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On November 20, members of the European Parliament voted 483-141 to end the longstanding practice of convening for four days each month in Strasbourg, France. If passed, this measure would confine the European Union’s sole elected body to the primary capital of Brussels, Belgium, and allow its government to operate more efficiently.
A 2011 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty article described the unwieldy logistics of the current dual-capital arrangement, which involves travel for hundreds of MEPs, their assistants, and the press, as well as transport of reams of files. “The European Parliament’s travelling circus, as some here have dubbed it, is more than just an oddity. For many it is a time-consuming and labor intensive nuisance—and it is increasingly coming under criticism.”
“‘In that Strasbourg week, you lose a day by travelling,’ [MEP assistant Rosalie Biesemans] says. ‘Everybody…loses at least one day…some of the MEPs don’t get there in one day.’
“Most parliamentarians and staffers drive from Brussels to Strasbourg, although some 740 of them cut their travel time by taking a fast train, subsidized by France’s national rail company, which gets them there in four hours.
“Cost is also an issue. Studies have shown that holding a monthly session in Strasbourg costs EU taxpayers 180 million euros a year.”
A popular movement calling for a “Single Seat” of European government decries the current arrangement’s cost as well as its environmental impact. Some sources estimate that ending the monthly trip would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 19,000 tons annually.
Strasbourg sits in the region of Alsace on the German border. The city, once known for its tanneries and other traditional industries and now one of the largest commercial ports on the Rhine River, was annexed by Germany in the late 19th century; returned to French control after World War I; then occupied by the Germans again during World War II before liberation by the Allies. Because of this history, the Parliament’s presence is seen as a symbol of a modern, peaceful European continent.
However, such a move must be passed unanimously by all EU member states. France is not prepared to let go of this physical reminder that they are a founding state of the Union: “‘Our position remains the same: that we are attached to the E.U. seat in Strasbourg,’ Romain Nadal, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France, said…‘It is a matter involving not only France but all Europeans. Strasbourg is a symbolic city, one of Europe’s capitals’” (The New York Times).
If the one-capital push survives a likely French veto and a deal can eventually be made that satisfies Paris, it would be another incremental step toward centralizing and consolidating power for the EU, which has battled inefficiency, incompatibility between member states, and mountains of red tape since its founding in 1993.
Delays and difficulty integrating member states have caused many to discount the possibility of Europe ever becoming a unified, dominant world power. But history—as well as Bible prophecy—say otherwise!