France sought on Tuesday to reinforce the label of "EU capital" over Strasbourg by inaugurating a building adding to the European Parliament's estate in the eastern city.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne hailed the addition of the 15,000-square-metre glass-fronted premises - renamed the Simone Veil Building after a French politician who was the parliament's first woman president - as "the symbol of a European Union further anchored in Strasbourg".
The ceremony underlined France's attachment to keeping Strasbourg as the base of the European Parliament, a site chosen because it sits on the border with Germany and symbolises the postwar reconciliation that gave rise to the European Union.
Many MEPs who travel nearly monthly from Brussels for parliamentary plenary sessions in Strasbourg frequently grumble about the distance and cost. But the parliament's location is written into an EU treaty that is unlikely to be changed.
France is cementing the parliament's place in the city by offering the Simone Veil Building, built in 2021, at a cut-price rent for offices after a purchase deal fell through. The lease is for €700,000 a year, around 20% of the estimated market rate.
Borne used her trip to also meet centrist French MEPs in an effort to come up with a leading candidate ahead of EU elections next June that are predicted to see surging support for the far right in France.
She has been portraying the centrist and centre-right French parties backing President Emmanuel Macron as a pro-EU bastion against far-right populism and nationalism.
"We need someone with a fairly political profile, but who isn't too technocratic, one who speaks about changes the EU brings to our lives," one French minister said on condition of anonymity.
Names circulating to head the ballot in France include Stephane Sejourne, who chairs the centrist Renew grouping in the European Parliament, EU commissioner Thierry Breton, and French European affairs minister Laurence Boone.