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European Parliament cancels Strasbourg session over COVID red zone classification

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People wait in line to be tested for the COVID-19 outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Tuesday, May 12, 2020.
People wait in line to be tested for the COVID-19 outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Tuesday, May 12, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias
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The European Parliament President has decided to cancel all travel to the second seat in Strasbourg next week.

The move comes after discussions with the French authorities after the city was declared a red zone following a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Parliament President David Sassoli lamented the situation, reiterating that the monthly session held in Strasbourg is written into European treaties.

"While we are very disappointed about this decision, we have to consider that the transfer of the administration of the European Parliament would entail quarantine for all staff upon their return to Brussels," Sassoli said in a statement.

The next session slated for 14-17 September will take place in the Brussels seat of the European parliament.

The question of moving hundreds of MEPs and staff members from Brussels to Strasbourg has often been the subject of controversy over both the financial and environmental cost.

Speaking to Euronews ahead of the decision MEP Juan Lopez Aguilar (Spain, S&D) showed his dislike for the monthly move:

"We do it because we are obliged to. We don't go to Strasbourg because we like it, we do it because we have to, because there is a clause in the European treaty that says the plenary takes place in Strasbourg."

However, there are those who defend the symbolism of the second seat. French MEP Natalie Loiseau told Euronews that it is the 'beating heart of democracy'.

Strasbourg became the seat of the European parliament in 1992, while Brussels was set as the venue for parliamentary committees and the parliament's staff would set based in Luxembourg.

Although the situation is unpopular with both the public and MEPs themselves, a change would require the unanimous vote of every member state, and would likely be vetoed by France.

The European Parliament in 2003 put the cost of the caravan at €103m, but the EU points out that 6% of the parliament's budget, 1% of the EU's administrative budget and just 0.1% of the total EU budget.