THE FOX AMENDMENT
The EU treaties state that the Parliament must meet in Strasbourg 12 times per year. Without support from all EU Governments, MEPs are powerless to change this. However, MEPs do decide their own parliamentary calendar.
In 2011, Ashley Fox submitted a cross-party amendment to reduce the number of times the Parliament must travel backwards and forwards. Following the summer recess in August, the Parliament meets twice in September or October to offset the missed session. Traditionally this has seen the whole of Parliament move at the start of the month, return to Brussels for a week, then shift back to Strasbourg again.
Ashley’s amendment brought the two sessions into one week, with a day separating them. This would fulfil the treaties whilst saving around 15 million Euros and 1,600 tonnes of CO2.
With a huge amount of support from MEPs across the political groups in the Parliament, the vote looked like being very close. At the last minute, sensing the two-seat status-quo could be challenged, the European People’s Party and Socialist groups pulled the vote off the agenda. Hardly democracy at its best.
Despite attempts by the main European Political Groups to push the motion off the agenda it could not be postponed indefinitely. When the vote was finally tabled in March 2011, Ashley successfully gathered the 148 signatures necessary to hold a secret ballot on the issue. The secret ballot nullified the pressure the EPP and Socialist group leaders placed on their Members to support the Strasbourg seat.
The result was phenomenal. MEPs voted by a majority of 104 in favour of the amendment. It may seem like a small step, but its significance is huge: for the first time the EP has sent an incredibly strong signal that it wants to stop its monthly travelling circus.