Community offices and seats across European cities
New seats and seats that risk being ‘eliminated’: these are the changes planned in the mapping of European Union offices. On the one side, after a long diplomatic clash involving Germany, France and Great Britain, the cities that will be hosting the European Patent Court have finally been identified. Paris is set to be the central seat, London will be in charge of cases in the areas of science, chemicals and other activities, notably agriculture. Finally, Munich will host the administrative offices and will be in charge of patents in the framework of advanced engineering and resources efficiency. On the other hand, the “official” seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg is “wavering”.
Symbols and budget. For some time a number of MEPs have been conducting a battle for the unification of the seat of the European Parliament with its ‘operative’ seat in Brussels, to the detriment of the historical seat in Strasburg. Related amendments discussed in the latest plenary sitting in Brussels at the beginning of July, and inserted in an extensive report on EU 2013 budget, were approved with 432 ayes, 218 noes and 29 abstentions. Will MEPs’ four-day monthly transfers - including parliament assistants, EU officers and journalists - to the French city come to an end? Nothing has been yet defined, as the two seats are stipulated in the Treaties. Strasbourg remains the symbol of post-war pacification between Germany and France. Moreover, each decision regarding EU seats is taken by the Council of Ministers of the European Union, not by Parliament. It should also be said that given the ongoing crisis, those 200 ml euro, corresponding to the expenses of such transfers, could be used for other purposes.
Institutions, agencies. At a closer glance, the mapping of Community seats is much more extensive and articulated that it may seem. Not everything is included in the Brussels-Luxembourg-Strasbourg axis. Brussels hosts the Council, the Commission, a seat of the European Parliament, the Social and Economic Committee, and the Committee of the Regions, whereas in Luxembourg are located the secretariat of the European Parliament, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the European Investment Bank, and Strasbourg was previously mentioned. The European Central Bank Eurotower is in Frankfurt am Main. The European reconstruction and development Bank has its headquarters in London. Thus countless branches extend from the main offices. It should also be remembered that Commission and Parliament representative offices are presents in national capitals and main cities. Thus Bucharest, Berlin, Paris, Sophia, Vilnius and the other capitals have a Community presence and raise the blue flag with the twelve stars. EU agencies, whose offices are located across European cities, can be classified into three groups: agencies and decentralised bodies, Euratom (Atomic Energy) agencies and bodies, and executive agencies.
From Helsinki to Lisbon. Notably, decentralized agencies, approximately 30, created to provide assistance and consultancy to EU institutions, Member States and their citizens, respond “to the wish of geographically decentralized EU bodies”. Just to give a few examples, the Agency for the Cooperation of Regulators (ACER) has its seat in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work is in Bilbao, Spain; Frontex, the border guardian, is located in Warsaw, Poland. The European Aviation Safety Agency is in Cologne, Germany. Other agencies are in Solna, near Stockholm, in Sweden (disease prevention and control); Tessalonica, Greece (vocational training); Helsinki, Finland (chemical substances); Parma, Italy (food safety); Hampshire, United Kingdom (European Police Academy); Lisbon, Portugal (the Monitoring Centre for Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction; Vienna, Austria (Fundamental rights agency); and that’s not all.
Future embassies. EU external action also falls into the picture. As relates to international relations the Lisbon Treaty increased the EU’s external profile, promoting its intervention capacities in world issues. In this light is it indispensable to create new diplomatic EU unitary seats in world capital cities, on whose identification the High Representative for External Action Catherine Ashton is currently committed. If in the future - after having solved the urgent problems caused by the ongoing financial and economic crisis - the EUwill manage to close ranks and proceed towards the implementation of true foreign policy expressed with a single voice, the perspective could be to have a single EU embassy in all world States, and perhaps also single seat at the United Nations. But all decisions to this regard are yet to come.