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Europe's Costly Double Parliament: A Movable Beast

The scenes at the Brussels end point to what makes the dual legislature something of a movable beast.

On the eve of the great migration, big boxes are lined up all along the offices of the 754 legislators, ready for the reams of paperwork, background notes, extra bottles of water, even winter boots, that are to be loaded onto trucks on Friday evening to be driven in convoys to Strasbourg and unloaded at offices the lawmakers' use for the four-day session.

"It can happen that you would be sitting there and say, 'wow,' I miss this crucial document because we didn't think about putting it in the box," Alvaro said.

And spare a thought for the lobbyists, most of whom do not enjoy EU parliamentarians' elite perks, such as high-speed travel and generous wining and dining budgets.

Shut out of the parliamentary Thalys train service, environmental lobbyist Saskia Richartz was forced to take the slow one into Strasbourg, a 5-hour, 15-minute commute without even coffee service on board.

A half-hour after arriving, she was still standing in a long line waiting for a cab, dragging a huge mock cod in one hand and a mackerel in the other, for a Greenpeace demonstration later in the week. "It would be so much better to have it all in Brussels," said Richartz, one of the 6,000 to 8,000 people to make the commute.

From her office at city hall across a rainy and wind-swept town, Catherine Trautmann could not disagree more.

A former Strasbourg mayor and current EU parliamentarian, the Frenchwoman has a unique, if slanted, perspective: "The calling of a European parliamentarian is to move around," she said. "That we travel is only logical."

Trautmann did acknowledge the severe limitations of Strasbourg's regional airport with its few direct flights to any European capitals. And she promised new connections to places like London and Rome within the coming months.

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