EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - With President Nicolas Sarkozy engaged in a high-stakes game of chicken with French people over retirement age reforms, the rolling strikes and threats of fuel shortages across the country have sparked a tart exchange on the merits of keeping the European Parliament seat in Strasbourg.
The parliament's travel bureau on Tuesday (19 October) warned in a memo to all euro-deputies that the ongoing demonstrations have "seriously perturbed" Strasbourg public transport, including shuttle buses or "navettes" between the parliament and downtown.
"It is not known when the situation will be back to normal," the email, seen by EUobserver, said.
The travel bureau added that while aeroplane and train transport faces cancellations, the high-speed Thalys train chartered to take staff back to Brussels on Thursday afternoon, would run as normal.
A query from British liberal MEP Sarah Ludford if the travel bureau knows if there is sufficient fuel for cars and buses to make it to airports in Frankfurt and Basle met with a reminder that as Strasbourg is so near the border, there should be no problem.
"I hope you are aware that the German border is quite close to Strasbourg so there won't be any problem with the availability of fuel. A situation like the one we are going through could be problematic in Brussels but not here in Strasbourg," it said.
The dig at Brussels "outraged" Belgian liberal MEP and former foreign minister Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck.
The European Parliament's monthly travelling circus from Belgium to France is enshrined in the EU treaty but is an old bone of contention in the assembly.
British Conservative MEP last week called for the EU to combine into one the normal two September sessions in Strasbourg in order to "save taxpayers" and "save the environment" the €15 million cost and 1,600 tonne carbon footprint of each French plenary.
Conservative MEP Ashley Fox this morning launched his bid to save taxpayers 15 Million Euro and save the environment from 1600 tonnes of needless carbon dioxide. Mr Fox wants to combine the two Strasbourg plenary sessions scheduled for September 2012 into one.
For her part Ms Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck said: "I've never got involved in the Brussels-Strasbourg debate because I want to respect the treaty," she wrote back.
She defended Brussels' record on hosting the EU institutions, however. "You are free not not to love Brussels, but it is an eternity since there has been any shortage of fuel in Belgium."
Filling her own tank to the brim with sarcasm, she added: "Perhaps you simply meant that, given the proximity to the German border, a coach would probably have just enough fuel to reach the first service stations in Germany? And maybe our unfortunate colleague could even reach Germany on foot?"