In an article earlier this year, I outlined some basic facts and the background of the Single Seat campaign, the sole purpose of which is to – in layman’s terms – shut down the European Parliament’s expensive, environmentally damaging and basically ludicrous monthly trips to Strasbourg to vote. I briefly discussed the long road to achieving that goal. But let us look a bit more into the options and the initiatives taken by the campaign.
In short, there is only one way: Treaty change! Treaty change cannot, however, be achieved by anything but a unanimous consent of all member states. And as mentioned before, especially France, but also Germany and Luxembourg create an issue.
What are these issues? In the case of France, it’s obviously due to a geographical factor as Strasbourg is in France and it generates huge income and prestige for France to maintain a major EU institution. Germany and Luxembourg host a number of institutions, too, and might fear the snowball effect (Luxembourg is home to the administrative part of the European Parliament, for instance).
Next step: National governments
Nevertheless, that doesn't prevent the European Parliament from creating pressure. The EU treaty currently in effect, the Lisbon treaty, doesn’t allow the MEPs to make their own decisions on where they work. It does allow them to put forward suggestions and proposals for the European Commission, on which the national governments decide later.
Having already convinced the Parliament – in October the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Parliament voted 22-4 for the Parliament to be able to decide when and where it meets – the campaign’s next steps will be to convince the national governments that are not already on board.
In the spirit of being elected representatives (there are a number of European Parliament members behind the campaign) the overall strategy is to show the governments that their own people want this change to take place.
With the help from the people
Therefore, they have started a petition, which to this date has gathered 1.3 million signatures. For comparison, one million are needed for a European Citizens’ Initiative to be taken up by the European Commission. On top of this, the Single Seat campaign is prompting voters to ask their governments to support the initiative.
Moreover, in order to keep the momentum among the parliamentarians in the next term, a Single Seat Pledge has also been launched to be signed by everybody standing for election in May next year.
In addition, Single Seat Steering Group member Edvard Kožušník has written letters to the leaders of all 28 EU Member States asking them to take initiative and promote their cause. Positive responses have so far been received from the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Croatia. Ministers to some degree have expressed their support in other countries as well, including Finland, Denmark and the UK. To follow up, the campaign will appoint a number of ambassadors whose job is to take the case forward in their home countries.
Lastly, a so-called Brussels task force is to be established. The members will consist of a variety of elected representatives from different levels of local, national and pan-national government, EU institutions, such as the European Commission, the European Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European External action services, Committee of the Regions, representatives from the diplomatic community, the civil society and the media.
A long winding road
All in all, there is no doubt that the Single Seat initiative is gaining more and more momentum. Yet, it has a long winding road ahead it and faces some massive struggles.
For instance, the above-mentioned task force has a direct counterpart, the Strasbourg Task Force, supported by the French government, which works to keep the parliament seat in Strasbourg.
In general it is unlikely that the member states will agree to open up the treaty only to change a single and relatively small issue. And as the time has slowly passed, where the debts of the crisis seemed to demand more fundamental changes and maybe even treaty changes, it seems like a hard job to find other issues to link this with, in order to revise the treaty.