Wednesday, 26 April 2006
Another Strasbourg Scam
Another masterpeice from my mate Daniel Hannan MEP:
The European Parliament, it seems, has been swindled. We MEPs – or, rather, you taxpayers – have been paying €1 million a year over the odds to the city of Strasbourg (see the excellent coverage online at www.thefirstpost.co.uk).
It is, of course, quite normal to over-invoice when dealing with the EU. Contractors know that Eurocrats are not spending their own money. They are like builders asking “Insurance job, this, is it?” – only on a far, far grander scale.
What distinguishes this little scam, though, is that it reignites the argument about the location of the European Parliament. MEPs generally meet in Brussels; but, once a month, we travel Strasbourg. (We also maintain a permanent seat in Luxembourg, for reasons which are too complicated to go into now.) The expense of migrating between these places is awesome. Even when we factor out the cost of interpretation, each MEP costs the taxpayer nearly €2.5 million a year. It’s not just the 732 MEPs who make the monthly peregrination, you see: it’s the chauffeurs, the committee clerks, the man who advises your secretary about her pension rights – oh, and some twelve tons of papers, shuttling back and forth in a dedicated train.
Many MEPs, sick of having to place themselves in the clumsy hands of Air France each month, want to end the Strasbourg sittings. But there is no way that this can happen: the French have managed to sneak a clause into the Treaties specifying that the Parliament must meet in Strasbourg twelve times a year. This commitment cannot now be removed without the unanimous consent of all 25 states; and there is no way that France will give its consent.
Interestingly, though, the Treaties make no mention of Brussels. So there is a way to end this wasteful and absurd charade: we could cut out Brussels and meet permanently in the chief town of Alsace. Moving away from the grey and soulless streets of Brussels would horrify the Euro-fanatics: they see the town as Europe’s federal capital. But meeting permanently in Strasbourg would bolster the old idea that the EU is an association of states, its institutions spread among its members. Whenever I suggest this idea to other MEPs, they say: “But we have to be at the centre of power. If we were separated from the Commission, it would be harder to pass legislation.” Yes, it would. As the French say: “Et alors?”
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For details of meetings at which Daniel Hannan will be speaking please see his website - http://www.blogger.com/ - click News, then Forthcoming