The European Union has admitted to spending £65,000 ($105,000) on propaganda aimed at convincing Londoners over the importance of the European super-state, just months before European elections.
The four-page spreads in the Evening Standard, as well as the Independent and ‘I‘ newspapers, with a combined readership of 2.6 million, cost the European Commission £65,000, a figure which they admitted to paying after questions from the journalist Mark Wallace of the ConservativeHome website.
Under normal circumstances, an organization paying £65,000 for this amount of space to promote themselves would seem to be nothing more than expensive marketing. However, the fact that the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has used European taxpayer money to propagandize Londoners ahead of the European elections in May, is highly suspect.
In the United Kingdom today, a negative view of the European Union (euroscepticism) is becoming dominant, with polls from the last 12 months indicating that Britons are likely to opt-out of the European Union if given a referendum, as promised, in 2017.
The eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP), which campaigns for an immediate withdrawal from the European Union, has over the past 24 months gone from polling at around eight or nine points, to 17 in last week’s Opinium poll.
Anti-EU sentiment is clearly on the rise in Britain, which goes some way to explaining why the European Commission is so desperate to “educate” Britons on the “importance” of the Brussels-based bureaucracy.
The Evening Standard’s spread contained sections such as, “Do you know your EU rights?” and “Ignorance is no laughing matter.” It also listed sections called, “So what has Europe ever done for you?” and a disturbingly biased section called “The word on the street,” which made it seem like the majority of Britons are in favor of the EU.
Wallace is right to point out that with any other organization’s payment, the feature would, by law, have to be listed as an “advertisement.” On this spread in particular, the newspapers simply wrote, “In association with the European Commission.”
Wallace points out, “…not only is the EU taking out such adverts to propagandise the electorate at a time when we are deciding whether to keep funding it or withdraw, but they are using our own taxes to do so.”
When quizzed on the lack of balance in the feature, the European Commission in London tweeted, “No shame in telling people what their rights are. And not propaganda: wide range of voices including UKIP in piece”.
But UKIP’s involvement was limited to one comment from Nigel Farage, urging people to vote in May, and nothing more.
Recently, Members of the British Parliament debated further funds being distributed to the European Union for the purposes of propagandizing in favour of it.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative MP for North East Somerset said during the EU Approvals Bill debate: “The Prime Minister said he was against ever closer union; the money that we are discussing will be spent on promoting ever closer union.”
“We have, by unanimity,” Mogg continued, “agreed to spend money on promoting the ideal of the European Union, and we have had no apology for it and no defence of it other than the Minister saying that he does not much like it but he does not think it is a grand scheme and it might cheer up his mates in eastern Europe.”
Mogg was supportively interrupted by Labour MP Graham Stringer, one of few Left-wing eurosceptics, who said, “In fact, [the money] will be used to promote myths about [The European Union], one of which is that the EU, not NATO, has delivered peace in Europe over the past 60 or 70 years.”