This week in the European Parliament, the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) met to discuss the EU’s budget for the next year. What at first looked like a dull meeting of MEPs, became a more exciting after a Labour MEP insulted a large portion of the EU’s citizens.
UKIP MEP Louise Bours for the North West of England, had no doubt alienated herself from many of her colleagues by saying she was “bewildered and staggered that have we learned absolutely nothing from the European elections” in the context of “spending billions on propagating EU propaganda” and as the people “have rejected the European project.” She cited the spending of €60 million on an EU history project and €14.7 billion on a student exchange project.
Julie Ward MEP (Labour), then replied that she “works every summer with young people from across Europe… and the young people who take part in these things have come from a white, rural monoculture you might think that they would be racist, that they would have opinions about their neighbours which are negative.”
While there are uncomfortably high numbers of far right, even fascist MEPs in Brussels, many people would nevertheless look upon Ms Ward’s comments as being offensive and a form of inverted racism: assuming that someone has a negative opinion based on their skin colour or culture.
She is also the author of a report from Platform for Intercultural Europe (PIE) which aims to “expand its EU advocacy role into the field of education” and provide a “response to the growth of forces opposed to intercultural engagement in Europe through the work of members and alliances.”
What Ms. Ward also reveals also is the desire of the EU to be involved in areas that are still the prerogative of national governments. Education, public health, tourism and culture largely remain at the discretion of member states but their principle of Open Method off Coordination (OMC) and, by implication, the EU, may increasingly become involved in these areas too.
The EU Commission set up the OMC as a “form of soft law, a process of policymaking which does not lead to binding EU legislative measures nor require Member States to change their law. (OMC) aims to spread best practices and achieve greater convergence towards the main EU goals.”
The principle of subsidiarity seems rather lost, even if at worst the OMC just adds another level of bureaucracy. David Cameron’s mission to reclaim power back from the EU seems more difficult than ever.
In the meantime, Ms. Ward may need to clarify her words.