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Lawmakers vote to stop the EU’s ‘traveling circus’

Shaun Egan | The Image Bank | Getty Images

European lawmakers have backed plans for a single seat for the European Parliament to end the "travelling circus" of moving between Brussels and Strasbourg once a month.

Members of European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favor of a non-binding deal to have a single site for the assembly in either Brussels in Belgium or Strasbourg in France.

Running a multi-seat Parliament costs 180 million euros ($243 million) and 19,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, according to European Parliament administration figures, but MEPs hope to curb the costs if the proposals become reality. At the moment, MEPs either fly or take the train between the two parliaments – some 430 miles apart – with the necessary materials and office supplies going on trucks.

"Support for the EU is already wafer thin and it is just this ridiculous travelling circus that lowers the estimation of Parliament in the eyes of the public, particularly when we making spending cuts at home," British MEP Ashley Fox, the lead negotiator of the proposals, told CNBC in a phone interview from Strasbourg.

(Read more: EU adopts 'austerity budget' after 16-hour talks)

As parliamentary elections approach next May, MEPs are keen to show they are working in favour of their constituents and trimming excessive spending. In October, MEPs voted in favor of cutting Parliament's budget.

The vote today calls on the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, to enforce a treaty change which would allow MEPs to decide for themselves where they sit. Currently member states decide the seat of all institutions.

Member states have locked the Parliament into an "inefficient solution" and thrown away the key, according to German MEP Gerald Häfner, a co-negotiator of the deal.

"It's not acceptable that this Parliament is dealt with like some kind of agency or any old institution being told where and when and how to meet," he told MEPs in Parliament on Tuesday.

(Read more: Britain cannot 'gamble' with EU membership)

Not all politicians backed the plans. France – home to the Strasbourg parliament building – has denounced the plans, with center-right MEP Constance le Grip claiming the negotiators were turning their backs "on the history and the founding principles of the European Union's institutions", during a heated debate in Strasbourg.

But Fox claimed the plans were not anti-European and hit back at the "nonsense" arguments put forward by the opposition.

"I think it's quite amusing when French colleagues say that to attack Strasbourg is to attack Europe. Nonsense. Nonsense on stilts. It is pro-European to be pro-reform," he said.

—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal

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