By Martin Banks - 17th March 2011
Right now there is still insufficient support for this
Dutch European affairs minister Ben Knapen has said the Dutch government backs a single seat for parliament.
He has also pledged to raise the issue during the ongoing debate about the EU's future budget and said the Dutch government would work with its EU partners to build support for a change to the treaty to give parliament a single seat.
His comments came in response to questions put to him by Han ten Broeke, a Dutch MP for prime minister Mark Rutte's ruling Liberal VVD party.
The remarks were welcomed by independent MEP Edward McMillan-Scott who is leading a campaign to scrap the Strasbourg seat.
He said, "I am very pleased the Dutch government has taken this position. It reflects not just the Dutch opposition to the split-site arrangement, but opposition across Europe. It is indefensible more than ever on grounds of cost and environmental impact."
The minister said that he is following with interest the work being done by the Brussels-Strasbourg seat study group, led by McMillan-Scott, on finding alternatives for Strasbourg.
He said last week's vote on the parliament's calendar of meetings for 2012 and 2013, when it decided to combine two monthly plenary sessions during a single week, is "a positive development".
The group's study shows that an annual saving of €180m can be made in relation to the parliament budget if Strasbourg sessions are scrapped.
Knapen said he shared the opinion of the British government that the Strasbourg seat represents "an enormous and unnecessary waste of money and resources".
He said, "Especially in times of austerity the two seats of the parliament, and the cost this entails, cannot be justified. I will therefore raise this issue in the context of the revision of the financial perspectives.
"I am pleased with this study and consider it supports this government's goal of a single seat for parliament."
The study said that 88 per cent of MEPs and assistants favoured scrapping Strasbourg.
He said, "The government will certainly use the study to reinforce its case for a single seat in its contacts with EU partners. Changing the current practice requires an intergovernmental decision which all member states must ultimately agree to.
"Right now there is still insufficient support for this among member states and France continues to insist on Strasbourg as the seat."