Sunday, 13 November 2011

More Europe Manifesto: single seat for European Parliament

After my latest post about the More Europe Manifesto I wanted to compress the conclusions about EU or eurozone level democracy into Twitter mode:

#Euro crisis Everything else has failed - why not try EU #democracy

#Euro Alternatives are #Merkozy or #democracy leading #eurozone

Citizens for Europe

But let us return to More Europe. In order to overcome the crises in the eurozone and the wider European Union, a group of Spanish eurobloggers has launched an appeal for More Europe.

You can read and sign the appeal on the More Europe blog. You can participate in the Twitter discussion @moreurope and under the hashtag #moreurope, and you can help to spread the word among citizens of the European Union.

The initiators act as EU citizens. Hence they want to build on European achievements important for ordinary people. Their appeal is now available in eight languages.

After stating the need for greater European integration, their sixth proposal aims at bringing the so called travelling circus of the European Parliament to an end.

“More Europe” Statement

Given the dramatic social situation in many Member States caused by the economical crisis and the anti-European voices predicting the breakup of the Economic and Monetary Union, the undersigned ask for More Europe.

We consider it is necessary to move to a greater European integration in order to address the current situation of social and economic crisis affecting Europe and for this reason we will join our forces as European citizens. To achieve our goal we claim that:


6) We believe it is essential to set only one seat for the European Parliament, either in Brussels or Strasbourg, in order to reduce costs and duplication of duties. We believe that this austerity measure will bring the institutions closer to citizens. If Brussels is chosen as the only headquarters, we suggest that Strasbourg remains as a symbol of the creation of the EU and become a peace and common history museum.

One seat

Before the Treaty of Lisbon officially introduced the citizens' initiative (ECI) – in Article 11(4) TEU – the campaign collected signatures for locating the European Parliament solely in Brussels. When I looked, 1,270,847 persons had signed the One Seat initiative, said to save about 200 million euros annually if enacted.

European Citizens' Initiative (ECI)

The ordinary legislative procedure applies to the provisions for the ECI procedures and conditions (Article 24 TFEU).

Even if the principle is clear, a lot of ECI details are laid down in a Regulation, available in all 23 official EU languages; in English:

REGULATION (EU) No 211/2011 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 16 February 2011 on the citizens’ initiative; OJEU 11.3.2011 L 65/1

The Regulation 211/2011 will apply only from April Fools' Day 2012 (officially 1 April).

The European Economic and Social Committee EESC) has published a brochure for organisers and the wider public:

Your Guide to the European Citizens' Initiative (2011; 24 pages; available in 22 languages)

The admissibility criteria seem to point in the direction of more or less normal legislative issues, within the Commission's powers to make proposals, not high politics concerning the nature of the EU itself or even Treaty details.

Article 2(1) limits the admissibility in the the following manner:

Article 2

For the purpose of this Regulation the following definitions shall apply:

1. ‘citizens’ initiative’ means an initiative submitted to the Commission in accordance with this Regulation, inviting the Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties, which has received the support of at least one million eligible signatories coming from at least one quarter of all Member States;

Intergovernmental cooperation

Like most of the really important matters in the European Union, the seats of the institutions have been agreed between the governments of the member states (”owners”). Protocol (No 6) annexed to the Lisbon Treaty states:

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.

Officially, Strasbourg is the seat of the European Parliament, a fact opponents often glide over, although most of the work of the MEPs, most of the time is done in Brussels.

As a Treaty level provision, the seat of the EP is behind two unanimity locks: agreement by all the governments of the member states and ratification by all the members (national parliaments).

The seat of the European Parliament is an example of the outcomes with ”freely cooperating sovereign nation states”, a principle cherished by the government of the United Kingdom, to name just one prime proponent of sub-optimal outcomes.

French opposition

Despite public outcry and a majority of MEPs coming out in favour of one seat (Brussels), including an impact assessment 'A tale of two cities' and the @SingleSeatEU campaign, the French government continues its adamant opposition to any change. Some governments have come out in favour of one seat, too.

The More Europe Manifesto is slightly more cautious than the one seat campaign, the MEPs' vote and the Single Seat campaign, but the tenor is the same. They even want to offer Strasbourg compensation, should Brussels emerge as the sole seat.

I suppose that all the initiatives would like to see the General Secretariat joining the rest of the Parliament in its future single location.

Somehow the sensible solution would be to let the European Parliament decide on its own location and organisation. Now the EP is seen as wasteful, without the powers to change the obviously unsatisfactory state of affairs in this respect.

More Europe proposals

I have mentioned the refreshing More Europe initiative of the Spanish eurobloggers in earlier posts: announcement, free movement, EU symbols and education about European integration, fiscal and social harmonisation in the eurozone, as well as EU-wide constituencies and the next Commission president to emerge with a clear political mandate from the voters in the elections to the European Parliament.

Read and sign the appeal on the More Europe blog, participate in the Twitter discussion @moreurope, hashtag #moreurope, and help to spread the word. The More Europe proposals are worth discussion among citizens and politicians.


Citizens of the European Union are entitled to express their opinions and to help forming public opinion in favour of reform.

Gutta cavat lapidem...

Ralf Grahn