Few MEPs set to attend European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg

Continued COVID concerns mean only a third of MEPs expected to travel to French city.
Press association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

07 Jun 2021

This week’s European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg will see few MEPs attending, with the assembly’s ECR Group taking a particularly strong stand against sending members to the city.

A meeting of political group leaders, the Conference of Presidents, decided last week that the plenary in the French city should go ahead despite widespread concern about COVID-19 rates.

France remains under a curfew with Coronavirus cases rising in some parts of the country.

The ECR Group, one of parliament’s largest, is among those that have decided to send few people to the city for the plenary which starts later on Monday.

Its spokesman said, “We are strongly against going back to Strasbourg this week and the Conference of Presidents should have reconsidered the decision to travel, given the health situation in France.”

He added, “Currently, the pandemic makes it really complicated to go there and our MEPs are not keen to go, so our presence will be very, very limited.”

"We are strongly against going back to Strasbourg this week and the Conference of Presidents should have reconsidered the decision to travel, given the health situation in France. “Currently, the pandemic makes it really complicated to go there and our MEPs are not keen to go, so our presence will be very, very limited” ECR Group Spokesman

Elsewhere, other groups plan to send more MEPs and staff for the week-long session.

A Renew Europe spokesman said, “The numbers are changing by the hour but lot of our French members want to be there. We will send about 15 percent of the number of staff we would normally send to Strasbourg.”

The group plans to host a debate with local citizens on the Conference on the Future of Europe with the spokesman explaining, “It is thought best to have this type of meeting face-to-face with the public.”

“This is a chance to interact with citizens again and that is why we have organised this meeting. We want to talk to the public about this conference. It is not about giving speeches but listening to people.”

A spokesman for the EPP, the European Parliament’s biggest grouping, said “We hope most of our members will be there and [Group Leader] Manfred Weber will certainly be in Strasbourg.

“Everyone will stick to social distancing measures, although we are unable to hold a group meeting as normal because of the size of the room. I estimate that about 15 per cent of EPP staff will attend in person so, yes, our numbers will be much reduced.”

“Everyone will stick to social distancing measures, although we are unable to hold a group meeting as normal because of the size of the room. I estimate that about 15 per cent of EPP staff will attend in person so, yes, our numbers will be much reduced” EPP Group Spokesman

An S&D Group spokeswoman said its leader, Spanish member Iratxe Garcia, will be present along with its vice presidents and “key” rapporteurs.

She said, “Up to a third of S&D MEPs are expected, along with a very limited number of staff - about 15 percent – and only those who need to be there.”

A spokesman for the Green/RFA Group said, “It is up to individuals to choose if they want to go or not. However, there will be no Greens staff there because of quarantine requirements.”

He said of its co-leaders, Ska Keller, a German member, will be in Strasbourg but Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts will remain in Brussels.

A GUE/NGL Group spokesman said, “Both our co leaders will be there and eight staff, that’s all.”

A parliament spokeswoman said, “The aim is to limit the number travelling, given the health conditions. This is important because the situation is still complex.”

“About one third of parliament’s administrative staff will be present. MEPs can take the floor from in the plenary or online from Member States. The voting will be electronic.”

“The aim is to limit the number travelling, given the health conditions. This is important because the situation is still complex. About one third of parliament’s administrative staff will be present. MEPs can take the floor from in the plenary or online from Member States. The voting will be electronic” European Parliament Spokeswoman

“We will ensure that social distancing will be maintained but a lot of MEPs will work remotely.”

MEPs or staff who do decide to be physically present in Strasbourg can consult the Re-open EU website, which provides information on various measures in place, in both France and the rest of EU Member States, including on quarantine and testing requirements for travellers.

They are reminded that France requires a sworn declaration downloadable from the French ministry and Belgium also requires everyone who has spent more than 48 hours outside the country to complete a passenger locator form.

A parliament spokesman said, “Everyone wishing to enter Parliament’s premises must wear a medical-type face mask. Entering Parliament wearing so-called ‘community masks’, or other masks made of textiles, will not be allowed.”

“Social distancing and hand hygiene must also be respected whilst on Parliament’s premises.”

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