The forgotten seat of the European Parliament
When speaking of the one seat campaign, most will immediately think about our monthly trips to Strasbourg. These trips require us to mobilize our staff members, office equipment, EP secretariat, translators, etc to Strasbourg for five days time, twelve times a year. The monthly sessions in Strasbourg translate to €180 million and 19,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.
The Strasbourg charade receives well deserved attention in the press, thus I will not elaborate further. I will like to address the Parliament's third, more costly seat in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg Cityis the official location of the Parliament's administration, which includes the Secretary General of the European Parliament along with seven of the 11 Directors General.
Historically Luxembourg was affirmed as one of the Parliament's working places by John Major in the Edinburgh Summit of December 1992. In 1995 European Parliament President Klaus Hänsch concluded an agreement with Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker on the permanent presence of 2.185 posts in Luxembourg. In 2000, following another agreement with the Grand Duchy, this figure was reduced to 2060.
Notwithstanding, since all the Parliament's meetings are conducted in either Brussels or Strasbourg, the presence of over 2000 staff members in Luxembourg creates very high financial and human costs; besides the annual running costs for the buildings, on the amount of €45 million, the European Parliament is also reimbursing "mission expenses" to officials travelling between the three seats.
The reimbursement includes travel costs on the amount of €65; accommodation expenses to a ceiling of €140, and a daily allowance of €92. Multiply this figure by 540 average monthly missions between Brussels and Luxembourg and 140 between Strasbourg and Brussels or Luxembourg and you get a clear estimation of how much money can be saved by having a single working place.
Those active in the calls for the one seat campaign tend to focus only on Strasbourg, but that is a mistake, especially as the Parliamentnow faces the decision to build a new building in Luxembourg, estimated by the cost of €804million.
MEP's and the public have long been criticizing the multiple working places of the EP. The latter even showed its dissatisfaction by collecting over one million signatures in favor of the single seat. Answering this demand requires need a change in EU's Treaty, but it also requires more pressure on the Council and Member states who oppose the single seat.
Here is where the European Parliament can play a crucial role, and recent developments demonstrate that.
On 16 February, 2012 MEPs voted in favour of an amendment in support of the one seat which was tabled to the general guidelines for EU's budget for 2013.
On 21 March, 2012 the Committee on Budgets voted on the Parliament's budget for next year. Seven amendments, three of them tabled by me, call for a single seat to the European Parliament and its staff members. These amendments were approved by a large majority of MEPs. During the plenary session, of 29 March, these amendments were supported by 429 MEPs, which form a large majority of members. (You can see how MEPs voted http://www.votewatch.eu/)
The results of the plenary vote clearly state our position towards one working seat and it's a significant millstone in achieving that.
While it is still premature to announce victory, we are certainly stepping into a desired direction. Being the only directly elected EU institution we should be the one deciding on our working place, and such decision will be based on principles of democracy, accountability and responsibility to our citizens.