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France Defends European Parliament's 'Traveling Circus'

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TEHRAN, March 17 (ICANA) – France will go to the EU courts to protect the European Parliament's notorious "traveling circus" after MEPs tried to cut the number of sessions they hold in Strasbourg.
Thursday, March 17, 2011 1:13:42 PM
France Defends European Parliament's 'Traveling Circus'

The 736-strong EU assembly is forced by European treaties to hold monthly sittings in France, a trek of hundreds of miles from Brussels to Strasbourg that costs the taxpayer £150 million a year.

The annual bill for British taxpayers of the special arrangement, which is justified as a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation after the Second World War, is £28million, telegraph.co.uk reported.

During a vote on the parliament's calendars for 2012 and 2013 last week, MEPs voted to merge the two Strasbourg sessions programmed for every October into one, meaning 11 trips instead of 12 - a saving of £13million a year.

But France furious at the attempt by MEPs to decide where their own parliament should sit yesterday (TUES) moved to challenge the decision in the EU's Court of Justice.

"The parliament building in Strasbourg is the symbol of a Europe closer to citizens, a Europe that is proud of its symbols," said Laurent Wauquiez, the French Europe minister.

"The government will not accept the knife-attack on the contract which is in the treaties."

Ashley Fox, the Conservative MEP who won cross-party support for the idea of cutting Strasbourg sessions, warned France not to try and override the majority view of the parliament.

"France has made a serious error in challenging this decision. It was the overwhelming will of the European Parliament, right across the political spectrum, to cut down on the number of journeys that we make," he said.

"It is fighting a futile battle. The significant support in the parliament for reducing our time in Strasbourg is backed up by even stronger support among our voters."

French insistence on the parliament's two seats means that every month a convoy of 25 trucks leaves Brussels to make the 440-mile return journey to Strasbourg.

With a cargo of 4,000 trunks of office documents for MEPs, officials and interpreters, the fleet generates almost 20,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

France will argue in court that, under EU treaty law, MEPs must sit for 12 weeks in Strasbourg even if the parliament's buildings there, purchased at a cost of £467 million five years ago, are unoccupied for nine months a year.

Edward McMillan-Scott MEP, the parliament's vice president, said: "Rather than a battle between lawyers, I would prefer a civilized debate between politicians about our unsatisfactory working arrangements."

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