Sunday, 18 November 2012

The European Union in a nutshell

The 500-million European parliament building in Strasbourg, where the parliament's 754 members meet 12 times a year at a cost of $230 million.

Citizens all over Europe have to try to make ends meet amid a growing number of austerity measures and a worsening recession. But life in the huge bureaucracy called the European Union continues as if nothing would have changed:

Reuters is to be congratulated for publishing the following brief facts about the European Union:
  • The European Parliament shifts its base once a month from Brussels to Strasbourg in France, at an annual cost of 180 million euros ($230 million).
  • The European Council, which represents member states, is building a new ‘Europa' headquarters right next door to its existing marble-and-glass building, at a cost of 310 million euros.
  • The European Court of Auditors, another EU institution, announced on November 6 that 4 percent of spending in the last EU budget had been "irregular", although this was largely due to mismanagement by member states.
  • EU civil servants get generous health and pension benefits and free private education for their children in Brussels' leafy neighborhoods.
  • EU institutions have cellars stocked with nearly 47,000 bottles of red, white and sparkling winewith a total value of 515,000 euros, according to a response to questions from German Member of the European Parliament Martin Ehrenhauser.

"Probably Europe's most bizarre set-up is the 500-million euro parliament building in Strasbourg. The parliament's 754 members meet 12 times a year there, even though they also have a complex in Brussels.

Each time the parliament moves to Strasbourg, more than 5,000 people travel the 350 km (217 miles) from Brussels, many of them in two specially laid-on high-speed trains or on charter flights. A lorry picks up a trunk of documents from each lawmaker's Brussels office on Friday evening and delivers it to his or her office in Strasbourg's gleaming, glass parliament by Monday morning.
"I've yet to go to a meeting in my constituency where someone doesn't say, ‘Why on earth do you still go to Strasbourg and Brussels?'" says Edward McMillan-Scott, the British leader of a campaign to abolish the Strasbourg seat. He commissioned a 2011 study that put its total cost at 180 million euros a year.

But the system is written into the EU's treaties.

This year, parliament cut back one trip. France said that was against EU treaties, and Paris took the parliament to the European Court of Justice. A preliminary opinion sided with the French, and a final judgment is expected in the next few weeks."
(image by wikipedia)

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