September 26, 2014
The journalist Richard Hill asked me for a contribution on the ‘single seat’, for the upcoming magazine of BECI, the Brussels business organisation. Here is the full version of my view, taking a broader view than just costs and time.
The European Parliament’s Single Seat campaign has been going on for years, mainly using two arguments: cutting travel costs and CO2 emissions, plus saving time for MEPs and officials. This sounds like good PR, but it is not progressing, against the legal and political background. Indeed, the 3 seats (Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg) are mandated by the Treaties… Changing this would require the support of every member state: major political reasons required…
Strasbourg is the symbol of past French-German wars turned into peace and democracy. What could help France and Germany accept such a change? Well, more peace from Strasbourg and more democracy in Brussels.
Heightened by the Russian-Ukraine war, Strasbourg could be enhanced as symbol of peace. Initiatives should grow around the pan-European Council of Europe, which has its own Assembly. The Hague focuses on worldwide and legal issues, with no parliamentary aspect. Brussels also hosts NATO and is not the universal symbol of peace it wishes to be. As for democracy, it comes first from parliamentary (and media) scrutiny of the European Commission. [This would be helped by physical proximity in Brussels, instead of spending time in planes and hotels.] I know of no other example where the parliament is so far away from the government. Treaty updates may come in several areas, notably to avoid the UK leaving the EU. In this context, strengthening the EU democracy and efficiency could be the right angle to tackle the Single Seat deadlock. Perhaps.