Rhein on Energy and Climate

The 10th November 2013 is likely to enter EU history as the day when an overwhelming majority (483 against 141 and 34 abstentions) of MEPs passed a resolution calling for a single location of the EP.

To this end, Article 341 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Institutions, according to which the governments of member states decide on the location of EU institutions by unanimous agreement, will have to be amended.

The location of the European institutions is a saga stretching over more than half a century.

In 1958 when the six member European Economic Community was launched the distribution was simple: Luxembourg kept the High Authority of the Coal and Steel Community established in 1952, Brussels obtained the EEC Commission and Strasbourg, which hosted already the Council of Europe, obtained in addition what was the parliamentary Assembly.

10 years later with the merger of the executives the the High Authority was moved to Brussels.

After the first elections of the re-named European Parliament in 1979, started organising committee meetings in Brussels to be closer to the Executive; and Luxembourg was “compensated” with the EP Administration and the right to hold occasional plenary meetings.

During the last 30 years the work of the EP had thus been divided between Brussels (for the committees and up to two plenary meetings), Strasbourg with 12 plenary meetings and Luxembourg with the administration.

This division has proved increasingly stressful for the MEPs, especially those coming from Eastern member states, expensive (more than € 150 million annually, 10 per cent of the EP budget) and polluting in terms of C02 emissions (more than 10 tons per year)

Sooner or later it had to lead to the outcry that finally took place at the November Plenary.

Member states have not much choice but to concede and change the Treaty accordingly. Economic and political logic call for Brussels as the single location for the European Parliament and the European Executive. The Treaty change will no doubt be linked with the usual “compensations” among member countries; and it will not take place tomorrow. But after the 2019 elections new deputies should expect to put their luggage in Brussels only. This will be good, for them and the standing of the Union.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 21/11/2013

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  1. It could be a chance to appoint Stransbourg as the permanent seat for Eurozone/Eurogroup parliamentary sessions and a fair compensation for France having missed the 12 EU plenary sessions.

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