Scenarios for “lockdown” in the European Parliament for energy saving – Meeting only in Brussels!


German MEPs are calling for the European Parliament building in Strasbourg to be closed in the winter, for reasons of energy saving. An old proposal in a new “wrapper”

“The EU’s traveling circus continues, but we tour”, protests the newspaper Bild in its familiar style. What does the analyst mean? That in times of crisis, when heating costs multiply, hundreds of MEPs (and close scientific collaborators, interpreters, journalists, technicians, drivers, support staff, a total of around 5,000 people) continue to travel from Brussels to Strasbourg and Toumbalin, in order to participate in the session of the European Parliament which lasts about four days in the capital of Alsace. Every month, with admirable consistency. With the sole exception of the summer holidays in August.

“Until the spring, we should only meet in Brussels,” Christian Democrat MEP Peter Liese is now telling Bild, pointing out that he has submitted the same request to the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metzola. Peter Liese is not just anyone. A doctor by profession, MEP for 28 consecutive years, he is renowned for his training in health and consumer protection. But also his persistence.

He had almost single-handedly launched a campaign to abolish the winter-summer “time change” in the EU and in 2018 he forced the then president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to call an informal referendum on the matter, with 84% of the participants actually in favor. of the time change. Now that he has decided to deal with Strasbourg, he probably won’t give up easily.

What is the “seat” of the European Parliament?

On the same wavelength, MEP Moritz Kerner from the Liberal Party (FDP) states that “the building of the European Parliament in Strasbourg must go into hibernation, for reasons of energy policy. It is a mockery for taxpayers to pay for heating and lighting in two different buildings at the same time, both in Brussels and in Strasbourg.”

It sounds logical, especially if we consider that the new Strasbourg building, an iconic creation of the French architectural office Studio/Paris, has an area of ​​more than 650,000 sq.m. together with the ancillary office buildings. But in fact the proposal for a temporary “lockdown” in Strasbourg is old and just being repackaged. “Energy saving” now comes first. Years ago, the argument of “saving resources” was heard at the height of the economic crisis, given that travel costs more than 100 million euros per year. Others say that it is simply “absurd that the European Parliament should have two different seats, in two different cities”.

“Quite right,” respond the defenders of the Alsatian capital, “that’s why the European Parliament has only one seat. And this is Strasbourg.” Because that’s how things are based on the Conditions. The visionaries of United Europe wanted to give relief to the image of European unification, with the (initially appointed and later elected) representatives of the people conversing exactly where their forefathers fought in the trenches.

And so Strasbourg, once a bone of contention between France and Germany, was expressly designated as the seat of the Parliament. There were of course also practical reasons, as the first MEPs found a welcoming home in the Plenary of the Council of Europe, which had been meeting in Strasbourg since 1949. To change the seat, the Treaties would have to be amended. For France, the chances of agreeing to this are the same as for Germany to co-sign the transfer of the European Central Bank. Or maybe not? “However, in reality the French do not have that much of a problem to consent, as long as they receive the appropriate exchanges” said a former MEP, an opponent of Strasbourg.

“Closed” due to pandemic

Having followed the European Parliament for a long time, the writer believes that there is no “holding opinion” on the Strasbourg question. The truth is that many MEPs and executives of European institutions prefer to stay forever in Brussels, ignoring historical symbolism. Others simply accept that moving to Strasbourg is part of the job description. Some find the idea of ​​having a glass of wine away from the crowds of Brussels, without 1,300 accredited journalists watching them, appealing.

However, Strasbourg’s critics have seen their dream come true, at least for a while. At the height of the pandemic the Plenary on the banks of the river Ill remained closed for obvious reasons, as the entire region of Alsace was one of the most dangerous hotspots of the coronavirus in France. In addition, years ago some Plenaries were moved at the last minute to Brussels when cracks appeared in the roof of the building in Strasbourg. There was no shortage of congratulatory comments.

But it’s shooting weather. In February 2021, it became known that the building of the European Parliament in Brussels shows such bad workmanship that it is deemed necessary either to be renovated from the ground up, or to be demolished and built from scratch. According to initial estimates, the “bill” ranges from 300 to 500 million euros. Now it was the turn of the friends of Strasbourg to remember the “cost”. “Why give another 500 million euros to Brussels? We have everything we need in Strasbourg,” protested Jean Rottner, president of the French Grand Est region.

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