By Marta Andreasen MEP
• There was much fanfare, high fives and mutual back-slapping yesterday when MEPs reduced next year’s trips to Strasbourg by one, meaning that instead of twelve trips, MEPs will now go to Strasbourg 11 times.
I, for one, was not overly impressed. To me it’s like taking 500 pounds off someone, giving them 15 back and expecting them to be grateful.
For those of you who are not familiar with how the European Parliament works, MEPs are forced to travel to Strasbourg every month for a plenary session. I use the word forced because that is the truth, we have no choice under the existing treaty that stipulates that meetings of the Parliament must take place in Strasbourg 12 times a year.
A recent report published called ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’
put the extra cost to EU taxpayers at £150 million a year for Strasbourg trips alone. It also said 317 full-time European Parliament staff jobs could be abolished if the current system ended.
For the UK alone it is estimated that having two seats for the European Parliament currently costs the British taxpayer £28 million per year and also means that 20,000 extra tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted each year in the process.
So let’s put this move by MEPs into context. It is a very small step in the right direction. I fear however that many will now rest on their self-congratulatory laurels and no longer push for what really needs to happen: the abolition of trips to Strasbourg altogether.
Until MEPs show they are sincere in practicing what they preach about ‘austerity measures’ and end the ludicrously wasteful, not to say expensive charade that are Strasbourg plenary sessions, I feel certain that most people will feel like I do, unimpressed and demanding their 500 back.