Stanley's blog

Vanessa Mock writes in today’s Independent (UK) about the new, high-speed train between

She is, sadly, right that the new service risks giving new meaning to the term “gravy train” with critics likely to seize on it as the latest example of how taxpayers’ money is being squandered amid ongoing scandals and revelations over MEPs’ expenses.

“The Thalys TGV train is luxurious compared to the ordinary Brussels-Strasbourg intercity. Passengers can recline in wide, comfortable seats and sample a selection of world wines and continental nibbles in the buffet car. MEPs can claim back the costs,” she writes.

This is factually correct. We are used to Thalys trains on the continent. She is merely describing what we’ve grown to expect in the public service.

Then Mock writes that the Thalys train fare will be €220, more than double the Intercity tariff. However, this is not the correct comparison as MEPs tend to fly, rather than travel by rail. The normal economy airfare is €472.91 or €532.91.

This short article, in a ‘responsible’ and balanced newspaper, is an excellent example of how the media ‘spin’ stories and how difficult it is to put the record straight, particularly as the public are quick to believe any negative view of the European Parliament, or the Commission for that matter.

Of course, Parliament has scored an ‘own goal’ by refusing to agree to full disclosure of MEP’s expenses.

The French insistence on keeping Strasbourg as its seat is understandable in domestic terms but unfortunate, and inconsistent with President Sarkozy’s cost-cutting policy at home. The direct and indirect cost of holding sessions in Strasbourg incurred by Parliament, the Commission, and the thousands of professional visitors is monstrous.

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  1. MEPs’ expenses and France’s insistence on Strasbourg (unanimity rule) are excellent examples of why PR exercises to bring the EU closer to its citizens are bound to fail, even if every anti-European campaigner remained silent for a year or two.

    Only effective decision-making based on real EU level democracy can save the European project, regardless of the fate of the Lisbon Treaty.

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