The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, opens the last plenary session of the year at 5 pm in front of an empty hall in Strasbourg.
The symbolic opening is “a gesture of friendship” to the city and is “to thank the authorities for their cooperation and understanding,” said the Italian. Due to the coronavirus, the plenary sessions, which according to the EU treaty, must take place in the eastern French city, have been held in Brussels since March.
After the symbolic opening, Sassoli travels back to Brussels to have a formal plenary meeting, where politicians are encouraged to debate and vote from home. The seat of the EU Parliament is officially in Strasbourg, which means that the 705 MEPs are obliged to meet there monthly in plenary. In contrast, the parliamentary committees always meet in Brussels.
But to combat the risk of the coronavirus spreading, the monthly moving circus has been suspended, much to the dismay of the French, who therefore miss a lot of income. President Emmanuel Macron is also anything but enthusiastic about the issue and has made a high note to Sassoli about the obligations in the EU treaty.
According to the Italian, parliament recognizes and respects this agreement. He said he hoped to be able to return fully to Strasbourg as soon as possible in the new year. A majority in parliament is against the monthly move, but Paris is not giving up the seat.