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EU pours £3.8bn into 'brainwashing campaign'

London Telegraph | July 2, 2007
Robert Watts

The European Union is spending £3.8 billion a year on "propaganda" to win over its sceptical citizens, it is claimed.

As well as publishing a plethora of pamphlets and employing an army of public relations staff, the EU has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on teaching aids, school trips and even cartoons.

According to Lee Rotherham, the author of a new book which examines the EU's spending on its image, such initiatives are an "outrageous and cynical attempt to brainwash the young". The Europa Diary, a gift from the EU to schoolchildren, is one example cited by Mr Rotherham in Hearts & Minds: the Tax-funded PR Campaign to Make us Love Brussels.

The diary has been sent to 1.2 million pupils in more than 9,000 schools across Europe. Its calendar includes pages that describe the European Parliament as "the people's voice" and claims that the EU has "improved the quality of people's everyday lives".

A version of the diary sent to Dutch schools describes the European Parliament as the "most important multi-national organ in the world".

Let's Explore Europe Together, an online teaching aid aimed at nine to 12-year-olds, describes the EU as a "really good plan that had never been tried before".

The European Parliament has also funded a cartoon called Operation Red Dragon, featuring a daring, fictitious MEP, Elisa Correr, who becomes "embroiled in a risky and fascinating adventure while in pursuit of her parliamentary activities".

She dodges assassins, hunts down a general who broke an arms embargo, and still has time to debate copyright law in Brussels. The text admits: "European Parliamentarians do not generally lead such dangerous lives ... nevertheless you can learn about the work of an MEP and other European institutions from the story."

In Italy, reports Mr Rotherham, children have been confronted by Camillo e l'Euro in Europa, a cartoon that champions the single currency.

Mr Rotherham said: "Much of this is outrageous propaganda cynically trying to brainwash the young into thinking the EU is an essential part of their lives.

"This stuff is relentlessly positive about the EU's work, with only the tiniest, if any, mention of the counter-arguments or any dissenting voices. Brussels realises it is losing people's hearts and minds and so it is spending more and more of our money on marketing material and hordes of press officers to champion its existence."

Europe's Best Successes, a 51-page pamphlet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the EU, features lines such as "if you are lucky enough to be a citizen of the EU", and "young people have really benefited from the development of a borderless Europe".

Mr Rotherham also details extensive spending on umbrellas, mouse mats, pencils and other items branded with the EU logo - part of a £2.4 billion budget for European Commission "projects". He also reveals big grants to think-tanks and EU-funded trips to the European Parliament.

Using accounts from across the EU's five main institutions - the European Parliament, Council of Ministers, European Court of Justice, the EU Council and the European Court of Auditors - Mr Rotherham calculates that the total spent on "propaganda" last year across all member states was £3.8 billion out of an overall budget of about £84 billion. Britain contributes about £6.3 billion a year to the EU, more than any other member state.

A spokesman for the European Parliament in London described Mr Rotherham's work as "voodoo economics", and added: "The European Commission, quite rightly, like any public organisation, does spend money on both listening to the public and communicating its activities."

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