Thursday, April 20, 2006

Strasbourg, week III

UPDATE 17 May 2006
This confirms that the Europarliament in Strasbourg is there because of a matter of pride:

But how much longer will MEPs sit in Strasbourg for a few days every month - a trip which costs the European tax payers, according to one estimate, £200m a year? Swedish member Cecilia Malmstroem has started an online campaign to keep it in Brussels all the time. Fat on the fire is the allegation that the French city has been ripping off the Parliament by overcharging rent.

The mayor has had to appear before the budget committee, and I'm told was ordered to do so by President Chirac, who's worried that it will lose its place as "the capital of Europe", as he puts it. Of course, the French would not give up without a struggle, but one Labour MEP, Richard Corbett, has a cunning plan. Why not hold the meeting of heads of state there as a fair swap? It strikes me the French don't do so badly out of the EU, so why not base it in Budapest or Bratislava?

  • Sign the peitition here to keep the Parliament in ONE place! And help Eurotaxpayers save €200million per year that could be better spent elsewhere!

Soon to start another week staying here in Strasbourg, here with my friend. To be honest I’ve become accustomed somewhat to the whole daily routine…wake up, breakfast (if it’s late, then brunch), do some shopping and ‘official business’, then before you know it it’s time for dinner, a movie and then bed. Of course many different things happen everyday, and many conversations and experiences each day are oversimplified by the description above, but you get the point.

The other day my friend and I took a break from one another. She did her thing, and I went, for a change, to look around the city a bit. A sort of holiday, from one another. Sometimes it’s necessary, before it gets too much.

I headed toward the ‘European Quarter’, where all the grand buildings of European institutions (Europarliament, Council of Europe, European Court of Justice) are located. I was disappointed. Not only could you not enter those buildings, they were practically wire-fenced and cordoned off from the public. So much for bringing the whole idea of a united and popular Europe (Union) to the people, thus. Shiny glass windows, empty halls and open, desolate spaces. On the outer walls of the Europarliament itself, celebrations of the glories and achievements of the grand European project is plastered in bold letters in the twenty-five spoken languages within the Union. Even the (failed) Constitutional project has left its marks with non-sounding ‘Yes’ (in twenty-five tongues as well) scribbled all over. Symbolic overtones, and pompous architectural marvels erected here and there…but where are all the ‘representatives of the people’? Thoughts of corruption, idleness, bureaucracy and waste instead crept over my mind. Government by the people? Government for the people? Perhaps if the Europarliament did not spend millions per year in pointlessly shuttling its representatives between its main location in Brussels and the branch Strasbourg, people would be more enthusiastic.

A long sit and lunch in the open, green spaces of the Orangerie was where I found peace again. People jogged, children played, mothers chatted, while squirrels scurried to and fro. I was there a week early, but that day had been cold and gusty. This time the weather had become as warm as summer, and the same barren trees I remember from a week before had donned on a fresh light coat of spring. Buds, leaflets, bees and blossoms…all signs of a new approaching season, expressed in such amazing displays of lights, colours and smells. Where have I been all this time?

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