There’s a large empty office building in Strasbourg that gets used, on average, about five days a month. I refer of course to the famous European Parliament building at Wacken, which has been the subject of much debate in recent years.
“Why is it even there at all – when 99% of Eurocrats are in Brussels?” is a common question sounded out by those who are either speaking rhetorically, or by those who have no idea of the origins of the European Union. It’s there, quite simply, because the European Parliament have always sat in Strasbourg.
The problem is, that while Strasbourg is a lovely city, Eurocrats, civil servants and politicians from member states have a hard time getting here, particularly from their admin bases in Brussels.
Strasbourg, although known as ‘the crossroads of Europe’ has had poor transport connections since the invention of the EU. For example:
before the arrival of the TGV last year, Strasbourg was four and a half hours from Paris by train even with the TGV it takes over five hours to travel from Brussels to Strasbourg by train (it’s faster by road) Strasbourg’s tiny airport welcomes no low-cost carriers, and offers direct flights to less than half of Europe’s capital cities the quickest way to the airport by public transport is to take a train from the central station (8 minutes) … but there are only 2 services a day!
So, it’s no wonder that the politicos get so hot under the collar about the Parliament building. If the French government had had the foresight to improve transport links to ‘The capital of Europe’ twenty years ago, then perhaps they would not be subject to such rebellion by EU citizens.
Strasbourg is trying to make amends however: improved cross-Rhine rail links; a new train-tram shuttle service to the airport; and Strasbourg’s new Mayor (Roland Ries) has promised to open up the airport to low-cost carriers.
But let’s be honest – it’s all too little too late. The only thing that would convince the hordes of Eurocrats now rooted in Brussels is a direct high-speed rail link that could do the 430km in less than an two hours, and as far as I’m aware no such plans exist. And to be frank what would be the point? I mean who on earth would want to go to Brussels?
Waffles and a fruit beer anyone?