British business leaders have today been fighting it out on the newswires about the extent of the cost that the EU's new Agency Workers' Directive will impose on the British economy, as we struggle to lift ourselves out of recession. The BCC reckons it is going to cost the economy £1.5bn a year (see here for Open Europe's take on why the Directive is a bad idea).
Meanwhile, over in la-la land, a two-day conference is underway for 350 'experts', who have been bussed over to Goteburg at taxpayer expense from for a vital conference on "the creativity and cultural habits of children and young people."
Let's see... cultural habits of children... That will be, watching cartoons, building lego and dressing up? Playing sports? Or maybe practicising the piano or going to ballet lessons. That's fairly cultural.
According to the Swedish presidency of the EU, "the conference is taking place within the context of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation." Ah yes, the old EU-themed years.
Each year there is a different theme. 2008 was the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, on which the Commission splashed €7 million on efforts such as “information and promotion campaigns, particularly in cooperation with the media, at Community and national level to disseminate the key messages concerning the objectives of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.”
2007 was the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, 2006 was the European Year of
Workers’ Mobility, and 2005 was the European Year of Citizenship through Education.
This all sounds very nice. Except that, it is just another example of the EU's far-reaching and multi-faceted propaganda campaign to try and sell the idea of EU integration. Underlying all of these kinds of cultural and educational initiatives is a clear objective to help engender support for 'building Europe'.
Don't take our word for it though - take Jan Figel's - who is EU Education and Culture Commissioner.
Referring to last year's 'theme' he said:
“There are plenty of good reasons why the Union should work on intercultural dialogue… Firstly, building Europe has always meant integrating histories, value systems, and world views. There is a strong sense in which our process of integration has always been a dialogue between cultures.... finally, intercultural dialogue is linked to a more political goal: creating a sense of European citizenship.”
Indeed last year's website states: “Intercultural dialogue has an increasingly important role to
play in fostering European identity and citizenship."
For more on this and other examples of the EU propaganda machine at work, see our December 2008 publication, "The hard sell: EU communication policy and the campaign for hearts and minds":
But hang on a sec. The EU has no mandate to legislate in the area of 'youth' or 'culture'. So what right has it got to spend money on these things anyway?