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Fox AshleyAshley Fox is Member of the European Parliament for the South West of England and Gibraltar

The two-seat arrangement of the European Parliament, based in both Brussels and Strasbourg, is a complete farce. Where else in the world would you see a Parliament re-locate to identical facilities 250 miles away for 48 days a year and leave the same huge building complex empty for the remaining 317 days?

And its all to satisfy the French! When Strasbourg was chosen as the official seat of Parliament it was a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation. 50 years later it is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the EU.

According to the EU Treaties, Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament. The Parliament must meet there 12 times a year for Plenary sessions, where legislation receives its final vote. For the rest of the year, the Parliament meets in Brussels, where Committee and Political Group meetings take place, where MEPs have their offices, and where most staff live. It is also where the other main EU Institutions are, namely the Commission and Council, therefore allowing for greater scrutiny and oversight of the EU executive.


So when the monthly plenary sessions take place, thousands of people have to de-camp to Strasbourg: MEPs, their staff, civil servants, government representatives and diplomats. Numerous lorries are stacked up with office documents to be transported hundreds of miles to France. And this is despite the presence of an identical debating chamber in Brussels, perfectly capable of hosting the Plenary sessions.

The cost of this travelling circus from Brussels to Strasbourg is estimated at 200 million Euros per year and 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The transport connections to Strasbourg are so poor (you can’t fly there direct from the UK or from 20 other EU countries) that the majority of MEPs are forced to undertake a costly 2 or 3-leg journey to get there.

It is damaging the environment and a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. So what can we do about it? In order to change the EU Treaties we need the agreement of the European Council – the meeting of the 27 Heads of Government. Unfortunately the subject is never put on the agenda – because to do so would upset the French.

I want the UK Government to take the initiative. I have therefore launched an e-petition calling on the Government to lobby for an end to the Strasbourg Circus at the European Council. Readers will be aware that getting 100,000 signatures for an e-petition means a good chance of a debate in the House of Commons on the subject. If you would like to see that debate take place do add your name to the petition using the website http://www.stopthestrasbourgcircus.com/.

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