European Parliament members have renewed calls for the legislature to be based permanently in Brussels, citing massive costs of the monthly commute to the eastern French city of Strasbourg, where the assembly formally has its seat but works only four days a month.
Leaders of the parliament’s political groups have asked parliament president Josep Borrell to raise the issue at a June EU summit in Brussels and ask prime ministers whether they intend to change the treaty that stipulates the parliament’s monthly plenary sessions take place in Strasbourg, said Neil Corlett, spokesman for the assembly’s Liberal Democratic group.
The 732 members of the European Parliament and their staff are based in a huge complex of buildings in Brussels, but commute 280 miles to Strasbourg for four-dayplenary sessions, as do European commissioners, who address the parliament there.
The legislature’s secretariat is in Luxembourg.
This arrangement is a result of the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty signed by the heads of EU governments, meeting France’s demands that it be the site of an EU institution.
A parliamentary report has said the nine buildings in three cities cost European taxpayers 200 million euros (£137million) a year more than if the legislature were based in just one place.
Swedish politician Cecilia Malmstrom, one of 140 members of the Campaign for Parliamentary Reform, this week launched a website where citizens can support the demand to move the legislature out of Strasbourg. By early today, more than 21,000 people had signed.
Last month, the European Parliament postponed approval of its accounts for 2004 because of concerns it may have been overcharged for the rent it pays on two buildings in the French city.
On Monday, Strasbourg Mayor Fabienne Keller will participate in a meeting of the parliament’s budgetary control committee to address its allegations that for more than 20 years, the city has keep part of the rent the assembly pays to the owner of the buildings.
France, a key architect of the European Union, is fiercely opposed to losing the parliament.