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 Full text 
Procedure : 2012/2308(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0350/2013

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 19/11/2013 - 15
CRE 19/11/2013 - 15

Votes :

PV 20/11/2013 - 8.27
CRE 20/11/2013 - 8.27

Texts adopted :


Tuesday, 19 November 2013 - Strasbourg Revised edition

15. Location of the seats of the European Union's institutions (debate)
Video of the speeches

  Ashley Fox, rapporteur . − Mr President, in the four years that I have been an MEP, the question I am most frequently asked by my constituents is why there are two European Parliaments.

It is a good question and I challenge anyone here to provide a convincing answer. Why do we spend EUR 150 million a year maintaining two parliaments and travelling between them?

At a time of austerity at home, when national governments are making painful spending cuts, how can we justify that expenditure? Why, as we lecture our constituents on reducing their CO2 emissions, do we emit 19 000 tonnes of the stuff every year when commuting between Brussels and Strasbourg? I do not think that there is anyone in this chamber who thinks the current arrangement of shuttling between the two cities is a good one.

We all understand why Strasbourg was chosen as the seat of the Council of Europe after the Second World War. And we understand why the first European parliamentary assembly chose to sit here as well.

It was a symbol of reconciliation between France and Germany. It was a good choice. But times change and what was a symbol of reconciliation in 1950 is now a symbol of waste: a waste of time, a waste of energy and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The report before the House tonight is a genuine cross-party effort. I want to thank my co-rapporteur, Gerald Häfner, and also the shadow rapporteurs for their cooperation.

The report was passed by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs by 22 votes to four. We reached a broad consensus that two principles should guide us in determining the seat of the European Parliament: firstly, the European Parliament should have one seat and, secondly, it should be the European Parliament itself that decides where it sits. We conclude by committing Parliament to introducing the treaty change necessary to give us that power. If we pass this report and follow it up with our treaty change, then we will compel the Council of Ministers to address an issue that it has evaded for too long.

Our report does not mention Brussels or Strasbourg by name. Some Members here want a single seat in Brussels and some will want a single seat in Strasbourg. We should not let that divide us. I happen to think that Strasbourg is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited. It is clean, safe, welcoming and has a rich cultural heritage.

In contrast, Brussels can only boast one of those attributes. However, our personal views should not form the basis of our decision. We are here to represent our constituents and it is abundantly clear to me that they do not support the current position.

Our travelling circus between Brussels and Strasbourg has become an object of ridicule across the EU. Support for membership of the EU is already wafer-thin in the United Kingdom and the continuation of the travelling circus is one of several issues that further undermines support for our membership.

I am proud to be co-author of the Fox-Häfner report. If Members approve this tomorrow, we will have started an important process of reform. We will save hours of time and make this Parliament more effective. We will save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year and, most important of all, we will save hundreds of millions of euros of taxpayers’ money.

Last updated: 14 February 2014Legal notice