You only need one word to get a Eurosceptic going: Strasbourg. After that you will have an extra 5 minutes of conversation time and a good lecture on a basic business concept: cost-cutting.
Every month the European Parliament travels from Brussels to Strasbourg for their plenary session (twice in September). Each parade costs around €4 million.
But this circus display may soon come to a halt. In email discussions uncovered this week by The Lobby, it was revealed that many MEPs have written to Messrs Van Rompuy and Sarkozy, arguing to keep Brussels as the sole permanent seat for the Parliament to save tax-payers’ money during these times of financial crisis.
But apparently to some there are more important things than taxpayers’ money. On the opposing side, other MEPs claim that Strasbourg represents the birthplace of today’s European Union, is a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation, and a city that lies at the cross-roads of Europe.
For them, Strasbourg should actually be the seat of the Parliament as it increases the separation of the EU’s executive, judicial and legislative powers, would be cheaper than Brussels, and it is in France, a country that apparently “promotes the progress of Europe”.
Those are all romantic arguments, but the political reality is that the Parliament will continue to make those monthly trips to Strasbourg for the simple reason that it is not up to MEPs to decide where they meet, nor even Mr Van Rompuy, but the Council. Step forward France, a country that is about as unlikely to cede the Strasbourg seat as the UK will give up Gibraltar.
So MEPs can moan, complain, and argue, but ultimately only one man can put a stop to this farce, and he is ensconsed in the Elysée Palace. Good luck with that one.