Europe

Macron and Strasbourg mayor Barseghian hail return of European Parliament

French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Strasbourg to celebrate Europe Day. He also delivered a speech on the future of Europe at the European Parliament building in the city.
French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Strasbourg to celebrate Europe Day. He also delivered a speech on the future of Europe at the European Parliament building in the city. AP - Jean-Francois Badias

French president Emmanuel Macron and the mayor of Strasbourg Jeanne Barseghian hailed the return of the European Parliament to the city more than a year after it was relocated to Brussels due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, said the session between 7 and 10 June of the 705 MEPs would be held in the south-eastern city except in a case of force majeure.

Brussels, which will hold the monthly plenary session between 17 and 20 May, had been the sole seat since February 2020.

Macron had highlighted the importance and relevance of Strasbourg last weekend as he prepared to launch the Conference on the Future of Europe - a citizen consultation via an online platform on the future of the European Union. 

In an interview with the regional newspaper Dernières nouvelles d'Alsace before the start of the conference, Macron said: "If Brussels is the capital of Europe's offices, Strasbourg is the capital of its heart and soul: where it is where its values are defended."

After Sassoli's announcement, the Elysée said in a statement: "We are pleased to see the return of the sessions of the European Parliament in Strasbourg."

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Jeanne Barseghian, who took over as mayor of Strasbourg in last year’s municipal elections, added: "The city of Strasbourg is ready and we will be able to welcome a resumption of parliamentary sessions in very best health conditions," she told France Bleu radio station.

However Barseghian, who was voted in on the EELV’s ecological manifesto, faces a political conundrum.

Normally, MEPs travel from Brussels to Strasbourg once a month for the three-and-a-half day plenary sessions where they debate and vote on legislation.

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Despite claiming to be a carbon-neutral institution, the European Parliament's 12 annual trips between the Belgian capital and Strasbourg was estimated in 2017 to emit between 11,000 and 19,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year - the equivalent of running around 3,000 passenger cars a year.

The bill for the toing and froing has been put at 114 million euros per year.

Though MEPs have been agitating for a sole seat in Brussels, France has resisted pressure to agree a change to the treaties which located the parliament in the two cities.

Alexandr Vondra, of the European Conservatives and Reformists, said: “The party’s long-standing policy is to have just one seat of the European Parliament: either Brussels or Strasbourg but not both of them.

“And it’s particularly important now when we are trying to reach a carbon neutral Europe and fight global warming.”

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