Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 17:41 UK

MEPs renew attack on Strasbourg

Debris in European Parliament chamber, 13 Aug 08
Part of the ceiling caved in while MEPs were on holiday

Two British MEPs say the partial collapse of the European Parliament's ceiling in Strasbourg is a good reason to stop the MEPs' monthly trips there.

About 200sq m (2,152sq ft) of the ceiling caved in on 7 August. Nobody was in the chamber at the time.

Labour MEP Gary Titley and Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies said MEPs should abandon the Strasbourg sessions.

The Strasbourg building is the venue for a parliamentary plenary session from 1 to 4 September.

"We should turn catastrophe into opportunity and meet continuously in Brussels," Chris Davies said, condemning "the nonsense of the Parliament's perpetual momentum".

In a separate statement on Wednesday, the Labour Party office at the European Parliament said that "in spite of assurances by the Parliament's authorities that the building will be ready and safe for the next sitting, grave doubts must be expressed that this will be the case".

The Labour group's leader, Gary Titley, said: "It is time that this monthly charade, which is expensive both in terms of travel costs as well as damage to the environment, should be reviewed and stopped.

"The Parliament having to divide its time between Brussels and Strasbourg makes it less efficient and open to ridicule by voters, who cannot understand that this makes sense at all."

Race to do repairs

France, current holder of the EU presidency, has pledged to repair the ceiling as quickly as possible, in time for the plenary session next month.

It is not yet clear why part of the ceiling, built in 1999, collapsed. Examination of the structure so far has not found evidence of a leak or a weather-related weakness.

The MEPs' monthly shuttle run from Brussels to Strasbourg has long been controversial. Critics have dubbed it a "travelling circus".

The total annual cost of the Strasbourg shuttle is estimated to be 203m euros (160m). The Green Party says the monthly trips also produce about 20,268 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

Under an EU agreement, MEPs are required to hold 12 sessions annually in Strasbourg.

Mr Davies suggested that to comply with the agreement, all 12 sessions could be held "on just one day a year, successively, at hourly intervals".

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