MEP Calls For EU Parliament "Volcano Shutdown"

18 April 2010
SNP Member of the European Parliament Mr Alyn Smith has today (Sunday) written to Parliament President Jerzy Buzek urging him to cancel the session of Parliament due to start on Monday in Strasbourg since most MEPs will not be able to attend, Smith included.

The European Parliament primarily conducts business in Brussels, but once a month is obliged to up sticks to Strasbourg to meet in plenary, from Monday evening to Thursday afternoon.  The session is due to start tomorrow as normal, but with Scottish, UK and French airspace currently shut, along with 19 other European countries, it seems increasingly unlikely that the session will be viable.

Smith is further concerned that Europe's already stretched transport networks could do without a few thousand more people trying to get to the small town in rural France.  Smith has called for the postponement of the session's business to a later date, in Brussels, when transport is hopefully back to normal.

Speaking from Edinburgh, Smith said:

"I never thought I would hear myself say "I can't make it to work due to the volcano" but I genuinely can't!

"I am booked on my usual flight Monday morning 9am from Edinburgh to Paris then Strasbourg, but with Scottish airspace shut until 1am tomorrow and even then English and French airspace likely to remain shut I'm just not going to make it.  I have looked into trains and the eurostar is fully booked and even ferries are a mess.

"I have long opposed Strasbourg as a location for the Parliament, but even if we were to hold our session in Brussels it would make no difference, I could not make it there either.  While there are legal quibbles about the parliament being obliged to meet in Strasbourg, if a volcano shutting Europe's airspace does not count as force majeur I do not know what does.  This session is quite simply star crossed, and we should write it off before we expend needless time, and public money, trying to have a session with barely a fraction of the members present.

"It is quite possible to rearrange our timetable to bring the May constituency week forward and replace the May constituency week with an extraordinary plenary session.  This would mean a degree of disruption to our schedules, but nothing that cannot be overcome, where the practical difficulties of holding the session next week simply cannot.

"With the election to the London Parliament looming I suspect I will be able to find some other work to occupy myself with, but I am quite sure most of my colleagues the length and breadth of Europe will not be able to get their either.  This session should simply not go ahead."

Mr Smith's letter to the European Parliament President is below:

Dear Jerzy, Dear Mr President,

I hope this email finds you well at this difficult time.  I write to add my voice to calls to cancel the upcoming Strasbourg session due to travel difficulties, and to postpone the business to a later date.  I write from Edinburgh, where the latest news is that Scottish airspace is shut until at least 1am Monday morning, with English and French airspace likely to remain shut as the ash cloud appears to be drifting back in our direction.  I am booked onto the 9am flight Edinburgh-Paris-Strasbourg, but it seems unlikely that any flight will be taking off.  Trains are fine as far as the eurostar, which is fully booked, and even ferries are suffering congestion.  I simply cannot make it to Strasbourg, or Brussels.

This situation must be repeated for most members across the length and breadth of the EU, and surely we must now accept that any attempts to hold the session in Strasbourg, or indeed Brussels, are simply not realistic.

I appreciate that there may be some legal quibbles about the parliament being obliged to meet in Strasbourg, but if a volcano shutting Europe's airspace does not count as force majeur I do not know what does.  This session is quite simply star crossed, and we should write it off before we expend needless time, and public money, trying to have a session with barely a fraction of the members present.

I would suggest that we take decisive action and rearrange our timetable to bring the May constituency week forward and replace the May constituency week with an extraordinary plenary session.  This would mean a degree of disruption to our schedules, but nothing that cannot be overcome, where the practical difficulties of holding the session next week simply cannot.  We can plan on the basis that travel will return to normality by then, and reassess later should this not be the case.  In parallel to this I would additionally suggest that LSUMEP urgently need to asses electronic links from each of the Parliament's national and antenna offices so that if need be members can at least have some sort of virtual session should this situation continue.

I hope that this suggestion will be viewed constructively by your services, and look forward to hearing from you.

Yours aye

Alyn Smith MEP