Efficiency Instead of a Symbol

Christian Engström for the Single Seat-campaign in 2012, a cross-party campaign stating that most members of the European parliament want to meet only in Brussels. Wikimedia Commons.
Christian Engström for the Single Seat-campaign in 2012, a cross-party campaign stating that most members of the European parliament want to meet only in Brussels. Wikimedia Commons.

Despite an ongoing crisis in the past few years, the governments of the 28 member states of the European Union agreed to spend 180m Euro per year and emit additional 19.000 tons of carbon dioxide into atmosphere simply to enable the meetings of the European Parliament to be held in two locations: Brussels and Strasbourg?

Despite the fact that the reduction of the carbon dioxide emissions is a priority of the European climactic policy, a few thousands of assistants and job engineers travel ca. 1.000 km (440 km via motorway each way but most of them travel by train through a roundabout route) every month simply to continue the meeting opened earlier in Belgium in a different place. Deputies, who usually come back to their constituencies for weekends, also increase environmental burden: most of them need two flights to get to Strasbourg. There is not much going on in the French headquarters of the European Parliament for the remaining 317 days of a year. The building needs to be, however, heated, maintained and protected against intruders.

Christian Engström for the Single Seat-campaign in 2012, a cross-party campaign stating that most members of the European parliament want to meet only in Brussels. Wikimedia Commons.

This obvious waste is a consequence of historic events – as everything in the EU is. Already in the 1940s Strasbourg was chosen for a headquarters of the European institutions (initially: Council of Europe) as a symbol of French-German reconciliation. It went from hands to hands during the three consecutive wars between 1870 and 1945. It was also a home town for Robert Schuman – the founding father of the Communities.

Symbols are important but the Union is no longer just an expression of French and German will. It aims at being supranational state, the main raison d’etre of which shall be efficiency: we join together areas which are difficult to cope with by our individual nation states. The doubled headquarters of the European Parliament is a contradiction to the aforementioned efficiency. It is high time to wave this policy and allocate the saved money to establish in Strasbourg – making use of the unoccupied Parliamentary buildings – a European university with lecturers and students from all European member states. In a long period perspective, it is not a disadvantageous offer for France – it rules people’s hearts and minds instead of providing only a political symbol.

In the meantime, as it happens every five years, candidates for deputies sign a declaration of choice of single seat for the European Parliament. Up to 14th of April, 148 declarations were signed, most of them are from Great Britain.

Translation: Olga Łabendowicz

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