In the eternal rivalry between Brussels and Strasbourg for the main meeting place of the European Parliament, the city in Alsace suddenly appears as a savings alternative: In Belgium, there is a risk of high renovation costs for the plenary hall wing.
Jens Geier gave up hope that reason would win when he was a member of the European Parliament. “I won’t experience that again,” says the head of the SPD MEPs about the prospects that the nonsensical traveling circus of the EU Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg could ever end.
Geier complains that the regular caravan of MPs and their staff from Belgium to France costs 110 million euros a year, but other estimates are even higher. But the insight “Let’s just do without Strasbourg” doesn’t stand a chance. So it will stay that “we can’t actually explain to anyone why we do the traveling circus”.
It is not up to the MEPs that the absurd monthly packing of suitcases continues. Initiatives to abolish it keep coming from their ranks. Rather, it is in France’s interest to retain and develop Strasbourg as a parliamentary location. For this purpose, a hotel might even be built there especially for the MPs, in the course of an allegedly cost-neutral building exchange. “We could just leave it alone,” says Geier about this project.
For this purpose, a hotel may even be built there especially for the MPs, in the course of an allegedly cost-neutral building exchange. “We could just leave it alone,” says Geier about this project.
The costly balancing act between Brussels and Strasbourg is all the more unpleasant since the energy crisis, inflation and other consequences of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine are weighing on European public finances and the EU budget for 2023 of 186 billion euros, which has only just been wrapped up, is already considered insufficient – which is why one wants to open up new sources of income, so-called “own resources” for the EU.
They are said to come from the taxation of multinational companies, from trading in certificates for carbon dioxide emissions and a new tariff for goods from countries in which climate protection is less strict than in the EU.
When looking for ways to save, the level of ingenuity is significantly lower. On the contrary, the MEPs are pushing a voluminous item of expenditure in front of them, which is likely to be difficult to convey to the public.
Barely 30 years after its completion, the heart of their parliamentary area in Brussels, the Paul-Henri-Spaak building with the plenary hall, is so dilapidated that, according to an architectural competition, a complete demolition and new construction are possible in addition to a “thorough renovation”. could. Depending on the scope of the work, cost estimates are up to 500 million euros. Since the Federal Republic finances a good fifth of the EU budget, the German taxpayer would then be involved with 100 million.
French Strasbourg supporters, including the city’s mayor Jeanne Barseghian, are happy to handle the maximum cost estimate. 70 years after the first assembly of the forerunner of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, at that time under the direction of the Belgian Paul Henri Spaak, the building named after him in Brussels gives you a weighty argument: Why renovate or build new there at great expense – where but there is a perfectly usable conference venue available in Strasbourg?
Officially, Strasbourg is the headquarters of the Parliament, twelve of its sessions per year must be held there. Parliament’s administration is based in Luxembourg. The committee work takes place in Brussels, but also plenary sessions. The plenary hall of the Paul-Henri-Spaak building was temporarily closed in 2012 for structural reasons. Architecture critics called the building a “monster” in “sluggish, late postmodern form”.
A complete demolition of the building with cheese-box architecture, derided in the Brussels vernacular as the “mood of the gods” (“Caprice des Dieux”, a type of cheese), would not only be an admission that in the 90s, for a lot of money, you might have messed with the building construction started. But would also have a high negative symbolic content – the heart of EU parliamentarism in ruins.
The European Parliament does not exactly have a winning topic in front of its bow. Many of the shortlisted entries for the architecture competition leave little of the current shape of the Paul Henri Spaak building. When asked by FOCUS Online, jury member Rainer Wieland, Vice President of Parliament, declined to comment on the subject.
According to Parliament, “no decision has been taken to implement any of the proposals, and no funds have been budgeted for.” It is up to the Executive Committee to decide at a later date between renovation or new construction. In a resolution in October, the plenary asked the Bureau to “explore austerity opportunities and completely reconsider the project for the future of the Spaak building in Brussels”.