Millions of pounds of taxpayer money is being poured into Westminster and Washington, D.C. by the European Commission as part of its mission to promote its “vision” of the European Union (EU), raising concerns that the EU will surreptitiously attempt to sway the outcome of Britain’s upcoming referendum on EU membership.
The Commission has handed £200,000 to British think tanks and universities in exchange for pro-EU events and media, according to the Telegraph.
The revelation is particularly sensitive given the upcoming British referendum on the country’s membership of the EU, and the severe pressure emanating from the U.S. capital, including from President Barack Obama, for Britain to stay in the EU.
And that figure pales in comparison to the millions being spent in Washington, D.C. on a range of grants and initiatives. The revelation has led to the charge that the think tanks are undermining their own credibility by stealthily putting out propaganda on behalf of the Commission.
The news comes straight after Breitbart London exclusively revealed that the European Union was set to spend nearly a million dollars indoctrinating U.S. schoolchildren about the European Union.
Liam Fox, the Eurosceptic Conservative MP and former defence secretary, said “This is EU propaganda on the taxpayer. While the citizens of Europe are to various degrees undergoing programmes of austerity the Commission is blowing millions on propaganda.
“There is a lack of transparency here. When these think tanks put their opinion pieces out they’re not saying ‘this organisation is funded by the European Union’.
“It undermines the credibility of many of the think tanks themselves. If they are being funded to take a particular view by the Commission, what faith can we have in their pronouncements?”
Grants of between £10,000 and £14,000 were handed to 17 British organisations, including the Labour aligned Fabian Society, who last year published a pamphlet outlining a “new strategy for how to reinvent the pro-European cause”.
Other recipients included the Foreign Policy Centre and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).
Meanwhile in the US, the Commission has set aside several tranches of funding, aimed at promoting its “core values” to America.
The tranches include a £1.6 million scheme entitled “Transatlantic Research and Debate”, under which grants of between £42,000 and £175,000 are going to DC think tanks to “promote the EU’s strategic interests” over a two year period, ending in December 2015.
Eighteen think tanks and research bodies will have received funding by the end of the program, including the Brookings Institution, who were handed £175,000 for a project on “the future of the transatlantic alliance”. In return, the Institution promised a number of “deliverables” including academic papers, roundtable policy discussions and public briefings.
A further £1.6 million is also being offering funding to universities, business associations and community groups. And another million, doled out in grants of up to £70,000 each, is being offered to organisations willing to help “improve” the EU’s image through “increased understanding and greater affinity for, and interest in, EU-US relations”.
Yet another tranche, entitled the “transatlantic civil society dialogues”, is designed to support “public diplomacy activities, including academic and think tank cooperation as well as outreach activities to promote the Union’s vision and principles.”
In June President Obama drew fierce criticism when he suggested that Britain should stay in the EU as the Union has “made the world safer and more prosperous”. Obama further told the BBC “Having the United Kingdom in the European Union gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union.”
In the same month, Prime Minister David Cameron was similarly criticised for plans to lift the ban on Commission spending millions on pro-EU propaganda in the run up to the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
The money already being spent is coming from the Directorate-General for Communication (DG Comm), the Commission department tasked with “informing and communicating about the policies of the European Union with the public at large.”
Earlier this month it was revealed that the department splashed more than half a billion pounds directly on promoting the EU last year, and a further £3.1 billion on spending lines which included a promotional element. Included in the latter was £100,000 spent on comics and children’s books designed to promote the work of the EU to children.