Roof Falls in on French Presidency
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 1st September, 2008
The first European Parliament session after the summer break should have opened in Strasbourg today, but instead, it had to be shifted to Brussels, as the ceiling in the Strasbourg hemisphere fell down on 7 August, sending tonnes of masonry crashing onto the seats and the floor. The French government is lucky that they only have red faces as a result. Had the Parliament been sitting when this accident occurred, there would almost have certainly been several deaths and numerous serious injuries. It is a huge embarassment for President Sarkozy, however, not only because the French currently hold the six-month rotating presidency of the EU, but also because the French have been insisting on their right to host 12 parliamentary sessions in Strasbourg each year, rather than shifting everything to Brussels, which is what most non-French MEPs (and taxpayers) would prefer.
Having today’s parliamentary session in Brussels means that it coincides with the special meeting of the European Council (the 27 Heads of Government) in the Belgian capital, to discuss what to do about Russia in the wake of recent events in Georgia. This is going to be a real test of M Sarkozy’s diplomatic abilities, as the 27 EU member states are far from united on how firm the Union should be. The Parliament wants the French President to go to brief them as well — and he can expect some hard questioning if he does.