How to end the Strasbourg ritual

Dan Hannan, one of the 732 MEPs who must go to Alsace every month, proposes a solution

BY Daniel Hannan MEP
LAST UPDATED AT 11:19 ON Wed 26 Apr 2006

The European Parliament, it seems, has been swindled. We MEPs - or, rather, you taxpayers - have been paying €1m a year over the odds to the city of Strasbourg.

It is, of course, quite normal to over-invoice when dealing with the EU. Contractors know that Eurocrats are not spending their own money. They are like builders asking "Insurance job, this, is it?" - only on a far, far grander scale.

What distinguishes this little scam, though, is that it reignites the argument about the location of the European Parliament. MEPs generally meet in Brussels; but, once a month, we travel to Strasbourg. (We also maintain a permanent seat in Luxembourg.) 

The expense of migrating between these places is awesome. Even when we factor out the cost of interpretation, each MEP costs the taxpayer nearly €2.5m a year. It's not just the 732 MEPs who make the monthly peregrination, you see: it's the chauffeurs, the committee clerks, the man who advises your secretary about her pension rights - oh, and some 12 tons of papers, shuttling back and forth by road. 

Many MEPs, sick of having to deal with Air France, want to end the Strasbourg sittings. But there is no way that this can happen: the French have managed to sneak a clause into the Treaties specifying that the Parliament must meet in Strasbourg 12 times a year.

There is a solution, though: we could cut out Brussels and meet permanently in Strasbourg. This would be a blow to those who see Brussels as the EU's federal capital, but it would bolster the old notion that the EU is an association of states.

Eurocrats argue that removing the Parliament physically from the Commission would make it harder to pass legislation. Indeed it would. As the French say: "Et alors?

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