Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Triannual Commuting

Given how everybody keeps complaining about the Parliament's monthly trek to Strasbourg, how come no one seems to object to the fact that the Council spends all of April, June and October in Luxembourg? The very same Protocol that establishes the location of the Parliament also gifts the Council with an extra commute:
Sole Article
(a) The European Parliament shall have its seat in Strasbourg where the 12 periods of monthly plenary sessions, including the budget session, shall  be held. The periods of additional plenary sessions shall be held in Brussels. The committees of the European Parliament shall meet in Brussels. The General Secretariat of the European Parliament and its departments shall remain in Luxembourg.
(b) The Council shall have its seat in Brussels. During the months of April, June and October, the Council shall hold its meetings in Luxembourg.
I understand that France is unlikely to give up its right to host the monthly EP Plenary session - although for the next few months it will have to - but how hard can it be to convince Luxembourg to let the Council stay in Brussels all year round?

Of course, it doesn't matter very much for the Ministers themselves. They fly in from their home countries anyway, so for them it's just a matter of telling the pilot to fly somewhere else than usual. Also, the meetings of COREPER and the Working Groups stay in Brussels all year round. (Although I notice that yesterday's PESC and COREPER 2 were in Luxembourg, presumably so that the participants could be there for the Foreign Affairs Council later that day.) But that doesn't mean that these Luxembourg sessions don't cost money. Each Minister will need at least one person from his country's permanent representation in Brussels to come and tell him how to vote. There need to be civil servants from the Council's General Secretariat to make sure the President of the Council knows what he's doing. (We can't let Cyprus, a country without railways, handle the conclusion of the Railway Regulation Recast unsupported now, can we?) Add to that the Commissioner and his/her staff, and that's quite a bit of Brussels - Luxembourg traffic.

Obviously the cost of all of this is going to be a fraction of what the EP's Strasbourg sessions cost, but it still seems like a useful place to start. So I say: Cut the budget, keep the Council in Brussels!

UPDATE: OK, so maybe Luxembourg won't be that easy to persuade. In the litigation before the ECJ about the Parliament's most recent attempt to avoid at least one trip to Strasbourg, they intervened in support of France.

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