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EU bid to halt Strasbourg meetings wins 1 mln signatures

A petition drive to halt the European Parliament's monthly commute to Strasbourg, France tallied the millionth signature in a bid to stamp out government waste. Led by 130 members of the Parliament, the campaign says European Union taxpayers shell out more than € 200 million ($255 million) annually for the trek from Brussels to Strasbourg and back 12 times a year. “When the European Parliament's traveling circus finally ends, the Parliament will be able to use its resources to more efficiently and effectively work on behalf of all Europeans,” Cem Oezdemir, a German Green member of the Parliament, said in an e-mailed statement today. Strasbourg became the official home of the EU Parliament under the same 1992 treaty that gave birth to the euro, and the French government has quashed previous efforts to move it. The petition drive, the biggest yet under new EU rules on participatory democracy, seeks to stir up Europe-wide pressure on France to relent, the campaigners said on their Web site. The 732 members of the Parliament maintain offices in Brussels and Strasbourg and hold 12 plenary sessions a year in a € 460 million Strasbourg assembly hall that opened in 1999. Brussels hosts six plenaries and most committee work and hearings. The European Commission, the EU's executive agency, is based in Brussels. It won't take sides in the Strasbourg quarrel because “it is a good European tradition, I think, that the executive body doesn't lecture the legislative body,” spokesman Johannes Laitenberger told reporters today. (Bloomberg)