By Martin Banks - 12th July 2011
This, I believe, is the most important vote in the history of parliament
A majority of MEPs now support scrapping Strasbourg as one of parliament's official seats, according to a new report.
The report, published in parliament on Tuesday, also says one of two most favoured options for the assembly's buildings in the Alsace city is a "university of Europe".
The other best-supported alternative is the creation of a "city of justice" involving the relocation of other EU bodies, including the European Court of Justice.
These are the main findings of a study carried out to find possible alternatives to Strasbourg should it cease to host the monthly parliamentary plenary sessions.
The study was conducted by the informal, cross-party "Brussels-Strasbourg seat study" group, set up last October to provide information on the controversial two-seat arrangement.
In February, it published a comprehensive report, "A tale of two cities," which showed that the additional cost of Strasbourg is €180m and 19,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.
Speaking at a hearing on Tuesday, UK ALDE member Edward McMillan-Scott revealed that the number of MEPs now supporting a single seat had risen to 373 from 353 in June.
He said, "This is the result of some MEPs correcting their original votes and is very significant because it means there is now an absolute majority in favour of a single seat."
"This, I believe, is the most important vote in the history of parliament and once again shows that the vast majority of MEPs and staff would prefer to meet only in Brussels."
A public consultation exercise by the group, involving a "wide range" of MEPs, staff and members of the public, also shows that the majority favour the parliament buildings in Strasbourg being used by either a "university of Europe" or as the base for a 'city of justice'.
Other possible ideas from 26 written submissions so far made to the group include it being used by the Committee of Regions or Nato.
Former Dutch MEP Michiel van Hulten said the consultation is expected to be completed after the summer with the aim being to "develop a consensus" on possible alternatives to parliament's buildings in Strasbourg.
A treaty change is still required before any decision to scrap Strasbourg can be taken and the French government has launched a legal challenge to any attempt to move parliament's activities to Brussels.
German deputy Alexander Alvaro pointed out that the case will go to the European Court of Justice but that, even so, parliament had the "right" to determine where it met.
"This is all about our right to self-determination. Some have said it is a vendetta against Strasbourg but that is most certainly not the case."
A separate study by Dutch academic Philippe van Parijs showed that, based on distance from member state capital cities, Prague would be ideal as an "EU capital".