BRUSSELS – European lawmakers won't be returning to the French city of Strasbourg for next week's plenary session because of the COVID-19 resurgence in France, the European Parliament president said Thursday.
The session also won't take place in Brussels, where the virus situation isn't better than in France.
Instead, European Parliament President David Sassoli said it will be held remotely due to the serious health situation in France and Belgium.
“Unfortunately last night, following a warning from health authorities and information about the virus that’s infecting MEPs, staffers and associates, this possibility vanished," Sassoli told a press conference. “Travelling is very dangerous; the situation in Strasbourg is critical and in Brussels it’s very serious."
Plenary sessions scheduled in Strasbourg, which is the official seat of the European Parliament, have been scrapped since March because of concerns related to the coronavirus. Staff and parliamentarians are mostly based in Brussels but almost all plenary sessions need to be held 450 kilometers (280 miles) away in Strasbourg, much to the chagrin of many legislators.
But French President Emmanuel Macron is a strong supporter of the Strasbourg sessions and recently said that the EU is “screwed" if the European Parliament stops meeting in Strasbourg. Macron also wrote to Sassoli asking him for a return of the plenary sessions to the Alsace city as soon as October.
The health situation in France, however, has since further deteriorated, prompting Macron to announce a night-time curfew in Paris and eight other cities to try to slow the spread of the virus. In Belgium, health authorities are worried intensive care units will reach capacity by mid-November if infections are not checked.
In a statement, the European Parliament said the risk to public health is considered to have increased significantly.
“On the basis of this evaluation, it was decided that the necessary security conditions haven’t been met to allow the European Parliament to convene in full in person for the plenary session next week.”
“Strasbourg remains the home of (the European Parliament) and we will do everything we can to return," Sassoli said.