Hundreds of European lawmakers and staff travel to Strasbourg next week for the European Parliament‘s first session since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, though many think it is too early to return.
Temperature checks, masks, a French curfew and multiple health tests await them, with a mandatory quarantine upon their return to Belgium if they are away for more than 48 hours.
Rasa Jukneviciene, a Lithuanian centre-right lawmaker, said in a letter to David Sassoli, president of the assembly, that the return to Strasbourg is too hasty and put staff at risk.
Under EU law, parliament must hold 12 sessions per year in the French city, but it last decamped in February 2020. Critics complain at the 114 million euro (8.5 million) per year cost, but the city and French President Emmanuel Macron have long sought the lawmakers’ return.
Around 2,500 people typically travel from their Brussels bases for three-and-a-half days per month to debate and vote on draft laws.
EU parliament president Sassoli, has declared “force majeure” during the pandemic to hold the assembly in Brussels, but determined that the improving health situation and acceleration of vaccinations no longer justified this.
Still, many lawmakers will be able to “attend” the session remotely and the parliament‘s secretariat will only send one third of the people who would normally go. Most staff, in any case, are advised to work primarily from home.
In France there is still 9 p.m. curfew which means there will be no late meetings or drinks and all meals should be eaten outside./msn