EU Parliament chauffeurs drive over a hundred near-empty vehicles to Strasbourg monthly
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    EU Parliament chauffeurs drive over a hundred near-empty vehicles to Strasbourg monthly

    Over a hundred vehicles are driven to Strasbourg every month, with most occupied mostly by the parliamentarians' chauffeurs. Credit: © Belga

    The European Parliament is facing a fresh round of scrutiny over reports that its plenary session in Strasbourg sees over a hundred near-empty cars hit the road every month.

    A spokeswoman for the parliament told German agency dpa news that a number of MEPs flew from Brussels to Strasbourg while their chauffeurs drove their function vehicles there.

    The drivers embark on the 450-kilometre ride in order to bring the parliamentarians from the airport to the hotel, according to De Morgen.

    The convoy is made up of 120 cars, the majority of which are occupied solely by the driver, as only a limited number of MEPs choose to make the trip by car.

    For the November plenary session, only 25 of the 751 EU lawmakers drove to Strasbourg while the rest go there by plane or train.

    The unidentified spokeswoman said that the choice was in the interest of “sound financial management,” noting it was not advisable to park vehicles in Strasbourg.

    While she also said that most of the vehicles being driven there monthly were either hybrid or electric, the news provides fresh fodder to critics who see the monthly relocations as wasteful and environmentally irresponsible.

    The plenary sessions in Strasbourg are enshrined in the EU treaties, which defined the French city as the official siège of the parliament, where most plenary sessions are carried out.

    MEPs themselves in 2013 called for a revision of the treaties in order to allow parliament to choose where it sits, arguing that having a single location would help improve the parliament’s image as it would be “more cost-effective.”

    A EU court of auditors report in 2014 found that the monthly move, which sees MEPs occupy the Strasbourg building for roughly four days each month, has an average yearly cost of €109 million, with all related expenses taken into account.

    A previous internal report by the European Parliament carried out a year prior had found that up to €103 million could be saved each year if the Strasbourg plenary trip was scrapped, a figure corresponding to about 6% of the parliament’s budget and only about 0.1% of the whole EU budget.

    In the run-up May’s European election, a majority of MEPs backed the idea of having a single seat, an option which was less popular against French MEPs, with some saying it was an important symbol of a decentralised EU.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times