Bruno Waterfield – Telegraph.co.uk May 8, 2011
The costs of “communicating” the EU are contained in the small print of an inflation-busting Brussels budget that will cost British taxpayers an additional £682million in 2012.
Almost half the cost, £115million, will be spent on administration and the 1,078 staff who work in the commission’s directorate general for communications.
Another £84million is earmarked for “informing about European policy and better connecting with citizens” and £7million will used on events, including a “Year for Citizens 2013″.
Publicity promoting “Europe for citizens” will cost £25million.
The lavish budgets for spin doctors and propaganda will further anger the British government which has promised to block next year’s 4.9 per cent increase in EU budgets and called for a “reality check” in Brussels.
Mats Persson, the director of the Open Europe campaigning group, said: “British taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for PR exercises that vainly try to make them love the EU. The EU needs reform not more spin.”
A commission spokesman defended the spending. “The 258million euros for communications amounts to less than 0.2 per cent of the overall budget, and the commission has frozen its own budget,” he said.
An example of “information” produced by the commission describes the EU budget as a way of “building our common future”.
“The focus of spending decisions is on meeting the challenges of the modern world to our society in the interests of a better life for the citizens of the EU,” says an “explanatory” leaflet.
Internal commission documents require EU-funded communication campaigns not to be “neutral” and for them to take a “didactic stance” with the aim of “boosting awareness of the Union’s existence and legitimacy, polishing its image and highlighting its role”.
Projects that are part commission spending next year include £31million over four years on “information events” targeting journalists.
“The commission wants to continue to connect with citizens and respond to their concerns and interests,” said a tender document for the project.
“Informing journalists in a proper way about the EU and its institutions is an important step since they are the link between these two parties. “Journalists get more targeted and precise information and the tools they need to provide citizens with qualified, reliable and timely coverage of the EU.”
Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, attacked a “sinister” attempt to “indoctrinate” journalists. “Do they think journalists, or the public, are stupid? No amount of money or PR can make people like the EU or stop the press reporting the political reality of Brussels.”