Every month, thousands of people travel from Brussels to Strasbourg for meetings of the European Parliament. It has always been tedious. But now there is a new point of criticism: Waste of energy. Is the oscillating parliament over?

If you were to ask people in the pedestrian zone where the European Parliament meets, there would quickly be confusion: in Strasbourg? In Brussels? Both are correct – and that’s exactly where the problem lies in times of high energy prices from the point of view of many. The debate about the traveling circus in the European Parliament is now getting new fodder because of the energy crisis.

Parliament’s headquarters are in Strasbourg. In the French city, MEPs meet for twelve plenary sessions a year. All other meetings, including those of the committees, usually take place in Brussels, Belgium.

The administration is located at the third location of the EU Parliament, in Luxembourg. A convoy of thousands of employees therefore commutes back and forth between Brussels and Alsace on a regular basis. Some parliamentarians are now demanding that the parliament should only have one seat, at least temporarily.

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“In view of skyrocketing energy prices, millions of Europeans are worried about their next gas and electricity bill. So it is unacceptable that Parliament is heating and lighting two huge office complexes at the same time and that several thousand MEPs and employees have to travel to Strasbourg,” says Green MEP Daniel Freund.

He calls for no more parliamentary sessions to be held in Strasbourg until the energy crisis is over. “An end to the commuting of the EU Parliament would save a lot of money, energy, CO2 and time,” says the chairman of the SPD MEPs, Jens Geier.

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According to a parliamentary spokesman, much has already been done to become more economical. Accordingly, only the most necessary employees go to Strasbourg. According to the information, everything that is possible is done remotely. In 2021, there were 9,000 business trips by employees to Strasbourg. The cost of the return trip – Parliament charters its own trains – was around 1.7 million euros in 2021.

A few weeks ago, Parliament President Roberta Metsola dampened expectations of an end to the commute, referring to the efforts and the EU treaties. And so the traveling circus is pitching its tents in Strasbourg again for four days starting this Monday.

In times of the energy crisis, that is an “intellectual declaration of bankruptcy,” says FDP MEP Moritz Körner, referring to an example from the past: “During the Corona crisis, the European Parliament proved that it can also advance laws without traveling to Strasbourg. During the Corona pandemic, Parliament met only in Brussels for more than a year.

However, a permanent transfer would not be so easy. The European Treaties prescribe Strasbourg as the seat of Parliament. All member states would have to agree to a change – including France. And that is not at all enthusiastic about the idea of ​​withdrawing Parliament from Strasbourg.

“If you want to talk about energy savings, the meetings should be held in Strasbourg, which has a less energy-intensive building than the one in Brussels. In addition, the price of electricity in Strasbourg is lower than in Brussels,” says the President of the Alsace European Local Authority, Frédéric Bierry.

The French MEP Sylvie Brunet from the Renew Europe group also considers Strasbourg to be the most energy-efficient location because of its infrastructure. The fact that the European Parliament has three seats in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg is also the essence, the heart of the EU.

“Acting in multiple places, taking into account the realities of different Member States, is Europe’s real vocation.”