Glen Ruffle: The costs of a European identity

The recent news that the European Parliament has endorsed the Commissions latest mad idea to create European Heritage Labels in a bid to endorse and highlight places that were important in the making of the European Union comes as no surprise.

Despite opinion polls showing only 21% of the ‘nonstate’ Belgium people, surely the most inclined to feel European, only saying that they ‘often’ feel European, and nearly 40% saying that thought never crosses their mind; and despite surely even Herman Van Rumpuy himself not wanting to waste his holidays visiting these special tourist sites, still 1.9 million Euros will be wasted on this whiteelephant scheme.

The idea for this could easily have originated in one of the EU’s Agencies, the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), which reports to three of the Commissions Directorate-Generals (DG): DG Education and Culture, DG Communication, and also DG EuropeAid Cooperation Office.

Finding legal backing in the Lisbon Treaty’s ‘Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union’, under Title XIII and Article 167, which states that the EU shall respect cultures but aim to bring to the fore common European cultural heritage, aiming to assist Member States in improving the historical knowledge of European people, the EACEA is actively “contributing to developing a sense of belonging to common European ideals and encouraging the process of European integration”.

The EACEA has history with this kind of thing, having already spent taxpayers money on a project researching national Folk-tales in the search for some or any remote link to a common European identity. It also tried to reform history lessons in schools by making teachers reject the national viewpoints that dominated the First World War and teach this seminal historical event as a European incident to be seen from a pan-European point of view.

Receiving nearly 50 million Euros in EU Commission subsidies in 2010, the EACEA is spending nearly 30 million of that on staff salaries, mission and travel expenses, and socio-medical infrastructure, listing 324 people as its contract staff in 2010. That equates for an average spending of over 90,000 Euros a month on each member of staff in terms of expenses, salary and sociomedical infrastructure...nice work if you can get it, especially in a time of crisis...

Projects the EACEA lead include the 2007–2013 ‘Europe for Citizens Programme’, which seeks to award money to projects that bring citizens of member states closer together, for example, town-twinning programmes, or active citizenship (volunteering) that has some kind of European dimension (and so most probably less local use value). And the money allotted for these programmes? 215 million Euros.

This money is to be directed towards projects that, for example, raise the awareness of the EU’s impact on society. Citizens should be encouraged to become aware of “the results achieved through European policies and actions in various policy fields” encouraging people to “build opinions on these achievements.” And one wonders what opinions might be built if only the results of projects are analysed and no questions asking if they could have been achieved more cheaply, effectively and sensibly without any EU involvement at all...

It seems that the greatest piece of Euro-harmony to be found is the shared wastage of Member States money in the pursuit of this social conditioning and vain attempt to manufacture by force a shared European identity, to justify the existence of the European Commission.

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