Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Efficiency vs Politics

All that messy compromise and agreement stuff seems to get in the way of efficient government. Do we really need all that democracy stuff?

BTW: should somebody tell the MEPs about iPads and "the cloud" so they don't have to haul trunks full of paper back and forth?

Europe's costly double parliament: a movable beast
The morning high-speed train from Brussels pulled into the lonely train station of the provincial French city of Strasbourg. As the doors opened, the chaotic scramble for cabs, cars and buses heralded an extraordinary phenomenon of international politics: the European Union’s ‘‘traveling circus’’ was back in town.

Hundreds of EU parliamentarians and their staff were completing their monthly 435-kilometer (270-mile) legislative migration, one that takes them from their own parliament in Brussels to, well, their own parliament in Strasbourg — for just four days.

EU Parliament in Strassbourg
The cost to the EU taxpayer: an estimated €180 million ($245 million) a year…

The EU set up two parliaments, one at headquarters in Brussels, the other in Strasbourg, as part of a complex diplomatic dance in which France and Germany, the chief architects of the European project, were eager to find an emblem for their postwar reconciliation…

EU leaders are hoping to use their two-day summit to trim more out of a €1 trillion ($1.35 trillion) seven-year budget… The head of Cameron’s Conservative party at the EU Parliament was clear on where he would look for savings: ‘‘We cannot stand here in Strasbourg at our second seat — this icon of EU profligacy — and say that there is no money that can be saved,’’ Martin Callanan told his fellow legislators…

Often fiercely fought over by Germany and France in centuries of fighting, Strasbourg has both Gallic and Teutonic influences, from its street signs to its gastronomic specialties. Tucked on the French side of the Rhine river, it became an emblem of the warm ties France and Germany had nurtured since World War II. For France, the Strasbourg parliament also evolved into a symbol of its status as a European heavyweight, and a boon for the local economy…

‘‘The outside world looks on with amazement that all of these years after the Second World War we are still perpetuating this anachronistic homage to the Franco-German reconciliation,’’ said British MEP Edward McMillan-Scott.

In France, it’s a different story.

On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande, after conveniently flying in from Paris, celebrated Strasbourg’s role.

‘‘I defend Strasbourg, the capital of Europe, because it is history that teaches us the role Strasbourg has to play,’’ Hollande told EU legislators. ‘‘Strasbourg is both the history and the future of Europe.’’…

France also said that all EU nations, including Britain, formally agreed on the dual parliament in 1992. And since any change requires unanimity, France remains in full control of Strasbourg’s destiny…

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