European elections are taking place in May 2014 and with a fresh Parliament on the horizon, we see this as the perfect time to put a stop to the European Parliament’s travelling circus. The European Parliament (EP) works mainly from Brussels, but for fewer than 50 days a year the Parliament moves to its official seat in Strasbourg to vote. This dual seat, in combination with keeping half its administrative staff in Luxembourg, costs an extra €180 million and 19,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.
In current times of economic hardship and global warming, these budgetary and environmental costs are no longer justifiable.
When the European Community for Steel and Coal (ECSC) was founded in 1951 it had two seats, one in Strasbourg and one in Luxemburg. The city of Strasbourg has a special meaning, as it was the place where Germany and France met. This is important, since one of the underlying political objectives of the ECSC was to strengthen Franco-German solidarity and cooperation — and thus avoid a new war.
With the Treaty of Rome (1957) the common market was introduced and this enlargement of the cooperation meant there was need for more space for the European institutions. The city of Brussels was appointed as the new capital of the European Union, but the Secretariat-General of the Parliament and the Court of Justice remained in Luxemburg, and the Parliament itself kept its seat in Strasbourg.
At that time the EP consisted of a handful of non-elected representatives of governments, and it had only a fraction of its current influence and responsibilities. Now, it has co-decision power in most areas of legislation and its daily work is done in Brussels, in close contact with other European institutions and civil society organisations. However, MEPs still move to Strasbourg 12 times a year to vote.
Since 2007, 1.27 million citizens have signed a petition demanding that the European Parliament should have a Single Seat in Brussels. Unfortunately, the distribution of official seats of the European institutions is written down in the EU Treaty, which means the Parliament does not have the power to decide where it meets. It can, however, under the Lisbon Treaty, formally propose Treaty changes to Member State governments — which is what it did with the Single Seat campaign in 2013.
The European Parliament clearly agrees with the concerns of these 1.27 million citizens, adopting in 2013 —with a supermajority of 78 percent — a motion stating it wishes to be able to decide when and where it will officially meet. So now it is up to the Commission to decide whether or not to put this motion to the Parliament and the Council, who can then decide on this change to the Treaty.
We have no preference as to where the European Parliament seats. We do however understand the Parliament itself has shown a preference for Brussels, due to the effectiveness of working close to the other European bodies and institutions, as well as the representatives of civil society and the media.
Also, although we realise the importance of the reasons why the European Parliament was officially seated in Strasbourg, we believe that with the ascension of 22 new Member States since the creation of the ECSC, the importance of a seat in Strasbourg has become mainly historical and does not weigh up to the resources spent on moving the Parliament back and forth.
Therefore, we as AEGEE, share the concerns of European citizens considering the high costs of forcing the European Parliament to maintain its two seats. We also believe the Parliament itself should decide, taking into account both practical issues as well as historical ones, where it wishes to convene. We therefore urge the Commission to initiate the procedure for a Treaty change, giving the European Parliament the right to determine its own seat.
AEGEE/European Students’ Forum was born 29 years ago with the vision of creating a unified Europe, based on democracy and respect for human rights, bringing together students with different cultural backgrounds. Today, AEGEE is Europe’s largest interdisciplinary student organisation: 40 countries, 200 cities, 13 000 friends.
This network provides the ideal platform for young volunteers to work together on cross-border activities such as international conferences, seminars, exchanges, training courses, and case study trips. In line with the challenges young people are currently facing in Europe, AEGEE’s work is focused on three main areas: promotion of youth participation, development of European relations with its neighbours, and inclusion of minorities.
 Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Protocol no. 6, On the location of the seats of the institutions and of certain bodies, offices, agencies and departments of the European Union: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/treaties/index.htm
 Treaty of Lisbon, Title III, Provisions on the Institutions, Article 9: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2007:306:FULL:EN:PDF