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Is Merkel in favor of moving the European Parliament headquarters from Strasbourg to Brussels?

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CheckNews, France

3 May 2019, Updated: 16 May 2019

In June 2018 the German chancellor let it be known that she favored consolidating the European Parliament’s sites in Brussels.

Following an editorial by journalist Olivier Mazerolles on French news channel CNEWS on 28 April 2019, you asked us two questions on Twitter about Germany’s international stances – one concerned the European Parliament headquarters in Strasbourg, the other France’s seat in the UN Security Council.

On @cnews this morning Olivier Mazerolles said that the Strasbourg parliament will no longer exist under pressure from the new German chancellor. He also said that France will give up its voting rights at the UN in favor of the EU. Is this right?

Your question contains inaccuracies. In his regular slot as a commentator with French channel LCI on 28 April, Olivier Mazerolles addressed the challenges faced by Emmanuel Macron, emphasizing the French president’s political isolation and his problem of credibility at the European level. After mentioning the dearth of support for Emmanuel Macron concerning an accelerated Brexit and negotiations with the US, the editorialist brings up Germany: “Recently, Angela Merkel could find nothing to say when the new boss of the German Christian-Democrats (CDU) demanded an end to sessions of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Out with Strasbourg. And France’s abandonment of its permanent seat at the UN Security Council in favor of the European Union.”

The two points raised by Olivier Mazerolles allude to an open letter published on 9 March by the CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK). She wrote that “we must also take decisions which have been put off for too long, and abolish anachronisms. In particular, that holds for the consolidation of the European Parliament at its Brussels site”. As for the EU, “in the future it should be represented by a common permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council”. Asked about the proposals contained in this letter, the German chancellor Angela Merkel declared herself in favor.

The CDU wants a “supplementary” seat for the EU at the UN Security Council

On 22 March 2019 CheckNews addressed the issue of German intentions over France’s seat at the UN Security Council. Numerous media outlets had claimed that Germany wanted France to cede its seat to the European Union, an idea systematically rejected by the French government. When asked by CheckNews, a close advisor of the CDU leader clarified that the sought-after European seat did not mean France giving up its own one, since “the model [envisaged by AKK] would be to have one seat for France, one for the UK and one for the EU”. In its programme for the 2019 European election, the CDU mentions a “supplementary” EU seat.

Merkel has favored a single EU Parliament site since at least June 2018

Concerning a transfer of the EU Parliament headquarters from Strasbourg to Brussels, this idea also proved provocative to the Quai d’Orsay. Speaking through Nathalie Loiseau, then the Europe minister, it let the CDU know that “there [was] no question of abandoning the European Parliament headquarters in Strasbourg!”

Angela Merkel did not wait to hear AKK’s view before coming out in favor of a single Brussels site for the European Parliament. On 6 June 2018 the German press reported that during a congress of the European People’s Party (EPP) the chancellor had pleaded for parliamentary work to be concentrated at a single site. Cited by French TV channel France 3, Angela Merkel acknowledged that her favoring of Brussels represented a problem “for France and Luxembourg, but I think that in the long term [the current situation] does not strengthen the capacity for action”.

At the time, Angela Merkel’s proposal “even surprised the EPP group leader in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber”, noted the Stuttgarter Nachtrichten. On 27 April 2019 Manfred Weber, now head of the German conservative election list and Spitzenkandidat of the European Right to replace Jean-Claude Juncker at the Commission, told the German press that “the European Parliament should have the right to decide, entirely independently, how to organize its work and where to site its headquarters, either in Strasbourg or Brussels”.

Translation by Harry Bowden, VoxEurop

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