By John Chalmers
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – As members of the European Parliament gathered in Strasbourg this week, a German politician claimed he had found a treaty loophole that could put a stop to the monthly caravan of EU lawmakers and their staff from Brussels to the French city.
Members of the European Union’s assembly (MEPs) convene in Strasbourg for one week every month and in Brussels for the remainder. According to a 2014 audit, the monthly upheaval costs the bloc 114 million euros ($126 million) a year.
Critics have long called for the arrangement to be scrapped, but it has stayed in place largely because France would veto any attempt to make the required amendment to the EU treaty.
German MEP Nico Semsrott says he noticed that the Treaty of Amsterdam stipulates that the parliament should have its seat in Strasbourg, but did not say “in the city of Strasbourg”.
In a spoof video on YouTube, the 33-year-old lawmaker goes to a plenary hall of the parliament in Brussels and ceremonially smashes a bottle at its entrance to name it ‘Strasbourg’.
Semsrott, a member of the German ‘satirical’ party Die PARTEI and a slam poet, was elected to the European Parliament last May.
“I am already tired of doing the back and forth,” he told Reuters by phone from Strasbourg. “Over five years I will have to be in cars or trains for more than 60 working days.”
Aside from the cost, many critics of the two-seat parliament point to the carbon footprint of 751 MEPs – and many more advisers and officials – decamping from Brussels to Strasbourg and then returning a few days later.
British MEP Matthew Patten called in a speech to the assembly on Tuesday for an end to “the senseless pollution” caused by the parliamentary circus.
“By 2050 it would save over 600,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions,” he said. “It would send a massive signal to Europe and the world that the EU is really serious about fighting climate change.”
(Reporting by John Chalmers; editing by Jan Strupczewski)