The full picture about EU funding for film and TV


August 31, 2015

A number of media reports fuelled by a press release from the Taxpayers’ Alliance have attacked EU funding – via the Creative Europe programme – for film and television. Some reports ridiculed ‘Get Blake!” an animated television series produced in France, though with British connections, and helped with about £300 000 in EU funding. The series has in fact been sold to leading children’s TV channels worldwide and will bring back money into the EU economy.

No newspapers seem to have sought the opinion of either the UK film and TV industry, the British Film Institute (BFI) or of experts on the audiovisual industry. Neither the Times, the Sun  nor the Mail – the latter seems to have simply rehashed the story without speaking to us – point out that most developed countries, not least the US, provide subsidies and or tax breaks to film and television.

Among the reasons for supporting film and television are to enable innovative and …

Fact-check of claims about EU-US trade negotiations and access to information


August 28, 2015

A number of documents exchanged between the European Commission and British American Tobacco were released on 25 August. They were not about the negotiations with the United States. Instead, they contained commercially sensitive information related to issues of alleged discrimination in Japan.  Those documents were published following an access-to-documents request, the EU’s equivalent of a freedom of information request.  The parts containing commercially sensitive information were blacked out as required by the applicable EU rules.

The vast majority of requests for documents are granted. In 2014, out of 5,630 requests, only 668 (12% of the cases) were denied access, while full access was given to 72% of the cases and partial access was granted to 15% of the cases.

Many EU firms, ranging from food producers and car manufacturers to high-tech firms and makers of medical devices, ask for meetings with the Commission. Anyone – an individual, an NGO or a company – …

EU officials cannot charge hotels and meals to corporate credit cards


August 20, 2015

The Daily Telegraph said on 17 August that EU officials “spent more than £85 million in a year on specially issued credit cards to pay for meals and hotels…not including train and air travel costs”.

Some clarifications are called for.

First, EU staff cannot charge a penny or a euro cent to a corporate credit card linked to a corporate bank account.

The European Institutions, unlike many organisations, do not allow this.

All work-related travel must be signed off by a senior manager. Staff must meet the costs (except transport tickets, which are purchased directly by the institutions) from their own bank accounts and claim the money back by submitting full supporting documents, which are carefully scrutinised.

So where do the credit cards come in?

The nature of the job – in institutions working with 28 Member States and many more non-EU countries – makes frequent travel necessary for many staff.

The time needed to …

Press reports on First EURES Job mobility scheme conflate support for young unemployed Europeans with the Calais situation and do not reflect reality


August 7, 2015

The Daily Telegraph (EU pays jobless migrants to come to Britain, 3 August) and the Daily Express (Now the European Union pays jobless migrants THOUSANDS to claim jobs in Britain, 4 August) report that one third of the young migrants participating in the EU pilot scheme Your First EURES Job were placed in the UK.

Your First EURES Job mobility scheme supports young people aged between 18 and 35 to find a suitable job, traineeship or apprenticeship within the EU. Financial support is only provided if the job-seeker is short-listed for a vacancy and has been invited for an interview. If the candidate is recruited, only limited further support is provided to cover part of the travel and subsistence cost. It is about helping young unemployed people who want to work hard to do so, not encouraging “jobless migrants” to come to Britain or any other country.

At the same time …

The European Development Fund offers aid to the poorest countries in forms that are most likely to deliver results for the local people


July 24, 2015

In a drive to have a go at the EU, on 20 July some UK newspapers (Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail) chose to ridicule circus artists and coconut production. The articles call funding for deprived communities in some of the poorest parts in the world “frivolous expenditure” and illustrate their point with photos of appealing beaches and young female acrobats in glittering outfits.

The European Development Fund (EDF), under which the quoted projects are funded, offers development assistance to the people and countries that need it most, in many cases affected by conflict and natural disaster like Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic or Haiti. More recently development aid of some GBP 85 million (Euro 121.6 million) was mobilised after the earthquake in Nepal. The EDF projects come in many forms depending on the community or country in question, what matters is that they bring results for local people.

Elaborate metaphors and frivolous …

Daily Telegraph makes a meal of EU “embassies” buying crockery


July 21, 2015

The Daily Telegraph published an article – later picked up by other media – on 18 July suggesting that the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) was “ordering a £2m dinner service fit for an emperor”. In fact it is launching a tender to supply all the crockery, cutlery and glasses, etc that all of its 140 “delegations” – equivalent to embassies – across the world will need for the next 4 years and doing so in the most economical way, with a flexible contract.

€3m is the absolute maximum that can be spent over four years, but only items actually needed and supplied will be paid for and the real amount spent is likely to be much less. The prices will be the normal rates for the kind of good quality but not extravagant materials that all diplomatic services would expect to use – for example around €10.50 (£7.50) for …

No, Brussels is not calling for Italians to produce mozzarella using powdered milk


July 8, 2015

Reports that the European Commission is trying to force Italy to allow mozzarella to be made from powdered milk are incorrect.

Indeed, the reverse is the case – EU rules prohibit cheese made from powdered milk being sold anywhere in Europe as mozzarella, or indeed as gorgonzola, parmigiano reggiano or provolone.

These and other Italian cheeses have their production methods and ingredients protected from cheap imitations by EU food quality schemes (PDO: protection of designations of origin; PGI: geographical indications and TSG: traditional speciality guaranteed).

These food quality schemes, which also cover a number of UK products – see this database – are a way of protecting Europe’s cultural heritage and there are no plans to water them down.

So what’s the fuss about?

Italy currently has a blanket ban on condensed and powdered milk being used in any dairy products, though it allows their use in other categories of food products –pastries, ice-creams, …

Europe is not banning tourist photos of the London Eye


June 25, 2015

Recent press reports may have left readers with the idea that the EU is about to legislate to “ban” or “censor” holiday snaps of famous monuments and art works and/or make it illegal to upload them to Facebook or Instagram.

There is no such legal proposal on the table.

Even if there were, it would require the agreement not only of MEPs but of a large majority of Member States, most of which, like the UK, currently apply “freedom of panorama”. That principle allows anyone to publish, even for commercial ends, images of public places, including the buildings and public art works permanently located in those places.

Some other Member States, including France and Belgium, have laws which restrict – usually to non-commercial purposes – the use of such images without prior authorisation.

But they do not seek to ban people from taking photos for their own pleasure. Neither is there any evidence that …

No, the EU does not give you hay fever


May 29, 2015

Rapeseed, the home grown alternative to olive oil imports first introduced by the Romans, is again in the headlines as its bright yellow blooms transform parts of Britain.

Opinion concerning the impact the flowering crops have on hay fever sufferers is as seasonal as the crops themselves: “Runny eyes and wheezy chest? Blame Britain’s crops of rapeseed“, Daily Mail 2007 and more recently “Yellow crop has been blamed for Shropshire hay fever rise“.

Now the EU stands accused by Dr Madsen Pirie in the Times of being responsible for this perceived allergy misery: “What’s lurid, yellow and makes you sneeze?  Ask the EU“, (21 May 2015).

But the amount of rapeseed currently growing in the UK is not the result of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The CAP subsidy system has been reformed considerably over the last quarter of a century. It is now extremely market-oriented and decoupled from production, …

Express brews up dodgy coffee report


May 29, 2015

The Daily Express claims that “Brussels is trying to restrict the drinking habits of Britain’s coffee lovers”.

This is utter rubbish. It is inconceivable that the EU ever could – or would want to – restrict people from drinking as much coffee as they like.

What has happened is that some producers of energy drinks and other products containing caffeine sought EU authorisation for some claims they wanted to make in advertisements about caffeine’s alleged beneficial effects.

The EU is a single market where products can be marketed EU wide under one set of rules, which keeps business costs and prices down.

That means that, to protect consumers, there is a need to assess at European level the veracity of claims about the health-giving properties of food and drink. This is done based on advice from experts from the European Commission and all Member States.

As part of the ongoing assessment of whether …