Luxemburg is no longer a venue of parliamentary activity, but its government insists on respecting the Amsterdam Treaty protocol, which refers to the EP Secretariat and its departments being based in Luxemburg. Yet the practical needs of the Parliament mean that many officials commute between Brussels and Luxemburg daily and once a month between Luxemburg and Strasbourg.
The level of Parliament’s staff in Luxemburg is described in two main high level political agreements:
– in 1996 – an agreement was signed between the Luxemburg government – (Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker) and Parliament (President Klaus Hansch) guaranteeing that the EP Secretariat would remain in Luxemburg until 2004 with the permanent presence of 2189 EP employees, which could be eventually reduced to 2000 if needed.
– in 2000, another agreement was signed between the Luxemburg government and Parliament (President Nicole Fontaine) permitting the transfer of 99 posts to Brussels in return for guaranteeing the minimum number of staff (at least 50%, excluding Group staff and staff appointed to external national offices, and a minimum of 2060 posts in Luxemburg).
The Parliament organized in three working places has at its disposal 27 buildings (1.1 million m2). 14 buildings are owned by EP (83% of total surface), 13 building are rented (13% of the space). In Luxemburg, we are currently renting 5 out of 6 buildings at a cost of almost €40 million per year plus the ancillary costs (water, gas, electricity, insurance, maintenance of technical installations). In addition, infrastructure costs also include substantial amounts with regard to the technical equipment, fitting out and furnishing of premises and offices.
Discharge report of the European Parliament for the financial year 2010, clearly enumerated these expenses for example :
– security of the EP buildings amounted to over €45.5 million (between 2009 and 2010);
– building maintenance, upkeep, operation and cleaning stood at a total amount of €38.7 million.
Parliament has to face up to the costs (financial and human) of having staff based in Luxembourg when all the Parliaments meetings are in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Originally the Luxemburg-based staff were supposed to deal with translation, administration and other matters not requiring close proximity to members. In reality, we have hundreds of officials coming to Brussels every week.
Consequently, EP has to provide these people with 3 fully-equipped offices in Luxembourg, Brussels and Strasbourg, supporting also the costs of their missions and daily allowances.
In 2010, there were more than 33 200 official missions of the EP staff between Parliament’s three working places at a total cost – € 29.1 million. Approximately 30% of these missions (9 500 missions) resented official travels of EP employees between Luxembourg and Brussels at a costs of €2 million (including travel costs, accommodation, subsistence allowance, etc.)
According to the official 2002 Note to Members of the EP Bureau (we do not have an updated version) – the costs of the geographical dispersion of the EP after enlargement were estimated to rise to over €200 million a year.
A total of 320 posts could be abolished if Parliament had just one place of work – which would be equal to savings of €22 million and annual reduction of infrastructure costs , ancillary and equipment costs of over €7 million per year.
Moreover, in 2006 the Parliament took a decision to construct a new building in Luxemburg (extra 160 000 m2) for 3 000 staff members, estimated cost – €416 million in order to replace the current renting of five buildings.
The Parliament decided to be an investor, which has never been the case before. In the first tender, there was no single offer from the commercial banks. None of the construction companies was able to give the estimated value of the construction of the project.
The costs of construction of a new modern building + renovation of the existing KAD + maintenance costs of both of the buildings (new and renovated one) will amount to €804m.
In March Budget Committee took a decision to send a delegation of budgetary coordinators to Luxemburg to check if it was possible to stop or reduce the scale of the project. The College of Quaestors also held a special meeting in Luxemburg. As a result of these two actions, the service responsible revised the project, proposing a reduction of 7,500 m2 in the size of the building and a large number of substantial technical savings. I think it is our common success.
Last March, Parliament voted on a single seat for MEPs and staff, proposed by me to the Vaughan report on parliament estimates of revenue and expenditure in 2013. The vote passed with the biggest majority of 429 MEPs in favour of a single seat arrangement. On October, 23 a vote on general EU budget for 2013 and the MFF 2014-2020 report showed even more significant MEPs support for the 1 seat issue :
– 2013 EU budget : between 518 – 634 votes in support of respective parts of our amendment
– MFF 2014-2020: 452 votes in favour.
While treaty change won’t be easy, as it will require good inter-institutional cooperation, patience and good will from all sides, it is our only way forward.
A single seat for the EU Parliament would mean savings of 20 per cent of parliament’s total budget. Member States must show they are serious about savings and allow the Parliament to decide about its own seat.
Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg, Quaestor in the EP Bureau