US News European Parliament: the coronavirus will not have the skin of Strasbourg

11:50  12 october  2020
11:50  12 october  2020 Source:   liberation.fr

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  Parlement européen : le coronavirus n'aura pas la peau de Strasbourg © SEBASTIEN BOZON After seven months of absence due to the epidemic, MEPs could soon return to the Alsatian capital. Despite the desire of many parliamentarians for a single seat in Brussels.

Will the European Parliament return to sit in Strasbourg during its second plenary session in October (19-22) after a seven-month absence? The decision will be taken on Thursday by the presidents of the political groups. But continuing to boycott the Alsatian capital because of the epidemic situation there becomes difficult to justify once the indicators improve. A spokesperson for the Italian Social Democrat David Sassoli, President of Parliament, admits: "We are ready to go to Strasbourg" because "the [health] situation is good". But, ironically, it is now the Bas-Rhin which is being pulled aside, the local authorities hardly wanting to see a whole potentially contaminating areopagus land since the infection rate of Brussels, where the second seat of Parliament, reached an alarming level which would place it, in France, in a zone of maximum alert, which is not the case in Strasbourg…

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Brussels, red zone

The European Parliament was the first institution to take seriously the coronavirus pandemic by deciding, in February, to generalize remote work and no longer go to Strasbourg while the European treaties provide that twelve sessions per year must be held there (the rest of the time, the Parliament is in Brussels). The health argument was certainly well founded, moving nearly 2,500 people once a month being dangerous in itself, but it met the desire repeatedly affirmed by four-fifths of MEPs to have a single seat in Brussels. Since February, the virus has spread widely in the Union, so much so that the health argument has weakened considerably as, since September, physical sessions have resumed.

The pro-Brussels have however been able to count on the (involuntary?) Support of the Belgian authorities. During the summer, they have in fact gradually placed all of France in the red zone, which meant that those who went there had to respect a fortnight on their return… A golden argument for keeping the plenary sessions in Brussels in September and October. But, two weeks ago, the quarantine reduced to seven days became only "recommended" and, above all, the deterioration of the health situation in the kingdom has deteriorated considerably.

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Political pretexts

Emmanuel Macron therefore decided to come out of the woods on September 23 in a particularly firm letter sent to David Sassoli and the content of which was revealed by the Latest news from Alsace : "The [health] situation is certainly difficult, but it is just as difficult in Brussels as in Strasbourg, ”he underlines. The tenant of the Elysee Palace affirms its determination not to allow "political pretexts to recover the fear raised by the pandemic to question this symbol of rediscovered unity" that is Strasbourg. The Head of State even considers it necessary to "define compensation mechanisms, which could for example take the form of an extension of the sessions in the coming months", this one having been shortened by one day several years ago. years and replaced by two-day “mini-sessions” in Brussels. The work of the future conference on the future of Europe could also be held there.

If there is a return, it will be in a lighter form: the deputies will be accompanied by only one parliamentary assistant and the vast majority of civil servants will continue to telework from home as they have been doing for seven months. The pro-Strasbourg also note that the Parliament has demonstrated that it can work remotely with the other institutions and that the seat of Brussels was basically unnecessary ...

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