Amazing scenes this week as the European Parliament’s president, Spanish socialist Josep Borrell, hit back at the one million European voters who signed a petition demanding an end to the monthly farce that is Strasbourg sittings. The practise of shifting all MEPs, staff and papers from Brussels to the French city every few weeks and then straight back again costs European taxpayers €200million per year. Unsurprisingly, even euro-fanatics want this silliness ended.
Borrell however wants it to continue. At the signing ceremony to mark the purchase of the Parliament from the city, Borrell hit out at the Swedish MEP behind the idea for the petition. Alluding to Sweden’s neutrality during the war, he said, “this historic dimension cannot be perceived in the same way in ‘some Nordic country’ which did not participate in WWII”.
Suggesting that the Swedes can’t criticise the EU’s waste of money on having two parliamentary seats because they didn’t fight in the Second World War is obviously a bit strange – not very pro-European of Borrell. Understandably, the Swedes have gotten a little stroppy. An editorial in Dagens Nyheter said, “Borrell doesn’t say how much suffering is required for a person’s vote to count”, while a columnist in Svenska Dagbladet wrote, “Borrell didn’t fight in the war himself – he was born in 1947”. They seem pretty moody about it.
On top of Borrell’s strange criteria for who can and cannot give their views on EU reform, the biggest group of people on the petition are Dutch. They had a bit of a rough time in the 40s, so even if Borrell is right, the petition still stands.