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Rutte misses another chance to end the farce of EP's monthly Strasbourg trips

10 February 2019

Rutte misses another chance to end the farce of EP's monthly Strasbourg trips

Last Thursday the Dutch Parliament held a debate, in the presence of a number of MEPs, on the State of the Union. During the debate I issued a strongly-worded call for Prime Minister Rutte to work with President Macron to find at last a solution to the monthly displacement of the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg, which costs the European taxpayer fully €200 million per year. There have recently been fresh proposals, notably from the German liberal party the FDP, to establish a new training institute for European diplomats, a creative idea that I have been pleased to embrace, putting forward a motion to that effect. Rutte's reaction was non-existent. As usual, he did not agree with the idea, making this the umpteenth missed opportunity.

You can criticise the wastefulness of the European Parliament on many grounds. As a member of the Budgetary Control Committee I raise such criticisms year in year out, for example in relation to the insane buildings policy where one major goof is followed by even more expensive plans, or to the replacement of office furniture while it's still in excellent condition. But when it comes to this business of flitting back and forth between Brussels and Strasbourg, the European Parliament isn't to blame. Year after year an ever greater majority of MEPs calls for an end to be put to it. With the exception of the French and a handful of Germans, everyone finds it completely irresponsible that we have to go to Strasbourg on average once a month and is fed up with the whole Brussels-Strasbourg business, as a result of which financial and also environmental costs are increasing wildly. The only thing is that the monthly move is made permanent by the Lisbon Treaty and so the only people who can change it are the heads of government.

Rutte and his government are seen as lovers of austerity, but when it comes to the European Parliament, they have taken no initiative to enable a serious reduction in spending. As a MEP I was officially just a guest and limited to a contribution of four minutes 'to inform', while the government was under no obligation to react to what I said and I was not allowed to interrupt. Of course Rutte was well aware of this, and when I raised the question of the new training institute for diplomats he already knew that it was tricky, and that he'd best ignore it. Because Rutte and Macron need each other. They're members of the same liberal family, as they call it. Furthermore, we don't want any trouble with the more powerful member states. Yet you should note that I am putting this proposal forward with another member of this liberal family. In the EP we aren't going to let this drop, and if all goes well the plenary will adopt this proposal in March. Rutte won't formally have to respond to that either, but if he doesn't he'll simply be chickening out.

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