European Parliament is ‘not a punch bag’ says David Sassoli
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A group of French MEPs complained Mr Sassoli has failed to represent and protect their interests when he decided to leave elected officials out of a major EU Conference in Strasbourg last weekend. The Conference on the Future of the EU was held in the Parliament’s headquarters after it had been closed for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But MEPs were told they could only participate in the conference remotely after a request sent to Mr Sassoli earlier this month.
The letter, sent by the head of the French Renew Europe delegation, Stéphane Séjourné, dramatically depicted the diplomatic spat as an “astonishing and disappointing” attempt to prevent MEPs, elected parliamentarians, to participate.
Mr Sejourne said: “Preventing access to our own hemicycle is quite outrageous to our work and our function, let alone the people that elected us.”
He added that MEPs were “strongly discouraged to come to Strasbourg, and denied access to the protocol area”.
The French MEP claimed he was forced to sit on the visitors’ tribune.
He went further: “Indeed, when electing you as President of the Parliament, I was also hoping for you to defend the interests of the Parliament, and its Members, which, in my view, you failed to do in this instance.”
He also said he now expects an invitation to all MEPs for the first plenary of the conference, planned for June.
The spat comes after French President Emmanuel Macron asked the EU Parliament chief to resume all parliamentary sessions in Strasbourg.
In a leaked letter to President Sassoli, Mr Macron said: “The health situation is certainly difficult, but it is as difficult in Strasbourg as it is in Brussels.
“In those conditions, it is your duty to implement without delay a return to institutional normality and to resume plenary sessions in Strasbourg from October on.”
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He added that France “won’t let political pretexts fuelled by concerns over the pandemic” undermine the role of Strasbourg.
Unfortunately for Mr Macron, his appeal fell on deaf ears and the letter appears to have backfired.
On Monday the EU Parliament confirmed plans to cancel its forthcoming Strasbourg session, due to run from October 5 to October 8.
A second session scheduled to begin on October 19 also looks unlikely to go ahead after Belgian authorities also designated the city as a red zone due to the number of coronavirus cases.
Mr Sassoli declared that the sessions would take place in Brussels.
He wrote in an email, reported by Politico: “Unfortunately, given the increased rate of transmission of the virus in France, including in Bas-Rhin (the area that includes Strasbourg), and in light of public health considerations, we have to reconsider the transfer of members and staff of the European Parliament ahead of the part-session next week.”
Despite the city being declared a red zone by both French and Belgium authorities, officials from Mr Macron’s government reacted furiously.
They have previously argued that plans were in place to protect MEPs and European Parliament staff from coronavirus risks.
Express.co.uk has contacted the European Parliament for comment.
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