Among the things that a law student knows before enrolling in University is that democratic parliaments are independent from governments. Thus it is the MEPs who give confidence to the executive branch, who approves the program, who verifies its execution, who calls for new measures to change situations. And it is the parliamentarians who organize their work. It is not like this everywhere. It is not like this in the democratic European Union, where Parliament is not free to meet wherever they want, but can do so only where a certain government decides – that is the French. Yes, because unfortunately the famous EU Treaties require the European Parliament to have two locations – one in Brussels and one in Strasbourg (also a third in Luxembourg but there is no obligation to meet there, although there is a Chamber and offices too).
Placing Parliament in the middle of what has been a battlefield for centuries, where generations and generations of Europeans were buried, was a model set to symbolize newfound peace in Europe between France and Germany in particular. Without a doubt a nice idea – sacred I’d say. But not at all practical, since all the other institutions are in Brussels, 430 km away from the town to which there are no low-cost flights, is off the main rail routes, and has few highways that are always backed up with traffic.
This seat costs European taxpayers approximately €250 million a year – to move 750 members, 2-3,000 officials, Commission and government members once a month from Brussels where they normally work. Not to mention a whole circus of journalists, lobbyists, prostitutes (it is estimated that a few hundred arrive), all movements that help increase CO2emissions. However the French hold us to it and oppose any decrease in commitment . In fact, the city – with outrageous prices and very poor services – survives on this bedlam and rejects all other compensation proposals.
Parliament, however, is fed up and continues to almost unanimously vote motions, excluding the French (but not all), requesting a single seat and the latest, last month, requested something that is at the basis of democracy which we said at the beginning: to be able to decide their own work by choosing where to hold sessions. But Hollande does not want this and as long as that government opposes, nothing can be done. Unless Parliament obtain the political weight it deserves and that the parties and citizens can give it, the ones pointing to and the others voting for a presidential candidate for Commission, who will be not, as always (or almost), an instrument chosen by the governments .We citizens can do our part to have that better Europe that so many of us ask for by going to vote next year in large numbers for parties that are genuinely pro-Europe.