The European Association of Young Entrepreneurs (EAYE), which is based on civic action, independence and political neutrality, presents its arguments on the issue of the European Parliament’s seat.
This is a particularly important reminder, as crucial European elections are ahead of us. In spite of the current crisis, some MEPs continue to waste working time and energy on this matter, which has been resolved through legislation and supported by the European Court of Justice’s judgment on 13th December 2012.
We, representing civil society and entrepreneurs, call upon all members of the European Parliament to finally devote their resources and their strength of conviction to the real problems: employment, purchasing power, growth, immigration, and thereby restore trust between citizens and Europe!
1. Targeting Strasbourg means weakening Europe
An offensive is being undertaken against Strasbourg, targeting the construction of Europe, its history, and the principle of geographical diversity of its institutions. If all European institutions were to be concentrated in Brussels, Europhobes would be given a new opportunity to stigmatise an all-powerful “Eurocracy”, far removed from the people. Strasbourg is not only a symbol of the past, but also of the common and demanding values arising from this troubled European past: democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
2. The excessive financial cost and carbon footprint estimations of anti-Strasbourg activists
Anti-Strasbourg activists have published an increasing number of studies and reports on the costs of the Parliament’s seat, the conclusions of which vary greatly and are often contradictory. Above all, they are overestimated (between 180 and more than 200 million Euros and nearly 20 000 tons of CO2). In February 2012, the EAYE published a report that examined and condemned the sources and methodology employed. With supporting budget documents of the COCOBU, our organisation demonstrated that the annual cost of the Parliament’s seat was 51,5 million Euros and the environmental cost 4199 tons of CO2. Furthermore, the General Secretariat of the Parliament updated its data for 2011, thereby confirming that Strasbourg has the lowest carbon emissions: 3250 tons of CO2, representing a fall of 22.3% for Strasbourg between 2010 and 2011, while the overall drop for the entire European Parliament was only 4.3%.
3. A democratic institution should not be evaluated solely with regard to its running costs
Debates about the seat of the European Parliament too often come down to a matter of cost. Any institution implies construction, maintenance and running costs. There is nothing more dangerous than focusing on the cost of an institution, whatever the institution. It would question the very principle of democracy and the functioning of a State, in this particular case the European Union. It would fall under populism and open the door to extremism and challenge democracy.
4. Granting the European Parliament the right to decide where to sit would equate to providing it with an excessive level of power
During the hearing of the AFCO committee on 27th May 2013 in Brussels, the European expert Olivier Costa – while not in favour of “scattering” the Parliament’s workplaces – demonstrated that very few national constitutions or practises in the world grant their parliament the privilege of deciding where they should sit: “There is no basis within regime theories or theoretical approaches to the EU to say that the European Parliament has the right to decide alone where its seat should be”.
5. It is a mistake to claim that the cost of the Strasbourg seat would translate into savings if transferred to Brussels
The transfer to Brussels would not produce any savings as the empty premises in Strasbourg would need to be maintained regularly by the European Parliament, or more broadly by the EU. These empty buildings will remain in the EP or European institutions’ property portfolio, with maintenance and caretaking costs, or even accelerated obsolescence if they remain vacant over a long period.