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The never ending dispute between Strasbourg and Brussels

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By Kerstin Acker Translation by Andrew Kimpson

Without a doubt the city of Strasbourg is where Europe’s heart beats and where the spirit of Europe took it roots.

But does the city rightly bear the title of the capital of Europe ? The protest is growing and is becoming especially loud in regard to keeping the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Should everything in the future only take place in Brussels? The number of petitions is growing daily and the protest is gathering pace.

The opposition is biding its time to react. But it does exist. With the backing of MEP Briggite Fouré (PPE-DE) and leadership of Pierre Savreux and Fabrice Hinschberger, the organisation “One City” has been founded. They aim to make sure all central offices of the European Parliament (administration, commissions, meetings) are to be held in Strasbourg.

It is unclear whether the initiative will be successful in silencing the protests.

Nevertheless, it is an appropriate response to the petition submitted by Margot Wallström which called for the European Parliament headquarters to be in Brussels. More information and support forms for the initiative can be found on the website One City and in the Facebook-group.

This petition is aimed at the wider public

With the title ‘Strasbourg has been made the victim of Experiment Hold Up for many years’, the founders of the organisation “One City”, Pierre Savreux und Fabrice Hinschberger, have circulated a petition aiming to get signatures of European citizens.

The aim of the petition: to uphold the agreement for staging sessions of the European Parliament solely in Strasbourg. It will require at least one million signatures before the petition can be brought before the European Parliament and be considered.

The organisation’s arguments for the parliamentary seat are simple but clear: “Strasbourg embodies a certain conception of Europe: a Europe for the people, a Europe of democracy, a Europe for human rights. And when the world takes a look at Europe, it looks at Strasbourg and not at Brussels!”, as stated by Pierre Savreux. “If the European Parliament leaves Strasbourg, Europe will lose what it currently represents, what makes it attractive and what it is. And that just can’t be allowed to happen” added Fabrice Hinschberger. They are convinced that this petition is essential if these “underhand attacks coming out of Brussels are to be brought to an end.”

“Strasbourg is the heart of the European Union”

In an institutional sense Strasbourg is the capital of Europe, since it is the home of the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. The city plays a vital role within European communications and follows a modern understanding of democracy and human rights. In addition, Strasbourg is a city with a unique history; the symbol of Franco-German reconciliation. What other city can say that it has changed its “nationality” four times in the last century alone?

"We are not against Brussels, but we must recognise the heart of Europe and that its 27, one day perhaps 33, countries must return to its birthplace. And this is in Strasbourg, thanks to the Franco-German reconciliation”, reaffirmed Savreux.

If the petition is successful and the aim of bringing a single seat of parliament to Strasbourg is achieved, many things would be much clearer and simpler. The organisation wants a “modernisation of dialogue at the centre of the three institutions, to ensure the synergy between and necessary controls of the Commission, Council and Parliament.” This would make possible the use of video conferencing or the permanent presence of the Commission and the European Council in Strasbourg.

Not least, it should be remembered that if all institutions of the European Union were to come together in Strasbourg, it would enable the Parliament to become an EU institution to which all citizens of the European Union could identify, since they would recognise Strasbourg as the capital and heartbeat of Europe. “Nobody challenges Frankfurt as the location for the European Central Bank, for example, or the status of Brussels as the European executive and the same goes for Luxemburg! Why should Strasbourg’s status be called into question?!” reply both leaders of the organisation unanimously.

At the same time, they hope to profit from the French Presidency of the EU, so that their demands may be heard. “This is the opportunity we need to put the debate under the media spotlight!”

Faced with a Europe that currently seems to be getting more technocratic, Strasbourg presents a good alternative and an opportunity to bring the people of Europe closer together, “especially after negative election results concerning the new constitutional plans and the Lisbon Treaty… Strasbourg embodies all the positives of Europe, it stands for reconciliation and a new start and offers Europe the footing it needs.

All interested European citizens are invited to sign the petition, which will be presented to the European Parliaments Petitions Commission. The organisation hopes to find the necessary support that will give more weight to their argument. Discussions have so far mostly been lead by Catherine Trautmann (EP, PSE, FR) and Bernd Posselt (PE, PPE-DE, DE) on a trans-political and international level.

The organisation is currently limited to parliamentary action. Nevertheless, a press conference has been arranged to inform all citizens about the initiative.