These plenaries in Strasbourg are a drag. Don’t get me wrong; I love Strasbourg and I love the European Parliament, but I just think it is a waste to travel down here once a month for our plenary meetings.

Which self-respecting parliament packs its bags and moves over 400 kilometres to make its decisions? It’s a bit like Westminster moving to Newcastle 12 times a year. Strasbourg does not even have a good football team…

Driving from Brussels to Strasbourg takes 5 hours. Here together with my Finnish colleague Piia-Noora Kauppi.

The Brussels-Strasbourg-Brussels rally is inefficient and costly. Inefficient, because it takes a long time to get here – the connections are lousy. Expensive, because moving 4,000 people (MEPs, assistants, civil servants, journalists, lobbyists, etc.) costs some 250 million euros per annum.

I wish we could find a solution to the problem soon, perhaps by the 2014 elections. Why not move the Committee of Regions and the Economic and Social Committee over here? Or how about the European Institute for Technology? Our offices would be great for students – sofa beds, showers and all.

Inner court of the Parliament building in Strasbourg.

I guess its best to stop daydreaming and get back to business. The good thing about Strasbourg is that we cram a lot of work into a relatively short week. We get here after lunch time on Monday and usually leave after the votes on Thursday. In between we go non-stop from morning to night.

This week is packed with interesting stuff. Tonight we debated the distribution of seats in the European Parliament, i.e. how many seats should each member state have. In the 2009 elections we will have a total of 750 seats. The maximum (96) will go to Germany and the minimum (6) to Malta. The rest of us will be in between. The UK will probably have 72 seats and Finland 13.

Blogging for The Economist is exciting…really.

Tomorrow we will vote on how to improve the internal market, i.e. the free movement of goods, services, people and money. On Wednesday we will ask the member states and the Commission to review the rather stringent rules on liquids that passengers can take on board planes.

On Thursday we will decide on how to improve consumer laws in Europe. These are just a few examples of decisions that we will take this week.

Only a handfull of people realize that the European Parliament is a legislative powerhouse. Over fifty percent of all laws that pass Westminster are linked in one way or another to the European Parliament. I hope that this week’s blog will give a glimpse to the work that 785 MEPs from 27 different European countries do.


Talking to French MEP Alain Lamassoure before the Constitutional Committee.