Nicolas Sarkozy has been slated for claiming that the thorny issue of parliament’s Strasbourg seat is “non-negotiable”.
Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday, the newly-elected French president said he would not debate the controversial issue under any circumstances.
“Strasbourg is not a gift, it is in the treaty,” he said.
His remarks brought a stinging rebuke from several MEPs, many of whom have long campaigned for a single seat for parliament.
UK Green MEP Caroline Lucas branded Sarkozy “grossly irresponsible” for suggesting that the ‘Strasbourg issue’ was not up for negotiation.
“Sarkozy has made the issue of tackling climate change one of his main priorities. But if he is going to put words into action he has to do something about Strasbourg otherwise he will fall at the first hurdle.
“The truth is that the constant travelling to Strasbourg is environmentally unsustainable and he has to do something about it."
A report last year showed that the monthly journey of 785 MEPs, plus staff, between Brussels and Strasbourg generated 20,000 tonnes of unnecessary CO2 emissions.
Further criticism came from Finnish centre-right MEP Alex Stubb who accused Sarkozy of pandering to French public opinion.
“I think he must still be in election mode,” quipped Stubb.
He added, “It is not right to say this issue is not negotiable. Everything is negotiable.
“The fact is that parliament's two-seat arrangement is no longer viable. There is no way parliament can retain its credibility or command public respect if this travelling circus continues mjuch longer.
“It is environmentally, economically and democratically unsound.”
A ‘one-seat’ campaign launched by reform-minded MEPs reached the symbolic one-million signature mark last September. The petition was presented to the commission but it has not got beyond the Brussels sphere.
The decision to hold parliamentary sessions in the Alsace capital was laid down in a 1992 summit agreement and confirmed by the 1997 Amsterdam treaty.