For or against a single seat for the European Parliament?

European Parliament Single seat Strasbourg Brussels
Numéro 1

Learn the ropes

Does the European Parliament have more than one seat?
Yes, this is a rhetorical question – if you are being asked, it means that the European Parliament has more than one seat. The European institution has 3 seats in 3 different countries of the European Union. The official seat of the European Parliament is based in Strasbourg, where almost all the important votes take place during the plenary sessions. Also, Brussels hosts a second, unofficial seat of the EP where parliamentary committees meet. Finally, Luxembourg hosts the secretariat and administration team of the European Parliament.

In 1992, the Member States of the EU decided to integrate this organisation into the European treaties. The treaties compose the legal basis of the European law, which makes them biding for the European institutions. So, a change in this organisation would require a change in the treaties, which would only be possible via a unanimity vote of all of the Member States and a ratification by all their national Parliaments.

Why was Strasbourg chosen as the official seat of the EP?
First, this decision was made for purely practical reasons. The European Coal and Steel Community, an ancestor of the EU, was created in 1952 with a consultative parliamentary assembly, which later became the European Parliament. As there were no buildings created for this assembly, it was allowed to share the assembly room with the Council of Europe based in Strasbourg.

Besides the practical reasons, the Strasbourg’s seat was also chosen for symbolical reasons. Based at the border between France and Germany, it represents both the diversity of the EU Member States, and the truce between these two countries at the end of the WW2.

Why do we talk about it today?
First, this debate is linked to the efficiency of the European assembly. As the other two legislative institutions meet in Brussels (The European Council and the European Commission), the European Parliament also concentrated it’s major part of activity in Brussels to increase the efficiency of the discussions.

Therefore, the European Parliament is legally bound by the European treaties to meet 12 times per year in Strasbourg. Those meetings, known as plenary sessions, require to move the whole personnel (MEPs, assistants, councilors, etc.) and relevant documentation from Brussels to Strasbourg for 4 days per month in average. The plenary sessions are the only moments when decisions can be taken, except for a few budgetary cases.

The European Parliament expressed the will to move it’s official seat from Strasbourg to Brussels, but several Member States, including France, don’t agree with this proposal.

Numéro 2

Choose your side

The idea behind the Rift is simple: for each topic of debate, we provide you with an expertise based on a pro-con approach, written by competent and legitimate experts. We want to help you make your own opinion, and guide you on first steps to civic engagement.
What is your opinion before reading the article?


A Single Seat for the European Parliament is not mission impossible

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt Single Seat European Parliament Strasbourg Brussels

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt

MEP for Sweden (EPP) & Chair of the Single Seat, the cross parliamentary campaign for one seat of the EP

European citizens are surprised to hear that the European Parliament moves some 400 kilometers from Brussels to Strasbourg twelve times a year. Thousands of journalists, lobbyists and civil servants of other institutions also travel back and forth each month.

In 1992, it was included in the Treaties that the Parliament shall hold voting sessions in Strasbourg 12 times per year. However, the rest of the parliamentary work is held in Brussels.

The European Parliament should have the right to decide where and when to meet

While as European Parliament we have called in several occasions for a single seat with an overwhelming majority, the power to change the Treaties is in the European Council’s hands.  The decision must be taken unanimously.

I lead the Single Seat campaign for a European Parliament that is more efficient, less polluting and closer to the citizens. We believe that the European Parliament should have the right to decide where and when to meet, like every Parliament in the world.

It is a question of democracy. Having one seat would also save the environment 19 000 tons of Co2 emissions and according to the EU Court of Auditors 2015 report it would save the EU 114 million euros each year.

It is also a question of efficiency. In its ruling last October, the Court of Justice has stated that the European Parliament can vote the budget procedure in Brussels, instead of Strasbourg “if that is required for the proper functioning of the budgetary procedure”. This ruling is very important because it goes in the same direction of what we stand for.

Not having the European institutions organized in the most efficient way is just giving more incitement for EU-sceptics

Still, we need an agreement among Member States to change the Treaties. We must involve France in the process and find alternative solutions for Strasbourg.  I have brought this up with President Macron at two occasions and he did not close the door to dialogue. Not having the European institutions organized in the most efficient way is just giving more incitement for EU-sceptics. Ahead of the European elections, our Heads of state need to grasp this opportunity and take a constructive and diplomatic discussion on Council level to open a roadmap on the Single Seat. Both chancellor Merkel and chancellor Kurtz have spoken for one seat; which is a huge step in the right direction.

We as European parliament have done our part and gathered a common position. Now it is time for EU Governments to take responsibility and respond to taxpayers expectations. There is no mission impossible if citizens ask for it.


Strasbourg is THE Seat!

Catherine Trautmann European Parliament Strasbourg Eurometropole Brussels

Catherine Trautmann

Vice-president and municipal councilor, Eurométropole de Strasbourg

The European Parliament has one seat, in Strasbourg. The organisation of its work and services is divided between Strasbourg, Luxembourg and Brussels.  

The Parliament of Strasbourg is home to emblematic debates and the European Parliament’s successes on major issues: universal suffrage, budgetary authority, co-decision, ratification of international trade treaties. 

As the parliamentary capital of Europe, Strasbourg hosts the only European institution elected by direct universal suffrage, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. This statute is affirmed in the Treaty. 

The transformation into a “smart parliament” will considerably reduce the environmental impact

In our times, there is an unfortunate tendency to over-simplify, resulting in approximations and errors of judgement. This is especially true of the seat of the Parliament in Strasbourg, which is said to be too expensive, too far away, etc. 

In the meantime, the Paul-Henri Spaak building in Brussels was built just 25 years ago and is now in such a state of disrepair that it requires renovations estimated by an internal Parliamentary memorandum at close to €400 million! 

The oft-cited argument of the cost of sessions in Strasbourg does not hold up. It amounts to only €52.6 million per year (that is, 10 cents/year/citizen) out of the European Parliament’s budget of almost €2 billion. The only comparable costs in terms of a single seat would be those of all parliamentary activities in Strasbourg or another location. 

The carbon footprint of the Strasbourg seat is continually shrinking. As indicated in the European Parliament Environmental Statement approved annually by Members, it stands at 3,250 tonnes of CO² per year, 6 times less than the figure put forward by Strasbourg’s competitors. The transformation into a “smart parliament” will considerably reduce the environmental impact caused by canteen transport, paper, etc.

When Brussels symbolises bureaucratic opacity, the European Parliament must be returned to its rightful political role

At a time when the citizens of Europe are losing faith in the European Union and when Brussels symbolises bureaucratic opacity, the European Parliament must be returned to its rightful political role, thus correcting the process of co-decision which has been reduced to trialogues or votes without discussion. To enable citizens to appropriate the European debate, the Parliament must be independent, sovereign, and endowed with a real power of initiative. 

Promoting and developing the seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg means promoting a democratic governance of the Union which is open, transparent and as close as possible to its citizens. Because Strasbourg is the Capital of the People of Europe! 

What is your opinion now?

One thought on “For or against a single seat for the European Parliament?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Empowering opinions