I never cease to be amazed by the number of ways in which the European institutions spend tax-payers money to buy the loyalty or acquiescence of well-placed local politicians and bureaucrats. I have many times voted against the budget line for the Committee of the Regions (although its budget is always approved — this year to the tune of €70 million). The role of the Committee of the Regions is to bring together local councillors and council officers in various European cities to network, to share best practice, to cooperate and to build relationships — or so they say. In fact of course the objective is Propaganda. It is to use tax-payers’ money to help local opinion-formers to think well of the European project, and to see benefits in the EU, at least for themselves, if not for their constituents. They do little of substance, apart from producing the occasional voluminous report that sits unread gathering dust in the Luxembourg archives.
Very similar comments apply to the Economic and Social Committee, which brings together the “social partners” (the EU’s horrible cant phrase for what we used to call “the two sides of industry” — the EU is still in a 1980s mind-set so far as industrial relations are concerned). ECOSOC costs the European taxpayer some €115 million a year.
But today I found a new one. “Eurotowns” is a network of medium-size towns, funded by Interreg IIIC (another of the EU’s interminable budget lines, this time from the so-called “Structural Funds”). Its glossy booklet (visit www.eurotowns.org) sets out its Mission: “To develop a network of vibrant, socially inclusive and sustainable medium-sized European cities which will act as a catalyst for urban innovation, creativity and renewal”. Who could disagree with that? It has no substance to disagree with, apart from the usual litany of the EU’s politically-correct clichés and jargon. Later it sets out a POLICY AGENDA (in capital letters) which predictably majors on LIFELONG LEARNING, the KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY, SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT and SOCIAL INCLUSIVITY (also in capitals).
But what does it actually do? How does it deliver on these objectives? What does it contribute to the lives and prospects of the citizens in these sustainable medium-sized European cities? Not a lot, so far as I can see. Before I got into politics, I spend thirty years running large and small businesses. I was always aware that local councils had a series of initiatives aimed at promoting enterprise, but I never met any actual business leaders who had found them useful.“.
As I write, something like a hundred or so councillors and bureaucrats from local authorities across Europe are meeting in Brussels, over three days, to do — well, much the same as the Committee of the Regions does. To network, benchmark, share best practice, build relationships. All on our money. To be given a sense of importance, a feeling that the EU is not all bad if it creates these opportunities for them. Above all, a feeling that they’re part of the European project, and if the great unwashed out there who vote for them and pay their salaries are too dumb to see the benefits, well that’s just a little local difficulty that they can manage and steer around.
Many of the eurotowns objectives are best met by the private sector, or to a lesser extent by academia. Innovation, ICT development, movement of ideas and human capital are all specialities of the private sector. Think of multinationals moving people between countries, or professionals moving between companies and countries as they develop their career trajectories. Eurotowns speak of “incubation”, but this may be best done by Universities. They talk of “promoting entrepreneurship”. But the best way that municipalities can foster entrepreneurship is to hack away at the bureaucratic and regulatory obstacles that stand in the way of new businesses. The job of municipalities is to ensure that local infrastructure meets the needs of local residents and businesses — not to set off to Vigo or Heraklion or Sundsvall (don’t ask!) on euro-propagandist boondoggles.
EU propaganda is insidious. EU money funds a host of Pro-Brussels organisations (including the European Movement, who have a couple of regular euro-quislings writing to the papers in my East Midlands Region). They feed propaganda materials into our schools under the guise of “information”. And they buy the support of local opinion formers through scams like ECOSOC and eurotowns. Seeing their scale of effort and expenditure, I conclude there must be something seriously wrong with their underlying message, given their manifest failure to quell the growing tide of opposition to the European project and to the Renamed Constitutional Treaty.
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