Recently in Straz we had a presentation from Guillermo Fariñas, a Cuban political dissident and civil rights activist who won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2010. A remarkable man, he once served with the Cuban Army and received military training in Russia. In 1993 he was elected General Secretary of the Cuban Healthcare Workers’ Union, but was so disillusioned by the corruption he saw, that he became a whistle-blower. Since then he has suffered imprisonment and persecution. He has been on hunger strike many times to protest against the Cuban régime. Altogether a remarkable man.
We were struck by a particular feature of the Cuban régime which he mentioned. Cuban young people may attend university in Cuba only if they are deemed loyal to the régime. Youngsters who have the courage to express dissent are explicitly excluded, with the likelihood of permanent damage to their career prospects.
Nothing like that could happen in Europe, could it? Strangely, the next item on our group meeting agenda was the report from the “Council of Presidents” (don’t ask!). The parliament has taken a decision to host a “Young Europeans” Conference event, in the parliament, on May 9th next year. This is jokingly known as “Europe Day”. Purely by coincidence, it also happens to be just thirteen days before the scheduled date of the 2014 euro-elections (at least in the UK – the rest of Europe a couple of days later).
The cost of this exercise is expected to be €7 million – funded, of course, by the European tax-payer. You and me, that is.
You may think it is bad enough for the EU to be conducting what is clearly a propaganda event, on tax-payers’ money, less than a fortnight ahead of the euro-elections. But there is an added piquancy here. The event is strictly limited to delegates who support the “European ideal” (“European ideal”? That’ll be debt, tax, unemployment, poverty, hunger and despair, then?). Members of Young Independence, or the Freedom Association , or the Young Britons Foundation will not be welcome at this €uro-bun-fest.
Now I accept of course that a short conference in Strasbourg is not quite the same as a university education. But the principle is the same. Publicly funded facilities for young people are limited to those who support the régime. Well done Brussels. Fidel will be cheered up no end.