbourg seat.


BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES is a weekly newsletter that tells untold stories about the people who drive the policies that affect our lives. An analysis not found elsewhere, Samuel Stolton of the Brussels Times helps you understand what is happening in Brussels. If you would like to receive Behind the Scenes of Brussels straight to your inbox every week, subscribe to the newsletter here.



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