Roberta Metsola, the president of the European Parliament, plans to turn a building belonging to the institution in Strasbourg into a hotel – in what is widely seen as a move to boost the Alsatian city’s status as the EU’s capital .
In a February 8 letter to then French Prime Minister Jean Castex, seen by POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook, Metsola welcomed the idea of ”creating a hotel in the Salvador de Madariaga building”, which is part of the real estate portfolio of Parliament in Strasbourg. The move “could help ease the burden on the hospitality industry,” Metsola wrote.
MEPs, their staff, journalists, lobbyists and others travel to Strasbourg, the legal seat of the European Parliament under the EU treaties, a few days a month for plenary sessions, booking city hotels in the process. Critics of the expensive monthly decamp say it is unnecessarily costly, doubles Parliament’s infrastructure and is bad for the environment, given the emissions involved.
Paris, however, strongly opposes any attempt to remove the Strasbourg seat.
France has pushed Metsola to buy another prime property in Strasbourg to cement the city’s place as EU capital: the recently completed Osmose building, which was commissioned by the Banque des Territoires de France in cooperation with local and regional authorities.
The plan to transform the Salvador de Madariaga building into a hotel would strengthen the case for the purchase of Osmose by the Parliament, thus reducing the number of office spaces available in Strasbourg for MEPs.
The purchase of Osmose, writes Castex in a letter to Metsola dated January 27, “consolidates the presence of Parliament and, more broadly, strengthens the role of Strasbourg”.
This is exactly what critics of the traveling circus fear.
“The European Parliament should save money/energy”, tweeted Daniel Freund, German MEP for the Greens, who was part of a recent cross-party initiative to suspend Strasbourg sessions due to the current energy crisis. “Don’t spend extra money on extra buildings.”
Correspondence seen by Playbook and conversations with several officials suggest that Metsola is keen to accede to French demand and purchase Osmose.
“To my knowledge,” a spokesperson for Metsola said in a written response to POLITICO, the hotel project was an option that was “not taken further” and would in any case be decided “according to the needs of institution” and on “due process”.
Parliament’s budget committee will discuss the potential deal to buy the Osmosis during a meeting on Wednesday morning. MEPs already had the opportunity to block the purchase last week. In a vote on Parliament’s 2023 budget, 274 MPs voted in favor of an amendment to “oppose the acquisition of the Osmose building in Strasbourg”, while 275 voted against.