September 15, 2018
In the European Union the European Parliament, one of its main institutions has two buildings and locations where its sessions are held. In 1992 at the Edinburgh European Council, Member State’s governments decided that the Parliament should have its seat in Strasbourg for its 12 monthly part-sessions including the session at which the annual EU budget is taken. The additional part-sessions would be held in Brussels. The seat of the Parliament was decided in Article 341 TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).
The Single Seat Campaign
The Single Seat campaign to eliminate the European Parliament Seat in Strasbourg began in 2007 after the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty. It started with an online petition that gained 1.27 million signatures from EU citizens. Their idea was that all of the main EU buildings are in Brussels and the Parliament’s main seat should be as well. They point out that it was too costly to do the travel and is also a waste of valuable time each month.
In 2015 a working group made up of MEPs and university professors conducted a study that countered the Single Seat’s campaign and provided facts that back up Strasbourg as being the place for the single seat and to eliminate Brussels. They called their report “The Seat -Strasbourg.”
If the change were to occur, it would need a treaty change and for this France’s approval. The idea has been debated since and continues with each side fighting for their position.
Count Christian d’Andlau Hombourg of Alsace
There is no one more suitable to question on the topic of the Strasbourg seat than Count Christian d’Andlau Hombourg, whose family name is all over Alsace. A 16th century family castle is his residence there. Royal crests decorate the tombstones or graves of his relatives located around the family chapel. His vast vineyards make up the quaint Alsatian landscape. His ancestor’s are represented in the Abbatial churches in Alsace, including at Mont St. Odile.
As a child the Count’s parents frequently took him to the Au Crocodile restaurant in Strasbourg which would later be frequented by EU founding father Alterio Spinelli. Spinelli founded the Crocodile Club in 1980, a year after the Parliament’s direct elections. The club published a news letter, called “Crocodile,” which existed for well over a decade and acted as a briefing of the discussions and topics at the highest levels within the evolving European Communities at that time.
Driving Otto Von Hapsburg to EU Parliament
Count Christian d’ Andlau remembers as a teenager driving Archduke Otto Von Hapsburg to the European Parliament after he stayed the night with his grandfather. In the car he joked to the young Count how German reunification occurred because of his deliberate omissions when he acted as translator between Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl.
Christian d’Andlau historian
Count Christian d’Andlau along with being a member of the French Aristocracy is a historian and lawyer who graduated Strasbourg University. He is also a financier and a French politician. Formerly PanEuropa’s Secretary General, he currently holds the Presidency of the Strasbourg jurisdiction of Paneurope. This keeps him in permanent contact with the European institutions in Strasbourg. These include the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the military Eurocorps. He also is currently the President of the Federalist Party in Alsace.
I know that Strasbourg is dear to your Heart
Yes it is
Strasbourg is dear to your heart and you have a very good argument for Strasbourg remaining the Seat of the European Parliament.
And if you would like to explain your argument as to why it should remain the seat of the European Parliament versus moving it to Brussels.
Thank you for asking this question because I like it. First of all yes as you said Strasbourg is dear to my heart because I was born here. But its not the main reason. If it was only a chauvinistic reason your question or my answer would not be so valuable. But there are some other objective and philosophical reasons. First the idea of Strasbourg being a center [for]the European Union was [from] Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill strangely enough. Churchill is the man who had the idea of the Council of Europe and of having the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Churchill understood that if we didn’t want a third war between France and Germany and the rest of Europe France and Germany had to reconcile. If France and Germany could reconcile then the peace will have more chances to be respected in Europe. If one city was symbolic of the German and French peace; this city could only be Strasburg. Because Strasbourg has always been prey for the French and for the Germans; not only Strasbourg but all of Alsace. Strasbourg is the main city in Alsace.
France and Germany’s Long History of Wars
So the Germans and the French have fought at least four wars. At least four wars around Strasbourg and Alsace; first during the Thirty Years War in the 17th
century between 1618 and 1648 that’s when Alsace became French. It used to be part of the Holy Roman German Empire but it became French after this war. Then again it became German in 1870. The Germans beat the French in 1870 Alsace became German again.
In 1918 Germany lost the First World War and Strasbourg and Alsace became French again. Then in 1939 Hitler invaded Alsace and annexed Alsace in 1940 as a part of Germany again. Alsace and Strasbourg were conquered again by the French in 1944-45. Because the French General Leclerc made an oath in Kufa North Africa during the Second World War. His oath was we shall not stop fighting this war until the French flag flies on the top of the cathedral in Strasbourg. And he did it. And after all these wars General DeGaulle managed to shake hands with the German Chancellor Adenauer. It was a reconciliation and that’s very symbolic and very important.
The Powers Must Be Separate
Secondly on a legal ground if you want to have institutional democracy, if you want to have democracy within the institutions we must follow Alexis de Tocqueville point of view. Alexei de Tocqueville wrote a book a famous book for the French called La Democratie en Amerique.The Democracy in America In this book he explains how the United States of America have been built around this idea of democracy. And one of his main ideas is that the powers must be separate. Today all the lawyers know that the power is separated. This is the first thing that you learn at Law school.
In constitutional law you learn that in democracies the powers are separated between the executive power, the Parliament whose making the laws and the Judicial power that must be independent.
The European Union has also separated its powers. The European Court of Justice is in Luxembourg. The European Court of Human Rights is in Strasbourg. The European Commission is in Brussels. The European Council is meeting in Brussels. But, with the European Parliament we have a problem. Because legally and according to the treaties there is only one European Parliament and one seat of the European Parliament and that seat is Strasbourg..
Strasbourg is a Provincial City, Brussels-A Capital City
That’s the theory. In practice Brussels, in Belgium has better transportations than Strasbourg; better airports. Its more accessible-first. Its really a capital city. While Strasbourg is dear to my heart except for the fact it has a very beautiful cathedral, a very respected University, Strasbourg is still a rather provincial city in Europe. We have a little bit more than 600 thousand inhabitants in Strasbourg. We have a University of about 70 thousand of students but that doesn’t make Strasbourg an important city.
So the members of the European Parliament’s representatives would prefer to meet in Brussels. And for that reason they have their working groups in Brussels preparing the projects that had to be voted in Strasbourg.
The Brussels Parliament is just a building, its not the EU Parliament
So the working groups are in Brussels in what they are calling the European Parliament in Brussels which is not the European Parliament of Brussels. Its a building where the working groups are going to work and working. Its not the European Parliament and to respect the treaties they move with all the aides, secretaries and archives, documents at least once every month. Certain months they travel twice and it costs a lot of money, energy, some documents may get lost and it’s complicated to get a room in Strasbourg sometimes, for some people etcetera
Democracy is guaranteed by the separation of the EU institutions
Democracy is best guaranteed by the separation of powers. Therefore, it should be avoided that most of the European Union institutions be centralized in only one place like Brussels.
Only Lobbies Benefit from a Single Location
The present situation is most profitable to the lobbies who can easily meet in Brussels, not only the members of the Commission and the members of NATO but also all the Members (ie. representatives) of the European Parliament ; but the lobbies usually represent private financial interests, not democracy.
It would be best that the European Commission (ie. the executive power) be alone in Brussels, the European Court of Justice (ie. the Judicial power) in Luxembourg, and the legislative power (ie. the complete European Parliament with its representatives, plenary sessions, working groups AND civil servants administration) exclusively in Strasbourg.
Same thing for the other European institutions : the European Central bank in Frankfurt, the FRONTEX in Warsaw, etc.
After touring the EU Parliament building with Count Christian d’Andlau and seeing with my own eyes- the Louise Weiss building, its overbearing authoritative architecture distinguishes it from all other headquarters located in Strasbourg. It is no wonder that Jean Claude Juncker would state, “Strasbourg is like God in the Catholic Church: it is not to be questioned!”. It is as Christian d’Andlau relayed to me in another unrelated conversation the etymology of Alsace (Elsass in German) is “The Seat.”
For the entire interview see this playlist on Youtube and the following articles:Erika Grey