Complaints about European Parliament's two sites, from politicians with two faces

10 April 2009

Complaints about European Parliament's two sites, from politicians with two faces

Politicians have been complaining for years about the European Parliament's trips between Strasbourg and Brussels. Every month, there and back, in cars, trains and aeroplanes full of MEPs, their assistants and EU officials go, followed closely by a pack of journalists.


Dennis de JongThese lamentations have also been increasingly heard during the present runup to the elections for the European Parliament. The SP has a clear and uncompromising opinion on this point, as Dennis de Jong, number one on the party's list for the European Parliament explains: "Any attention given to criticisms of this kind from governing parties is, in my view, a waste of space. To start with, the European Parliament does not have the right to decide the location of its own seat. But more importantly, the criticism is sheer hypocrisy when it comes from parties which themselves voted to continue the system under which the European Parliament ups sticks every months and leaves for Strasbourg."

lege gang in Brussel
An empty corridor in Brussels: the Members' 'canteens', used to transport their papers and other belongings between the European Parliament's sites in Brussels and Strasbourg, stand at the ready at all times.

Prime Minister Balkenende: do nothing

The cost of all this, according to the figure mentioned in recent discussion, is €200 million p.a.. Yet this in fact refers to the time when the EU still had only twelve member states and will by now certainly be higher. The cabinet of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced as recently as March that it was not prepared to do anything about this costly back-and-forth. In Strasbourg PvdA (Labour Party) Secretary of State Frans Timmermans described the trip as ‘annoying’. Yet, he argued, other than in Sweden and the Netherlands, the matter was not an issue. In saying this, he was admitting that the interests of Europe come, for him, before those of the Netherlands.

Not a priority

In 2000, in reply to a parliamentary question from the SP, Labour Prime Minister Wim Kok said: "I don't think that a priority for the Dutch government should at present be to consider that we might be able to change the European Parliament's meeting place.” Dennis de Jong's view? "Not a single Dutch political party, other than the SP, spoke out against this at the time. Only during election periods do they constantly call this 'scandalous'. Straight after the election they return to their usual agenda. Meeting in two places clearly leads to having two faces..."

EP-gebouw in Straatsburg (Frankrijk)

You are here