Press release 11.9.2006
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Top EU official brands Strasbourg shuttle ‘insane’
Nicholas Watt in Brussels
Tuesday September 5, 2006
The campaign to end the European parliament’s expensive monthly commute to Strasbourg received a boost yesterday when a European commissioner criticised it as a sign of “insanity”.
Margot Wallstrom, a commission vice-president, said: “Something that was once a very positive symbol of the European Union, reuniting France and Germany, has now become a negative symbol – of wasting money, bureaucracy and the insanity of the Brussels institutions.”
In an interview with the Brussels magazine E!Sharp, Ms Wallstrom added: “One has to try both to explain why it was placed there and pay respect to that, but also say that times have changed and now this is impractical and too expensive.”
Ms Wallstrom’s remarks will be welcomed by the organisers of a petition to save the EU at least £150m a year by stopping the European parliament sitting in Strasbourg and basing it permanently in Brussels alongside the other main EU institutions.
Under EU law the parliament has to sit 12 times a year in the Alsatian city, which is a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation. All EU institutions close in August, which means the parliament has to meet twice in Strasbourg in September.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the European commission’s president, who today chairs a meeting of the commission in Strasbourg, has refused to comment on the petition because he is powerless to act. The Strasbourg sittings can end only if EU law is changed, and France has a veto which it would use.
Peter Mandelson, the trade commissioner, told E!Sharp last month: “I like the parliament in Strasbourg. But it is very hard to justify the cost.”
Nearly 1 million people have visited oneseat.eu and signed a petition.