EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Euro-deputies have voted to reduce their presence in Strasbourg slightly, cutting one of their monthly week-long sessions in the French city.
While the reduction is only moderate, it is a sign of the growing frustration by a majority of MEPs at being required to make a monthly trek to the Franco-German border town and of their ambition to force a change to what many have described for years as a "travelling circus."
The deputies voted 357 to 253, with 40 abstentions, to cut one of their plenary meetings held in Strasbourg in 2012 and 2013 and instead combine two October sessions in a single week.
It is the first time in a decade that MEPs have attempted to limit travel to the city. In 2001, MEPs did away with Friday meetings.
The parliament in effect is based in Brussels, along with the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and EU diplomatic representations, as well as NGOS, journalists, corporate headquarters, trade union offices and Nato. Most MEPs despise the jaunt from the European capital to Strasbourg, but are required to do so a minimum of 12 times a year by the European treaty.
French deputies in favour of retaining the double-seat for the chamber attempted to delay the vote on the reduction, but were defeated. The move, say supporters of the vote, will result in millions in savings both in cash and the carbon footprint.
UK Liberal MEP Edward McMillan-Scott i, the chair of a cross-party study group lobbying in favour of a single seat for the parliament, said: "Today's vote clearly shows that a majority of MEPs are fed up with the parliament's constant travel between Brussels and Strasbourg."
He said he intends to put forward a proposal shortly to have the question of a single seat debated and voted on by the parliament as a whole, making use of its new right to propose changes to the treaty.
"The parliament has been silent on this issue for far too long, but spoke out today," he said.