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Saturday, 8 June, 2002, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
EU Parliament hit by Legionnaires disease
European Parliament building
The bacteria were found in the building's water pipes
The European Parliament in Strasbourg has been hit by an outbreak of the potentially fatal Legionnaires disease.


We believe that in these conditions, it would be highly irresponsible to go ahead as planned with next week's session in Strasbourg

Petition from parliamentary leaders
Legionella bacteria was found in the hot water pipes of the building shortly after the May monthly session, when several people returned ill from the meeting.

Parliamentary leaders caused controversy by deciding to press ahead with June's plenary session despite the discovery of the bacteria, which can cause pneumonia and even death.

A note sent by the parliament administration said that they had taken the "necessary measures" to ensure that the water quality would return to normal by the time the session opens on Monday.

But a petition by several Parliament leaders was handed to Parliament President Pat Cox, calling for the session to be temporarily moved to Brussels while further tests are conducted in the building.

"We believe that in these conditions, it would be highly irresponsible to go ahead as planned with next week's session in Strasbourg," the statement said.

"The possible presence of Legionella bacteria could put the health of MEPs, assistants, parliament staff, visitors and others at serious risk."

Brussels dispute

The presence of the bacteria in the futuristic building, only inaugurated in 1999, was blamed on the fact that the hot water system is only used four days a month and is left for the rest of the time to stagnate.

Leader of the British Conservative MEPs Jonathan Evans said that it would be "highly irresponsible" for the parliament to meet in the building, and agreed with suggestions that a move to the building in Brussels should be considered.

"The parliamentary session could just as easily be convened in Brussels without threat to any of its business," he said.

The incident has re-opened debate over the use of Strasbourg's parliament building for only 12 four-day sessions a year.

France has resisted attempts to centralise the legislature in Brussels, arguing the Strasbourg seat is part of the historic share out of EU institutions across the 15 nations in the union.

However critics point to the cost to EU tax payers for thousands of EU workers between the two cities as the reason why the parliament has not enjoyed greater influence in the organisation's affairs.

See also:

13 Jul 01 | Europe
09 Feb 99 | Medical notes
18 May 00 | Europe
10 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
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