Agius Saliba joins critics of Strasbourg’s ‘Hotel Metsola’ proposal

Politico reveals letters discussing EP’s potential acquisition of Strasbourg hotel between Roberta Metsola and former French PM

The European Parliament in Strasbourg
The European Parliament in Strasbourg

The European Parliament’s leadership wants to buy a new building in Strasbourg, to turn another part of its real estate portfolio into an exclusive hotel for MEPs and their guests.

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola welcomed the idea of “establishing a hotel in the Salvador de Madariaga building” – which is part of the EP’s Strasbourg property portfolio – in a letter she sent back in February 2022 to then-French Prime Minister Jean Castex.

As justification, Metsola’s letter said the move “could help ease the burden on the hotel sector” in the French city, where for some three days a month, accommodation is booked out because MEPs and their assistants travel to Strasbourg for a plenary.

Critics who oppose the mandatory travelling circus to the French seat of the EP are expected to oppose any prospect of the million-euro spend, because it would create further pressure to retain the Strasbourg plenary if not increase meetings. Politico coined a cheeky ‘Grand Hotel Metsola’ as a soubriquet for the proposal.

However, since the exchange of letters in Feburary, the EP’s all-powerful Bureau adopted a global strategy for the optimisation of the EP’s seat in Strasbourg, to use these premises for conferences and high-level events outside of plenary sessions, as well as for cultural events.

“The Bureau did not commit to any specific options. No decision to acquire or dispose of existing buildings was taken,” a spokesperon for the European Parliament said.

The EP administration is carrying out its studies to see how much office and space or additional meetings, or renovation in terms of energy efficiency is required for its Strasbourg seat. This does not exclude the use of the Maradiaga building or to consider the acquisition or renting of a building for additional office space and meeting rooms.

“Any decisions concerning the European Parliament’s building policy must first be discussed and agreed within the Bureau, and the Committee on Budgets of the European Parliament as per established procedure,” the spokesperson said.

Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba showed his own disapproval in a video message posted to Facebook, saying the move “shows great insensitivity” when the cash could be used for more pressing citizens’ needs in tough times.

“It is a great inconvenience we can do without,” Agius Saliba said of the Strasbourg juncket. “Millions of euros we could be saving... but instead, we are calling for some new hotel, because according to Metsola there are not enough high-level hotels for MEPs. It shows great insensitivity.”

According to Metsola, if the institution had its own hotel on-site, that “would also make it easier to organise more high-level events at Parliament outside part-sessions.” revealed that the exchange of letters about the new hotel for MEPs and officials was so pressing an issue that Castex presented French proposals for such a move first thing after Metsola’s election, in a letter dated January 27. 

France has been pushing the EP to buy another building in Strasbourg – the recently finished Osmose building, commissioned by France’s Banque des Territoires in cooperation with local and regional authorities. Metsola, in a letter to Parliament’s budget committee Chairman Johan Van Overtveldt dated 17 October, informed MEPs about the plan to acquire “potential additional building space at the Strasbourg site.”

In October, MEPs voted on the Parliament’s 2023 budget with 274 supporting an amendment to “oppose the acquisition of Osmose building in Strasbourg” – while 275 voted against.

The issue is on the agenda of Parliament’s budget committee, over the potential deal to sell the Madariaga building, in exchange for the acquisition of the Osmose across the street from Parliament’s main entrance.

The Osmose would “essentially be traded for the Salvador de Madariaga building” – Castex had told Metsola. But the deal needs approval between Parliament’s budget committee and the EP’s all-powerful Bureau which is chaired by Metsola.

A spokesman for Metsola told Politico that the purchase of the Osmose was not up to Metsola, but for the entire Bureau. “Exchanges with the French authorities on this have been ongoing, long before Roberta Metsola entered office.”