Strasbourg, established by the EU’s founding treaties as the headquarters of the European Parliament, has more than one million citizens signed up to unseat it. They want Brussels to be the sole place of work for the EU’s only directly elected institution.
More than a million and rising, on this internet petition. The EU constitution says this many can force the European Commission to propose legislation on a matter. However, analyst Karel Lannoo points out the constitution cannot apply yet, and that the French are not in a rush to strip Strasbourg of its prestige:
“I think, given the circumstances, it will not change much. I mean, we have to see what is happening in France and it depends on France in fact. I mean, we have the preparations for the election next year, and I don’t expect Chirac to change anything on that. Also because even if there are a million signatures it will be up to the European Council to decide, and I don’t expect them to take any moves against France in the next eight months. It can only be changed over the long term. It may happen, because the current situation is almost untenable for the European Parliament, this way of working. But I think it should happen.”
Cecilia Malmstrom, a Swedish liberal MEP, is the petition’s driving force. She has been tipped for a minister’s job with the new government in Stockholm. One of the arguments put forward by many who have argued to have the parliament in Brussels alone is the cost of the moving between cities. Today the bill footed by European taxpayers is around 160 million euros per year. But determined arguments exist on Strasbourg’s side as well.