EU High Court Rejects French Challenge to Budget Vote

The European Parliament meets in Strasbourg, France, in September 2018. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

LUXEMBOURG (CN) — For the second time, the European Union’s highest court on Thursday rejected a complaint from France that the European Parliament improperly held a budget vote in Brussels rather than Strasbourg. 

Describing the matter as “settled case law,” the European Court of Justice found once again that the EU’s legislative branch does not have to annul the budget legislation because the vote on it occurred in Belgium instead of France. 

Protocol 6 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which forms the EU, requires the parliament to hold 12 sessions in Strasbourg, including the budget session. This results in what is often referred to as the traveling circus, as lawmakers and their staff trek the nearly 300 miles from their home base in Brussels to Strasbourg. 

“The unpredictability inherent in the budgetary procedure might prevent those institutions from adhering to the dates envisaged,” the court wrote in Thursday’s ruling.

France had argued that the treaty is clear on the scheduling and by not adhering to the terms, the budget was illegitimate. 

In October 2017, debates about the 2018 budget were held, as scheduled, in Strasbourg. The text of the budget was approved on Nov. 18, 2017, and, per the official calendar, the next session was scheduled for Nov. 29-30 in Brussels. It was during that session the vote on the budget was finalized. 

A nearly identically set of circumstances had occurred the year before and France filed a complaint with the Luxembourg-based court then too. In that decision, the court held that, “In view of the importance of the adoption of the annual budget for the actions of the European Union, the President of the Parliament cannot be required to wait until the next period of ordinary plenary part-session in Strasbourg.”

The French are deeply invested in maintaining the two capitals for the 27-member political and economic union.

“Never will France authorize any modification of any kind,” then-French President François Hollande said in 2015 when he signed a 1 billion euro ($1.1. billion) spending bill to maintain the French EU facilities.

Getting rid of the second capital in Strasbourg would save the bloc 103 million euros ($115 million) a year, the EU estimates

Polling data shows that a majority of the parliament’s members support having a single seat of government, but that modification would require unanimous support from all the member states and would almost certainly be blocked by France. 

France was supported in its case by Luxembourg, which is home to the European Parliament’s administrative offices as well as the Court of Justice.

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