S&D leader throws weight behind growing demands to scrap next Strasbourg plenary

The intervention by Iratxe García Pérez comes amid confusion as to whether the so-called “hybrid” session will take place in the French city.
Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

02 Jun 2021

European Parliament President David Sassoli has given his approval to the idea of next week’s plenary taking place in Strasbourg, but there is growing opposition from MEPS who say that Coronavirus rates are still not sufficiently under control in France to allow it.

Members are also worried about quarantine demands for those who do choose to attend Strasbourg.

García Pérez, who heads Parliament’s second biggest political group, told this website, “We know that the Parliament should hold its plenary session in Strasbourg as soon as conditions allow, but it doesn’t seem to be the case: there is still curfew, all people travelling will need a PCR test and all the staff going from Brussels a post-travel quarantine.”

“It would make more sense to go in July, when more people are vaccinated with both doses and restrictions are lifted. Health and safety must come ahead any political interest.”

She added, “In any case, the Parliament is ready to hold a hybrid session so that the necessary physical presence can be minimised.”

Further reaction to the Strasbourg plenary came from Irish The Left member Clare Daly, who also told this site, “We were extremely surprised to hear of the decision to return to Strasbourg so soon – clearly the decision has nothing to do with public health advice and everything to do with French pressure.”

“It would make more sense to go [to Strasbourg] in July, when more people are vaccinated with both doses and restrictions are lifted. Health and safety must come ahead any political interest” Iratxe García Pérez, S&D leader

“It just goes to show, yet again, why we need to amend the Treaties, end the monthly travelling circus to Strasbourg, and end all the madness that goes with it,” she added.

It is understood that a final decision on the move will now be taken at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents on Thursday.

A total of 61 MEPS have signed a letter to Sassoli in protest at going to Strasbourg next week.

Among those who have signed it are Bas Eickhout, Tineke Strik, Peter Van Dalen, Alviina Alametsä, Eva Kaili, Laura Huhtasaari, Frédérique Ries, Dorien Rookmaker, Eugen Jurzyca, István Ujhelyi, Franc Bogovič, Sven Giegold, Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová and Anja Hazekamp.

The petition was organised by Lithuanian MEP Rasa Juknevičienė, who said that as a medical doctor, she believes that the Parliament could return to its seat to Strasbourg as soon as all staff members are provided with opportunity to be vaccinated.

The letter, dated 28 May, says that the decision to return the European Parliament to its seat in Strasbourg in June is “too hasty and puts the staff of the European Parliament under unnecessary risk.”

“We were extremely surprised to hear of the decision to return to Strasbourg so soon - clearly the decision has nothing to do with public health advice and everything to do with French pressure” Clare Daly, The Left

It goes on, “The planned Strasbourg session in June means that a high number of personnel will be traveling without having had an opportunity to receive vaccination and, thus, without immunity to the Coronavirus.”

“The requirement for the returning staffers to undergo a quarantine of at least 7 days confirms the projected health risk for them, their families, and the society. In addition, the mandatory quarantine after such work travel will strongly affect their and their families’ personal lives, which could also be avoided if the session was to be held in Brussels.”

The letter ends by saying that a slight delay of returning the European Parliament to its seat in Strasbourg “would not make a dramatic difference on the Parliamentary work while, on the other hand, rushing this process could have a negative impact on the Parliament’s credibility in the eyes of our societies.”

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