Top EU court strengthens Brussels’ parliamentary role

Luxembourg – The European Parliament was within its rights to conduct key business on the 2017 budget in Brussels, rather than in Strasbourg, the EU’s top court has ruled.

The parliament does most of its business in Brussels, but under the EU’s founding treaties, it must hold 12 plenary sessions a year in Strasbourg.

Millions of euros annually

For many years, critics have lambasted this set-up, claiming that it costs millions of euros annually.

In late 2016, parliament opted to debate, vote on, and finalize the EU’s 2017 budget while it was convened in Brussels. This prompted France and Luxembourg to ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to annul several acts of the budget, arguing that the parliament should have conducted that business in Strasbourg.

In its ruling, the ECJ rejected those arguments on grounds that the parliament was acting in the interests of timeliness and transparency by finalizing the budget in Brussels.

Strasbourg’s role

“Parliament is obliged to observe the deadlines and time limits … for the exercise of its budgetary powers in plenary session,” the ECJ said in a press release.

Moreover, the original treaties make no stipulation that the parliament must conduct all budget proceedings in Strasbourg, the court added.

This is not the first time the ECJ has addressed the issue of Strasbourg’s role. In 2013, it overruled attempts by several EU members to cut the number of parliament sittings in Strasbourg to save money.

A unanimous decision by EU governments could abolish the set-up, but France has always opposed the idea.