January 20, 2016
EU development aid projects save lives in some of the world’s poorest and often war-torn countries. They inevitably involve some financial risk. But the vast majority of projects deliver good results. Recent press reports suggesting billions of pounds have been wasted and that “Brussels” is asking EU member states for extra cash to finance ongoing projects do not reflect the facts or the evidence.
How EU development aid works and what it does
EU development aid saves lives and makes a huge positive difference to many more. For example, it helps children get lifesaving healthcare in the poorest parts of the world. It gives tens of millions of people access to safe drinking water. Since 2004, more than 18 million children have been immunised against measles, 13.7 million new pupils joined primary education, and 7.5 million births were attended by skilled health personnel.
The coordination of aid at EU level, whether directly through …
December 22, 2015
Claims that some of the UK’s most famous museums would have to destroy their historic gun collections as part of EU plans to tighten gun controls – “EU takes aim at museum gun collections” (Daily Telegraph, 18 December) – are way off target.
As part of efforts to prevent gun massacres by terrorists such as the tragic events in Paris and those by disturbed loners seen all too often in the US , the European Commission published proposals to further toughen up EU rules on the acquisition and possession of weapons (Firearms Directive).
Museums such as The Royal Armouries Museum and the National Army Museum were concerned that the new rules on permanently deactivating weapons might require them to damage the antique workings of thousands of historic guns in case they fell into the wrong hands.
But the museums’ fears were misplaced. Museums run by public authorities continue to be …
September 2, 2015
A pop-up on the Express web site, appearing for some time now via various pages featuring EU “news” and prominent in online searches, is headlined “Brussels’ craziest decisions.”
It cites “the top eleven unusual rules proposed by Brussels that seem too barmy to be true”.
That is because about half of these stories are simply not true. And the others are seriously misleading.
Here’s the Express list:
An EU copyright proposal will make it illegal to post photos of the London Eye and the Angel of the North under infringement law
Not true. In fact, one committee in the European Parliament wanted to end national exemptions from copyright law currently granted for photos of architectural and public art works. They were advocating only that commercial use of such images should be subject to copyright. The full parliament rejected even that idea, the European Commission never proposed it and Member States did not discuss it. …
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 …
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 …
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 …
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 …
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, …
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 …
May 27, 2015
Contrary to gung-ho reports in UK press (Daily Express, 27 May, Fury at EU plot to tax Britain; Daily Telegraph, France and Germany behind plans for ‘common EU corporation tax’), claims that the European Commission is planning to propose a minimum rate of taxation for businesses in the EU are plain wrong.
What we do however want to ensure is effective and fair taxation of profits where they are generated, especially when it comes to companies that do business across borders. Discussions at EU level are about tax bases and making sure companies cannot unfairly escape payment or derive unfair advantages from moving profits around, not about tax rates.
A tax base is not the rate of tax or the sum levied in tax but the value of the income or assets on which tax is calculated.
Here are some details about what the EU is really doing and intends …