European Parliament proposal to cut number of Strasbourg sessions bites the dust

6 September 2012

European Parliament proposal to cut number of Strasbourg sessions bites the dust

´Very disappointing’. This was SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong’s description of the advice of the Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in which the European Parliament’s decision to hold two of its yearly total of twelve plenary sessions held in Strasbourg in a single week was rejected. In August no such session is held, so that two must be fitted into either September or October. The European Parliament (EP) had decided to hold these in a single week, cutting the number of occasions Members and staff would have to travel. The French government immediately brought the decision before the ECJ and it now seems certain to win its case as the Court almost invariably follows the Advocate-General’s advice.

According to EU rules at least twelve plenaries a year must be held in Strasbourg. This circus of back-and-forth costs an estimated minimum of €200m per year. ‘It’s unbelievable that this waste continues,’ says De Jong. ‘It’s now time, therefore, for creative solutions to be sought, ways of ending this once and for all. The European Council should be discussing this in its impending meeting and it would do the Dutch Prime Minister credit if he could work out a sound plan for this, along with likeminded member states.’

Following today’s announcement of the Advocate-General’s conclusions, the ECJ will give its verdict, which is expected in November. The European Council, which brings together the heads of government of the twenty-seven EU member states, will meet again in October, giving the leaders a timely opportunity to discuss the matter. As De Jong says, ‘everywhere in Europe now spending cuts are being made, so it’s impossible to believe that this ridiculously costly budget line will be upheld. The government leaders must make time for this.’

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