News Updates: Irish Parliament Abdicates Legislation, Who are the Bond-Holders? EU Propaganda Junkets

Open Europe
Press Summary Archive
11 October 2010
http://www.openeurope.org.uk/media-centre/summary.aspx?id=1204

The Irish edition of the Sunday Times reported that Edmund Honohan, Master of the Irish High Court, has accused the Irish Parliament of failing to assert Irish legislation over new laws from Brussels and delegating much of the workload involved in scrutinising EU law to civil servants.


http://www.swp.ie/editorial/who-are-bond-holders/3669
Who are the Bond-holders?
SWP / Kieran Allen, 08/10/2010

‘We must re-assure the bondholders about the economy’. This line is trotted out daily in the Irish media. But who are these bondholders? The strange feature of current debates is that the Irish people never get told to whom we are supposed to pay all these debts […]

Last Saturday the Financial Times published data on bondholders for Irish government debt. The figures relate to July 2010 when European banks were asked to provide information to the Committee of European Banking Supervisors as part of a stress test. Although the data is a few months old, we may reasonably assume that the pattern has not changed when interest rates shot up to 6.5%. It should be noted that the figures below pertain only to Irish state debt. We still do not know who the bondholders of Anglo-Irish or the wider banking system because this is supposed to be ‘commercially secret’ information. Read it carefully and you will get an insight into the shocking skulduggery that is going on here.

TOP 10 BANKS WHO HOLD IRISH GOVERNMENT BONDS

    1. Royal bank of Scotland £4.3 billion
    2. Allied Irish banks €4.1 billion
    3. Bank of Ireland €1.2 billion
    4. Credit Agricole €929 million
    5. HSBC $816 million
    6. Danske Bank €655 million
    7. BNP Paribas €571 million
    8. Groupe BPCE €491 million
    9. Societe Generale €453 million
    10. Banco BP1 €408 million

The Royal Bank of Scotland is owned by the British government and Peter Sutherland was one of its directors until 2009. Sutherland often lectures the Irish population on the need for cutbacks – but he never reveals this link. The big surprise, however, is that the two biggest bondholders are Irish Banks. The people of Ireland have already put €7 billion in these two banks – but they then screw us twice by lending back our own money at higher interest rates. Imagine working class taxpayers delivering billions at the front door of the bank and then the directors scurrying around the back door to lend us back our own money and to call for more sacrifices. It is time to end this madness now.


http://synonblog.dailymail.co.uk/2010/10/is-this-how-the-eu-got-a-yes-to-lisbon-from-the-irish.html
Is this how the EU got a Yes to Lisbon from the Irish?
Daily Mail Ireland Online / Mary Ellen Synon, 7 October 2010

The European Commission has just flown 15 Irish journalists to Brussels for a two-day ‘information visit’. Or as those of us who know Brussels and talk straight would put it, for a two-day, two-night taxpayer-funded propaganda junket at a four-star hotel.

Ireland and the other eurozone countries might be suffering savage spending cuts, but the EU self-publicity budget thrives: in 2008 the Open Europe think-tank calculated that the EU was spending at least €2 billion a year on ‘information’.

Much of it bent, which is to say, propaganda. The commission actually admits that its information is bent. One of its publications declares: ‘Genuine communication by the European Union cannot be reduced to the mere provision of information.’

The EU propaganda machine pumps money into lobby groups that support ‘ever closer union’. They push propaganda into schools. And almost more than anything else, they target the Press. Journalists are offered ‘free’ trips and training (yes, just like Scientology offers training). The EU gives out cash prizes to on-message journalists.

A parliamentary Press official told me this week that a large number of Irish news organisations are given free flights to Strasbourg to cover the parliament, plus €360 in cash for expenses. (The Irish Daily Mail takes none of these taxpayer-funded handouts.)

 

[…]I got myself into the middle of it to hear what it was the commission and parliament propaganda machine would say to these 15 EU-innocents coming from Dublin. I cut the hotel and the other freebies – I live in Brussels – and stuck to the meetings. Meanwhile the journalists piled off their EU taxpayer-funded €377-a-head flight and into their EU taxpayer-funded rooms at the Hotel Manos Stephanie (’the Louis XV furniture, marble lobby and plentiful antiques set a standard of elegance rarely encountered,’ the hotel brags, and so it should since the rate is listed at €295 a night for a single room).

I said ‘No, thanks’ to the swish free lunch (well, not free to the taxpayers: it cost taxpayers €30 for each journo) in the private dining room at the European Parliament on Tuesday. It wasn’t hard to say No. The truth is I get gag-reflex when someone offers me taxpayer-funded food. I can never get that line from Abraham Lincoln out of my head, about the lure of ‘the same old serpent that says you work and I eat’.

I only wanted to be there to see how the propaganda machine would seek to mislead. For example: one theme that turned up in briefings on the economy was that the euro had nothing to do with Ireland’s economic disaster, nor indeed with any economic disaster anywhere in Europe.

Yet it was the low interest rates of the early years of the euro that set fire to our property bubble. It was the illusion of eurozone convergence that allowed our banks to suck in billions from saver-countries such as Germany.

The propaganda orthodoxy in the EU will admit no such damage. What the Irish journalists were given this week was the Bart Simpson excuse for the damage done by the euro: ‘I didn’t do it. Nobody saw me.’ This wasn’t information, it was a propaganda pitch.

[…] One of the meetings the Press officers had arranged was a session with five Irish members of the European Parliament.
[…] I thought I’d try to put the concerns of these politicians about the economy into Brussels-perspective. Remember, we were talking to politicians who will bank a half-million euros just from their salaries over the course of this parliament. Last year I added up some of the perks they get on top, everything from daily allowances to business-class air travel to medical allowances to free disposable contact lenses to reimbursement for 60 sessions a year of mud baths. Being an MEP is a lotto win. How do you stay in sympathy with the unemployed in West Dublin with a life like that?

So I asked the five MEPs to justify the decision last week by the parliament’s budget committee to increase the MEPs’ entertainment budget for 2011 by 85 per cent. How could they justify that, given the suffering of people across Europe?

The five said they’d heard about no such thing. Mr de Rossa even denied there was an entertainment budget for MEPs. He suggested that newspapers had made up the story.

Since I was one of the journalists who had reported the story, I knew it had not been made up. I’d had my information from Marta Andreasen, an MEP who is a professional accountant. More to the point, she is a member of the parliament’s Budget Committee.

Here are the figures, as from this professional accountant: the MEPs’ entertainment budget for next year has jumped from €1,105,200 to €

2,047,450. Yet the five Irish MEPs at this propaganda-fest denied it in front of 15 Dublin journalists plus me. Unless I could identify the exact budget line for them right then, the MEPs said they wouldn’t admit such a thing could have happened.

The other journalists, unused to the ways of the parliament, couldn’t make anything of it. But I will give credit to Mairéad McGuinness, who, despite being indignant about my suggestion, had her staff check it. She came back to me a couple of hours later with a piece of paper showing the figures for a budget line labelled ‘Entertainment and representation expenses’. There it was: the huge jump in the entertainment budget that the Irish MEPs had all earlier denied could exist.

Half the eurozone is bleeding to death, but the MEPs will take a jump next year of 85 per cent for their ‘entertainment’.

[…]When Miss Day brought her comments around to the new so-called European External Action Service (the euphemism for the new EU diplomatic corps which is going to lead to the closing of many Irish embassies around the world), she assured the Dublin journalists that this vast army of diplomats and embassies would in fact be ‘revenue neutral, except for the first year.’

I waited for someone to ask, ‘But what about the first year, then?’ None of them did. I realised that even the sharp ones weren’t used to listening to eurocrats’ slimy-speak. If they’d asked (I didn’t, it was 6 pm and I was losing the will to go on), and if she’d given a straight answer, the Irish journalists would have learned the shocking truth.

What her propaganda pitch didn’t mention about Catherine Ashton’s new empire was that the new service is in raging cost-overrun. It is going to head for at least ¤33 million over its ¤455 million budget this year already – and it hasn’t even been launched yet.

Thirty-three million over budget in one year, and that is just called a failure to be ‘revenue neutral’. As I said, eurocrats’ slimy-speak. It’s the painful torture of a life in Brussels.

The EU-innocents last night boarded their flight back to Dublin. Before they left, I asked three of them if they’d felt their trip was a good use of taxpayers’ money. All three agreed it was.

I may ask them again after they see the tax increases that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has planned for them in the next Budget. How strange that some journalists haven’t figured it out yet: there really is no such thing as a free lunch. Just like there’s no such thing as EU ‘information’.

⁂ French Europe Minister – We want a single EU military HQ; plus – gravy train, directive costs, lack of confidence

French Europe Minister: We want a single EU military HQ

French Europe Minister Bruno Le Maire has announced in an interview with French radio that France wants the EU to have its own single defence headquarters, autonomous of NATO. He said: “While it may be a difficult objective, in time we will need to have a single military command for the European Union, a European staff headquarters which could be installed for example in Brussels, and which would allow us to command European operations wherever European security interests are at stake. Today there are three staff headquarters which do that: one in England, one in France, one in Germany. I think it would be more logical, more reasonable and also more economic for public money to have a single operational headquarters.”

He admitted it would be “very difficult” to convince Britain of the need for a single headquarters, which has for years blocked the creation of a proper permanent EU military headquarters, because of the risk of duplicating NATO structures. But, Mr. Le Maire said, with the return of France into the integrated military structures of NATO, “we can no longer be accused (…) of doing it against NATO because we are now fully in NATO.”

Meanwhile, Le Figaro reports that Le Maire has said that he wants a “politically strong Europe, with an autonomous defence force, which is responsible and advocates financial regulation”. Le Maire also said that Nicolas Sarkozy’s Presidency of the EU has changed Europe for the better and he hopes that Sarkozy will become involved in the election campaign. He argued that the French Socialist Party is “neither honest nor responsible” and wants to transform European issues into national issues.

AFP Le Figaro Open Europe blog


MEPs create new scheme allowing them to claim £257 for each journey to work;
Taxpayers to fund £100m hole in MEP pension fund created by financial crisis

The Mail reports that from June MEPs will be able to claim up to £257 per journey under a ‘duration allowance’ which reimburses them for the time spent travelling between their homes and European Parliament buildings. The article notes that this comes on top of free business class travel to anywhere in the EU and a ‘distance allowance’ – which is supposed to cover the cost of meals, taxis and any other expenses incurred while travelling.

There is also further coverage of the revelations on Tuesday that the European Parliament has guaranteed that all MEPs who are members of the institution’s voluntary supplementary pension scheme will receive their full entitlements even though the fund currently has a deficit of ¤120 million because of the financial market crash. According to the Mail, between £35 and £50 million was allegedly lost in the Bernie Madoff debacle. According to the Telegraph, the European Parliament’s authorities are expected to bypass a decision by its budget control committee not to bail out the scheme in order to “honour legal requirements”, meaning that additional taxpayers’ money could be used in future to cover the deficit.

The Telegraph notes that two thirds of the optional extra pension is paid for in supplementary payments by the taxpayer. MEPs pay £1,052 (€1,194) a month into the scheme. That cash is added to by a publicly funded payment of £2,104 (€2,388). MEPs, on reaching retirement age, can expect an extra pension benefit, on top of generous national schemes, worth an annual £14,736 for every five year term of office. An MEP benefiting from the perk can net a combined pension of over £35,000 after just 10 years in office.
The management of the supplementary pension fund has repeatedly been criticised since 1999 by the European Court of Auditors, which questioned the legality of the scheme.

Telegraph: Waterfield blog



Costs of EU directive on biofuel to be passed on to motorists

The Times reports that the EU’s directive on biofuels, recently passed as part of the EU’s climate and energy package, will raise the cost of motoring for drivers. The EU rules state that 13 per cent of petrol and diesel fuels need to be derived from biofuel by 2020. Oil companies have had to spend more than £100 million in the past year on adapting refineries and storage facilities to cope with biofuels. The paper notes that the costs of complying with the EU directive will increase sharply over the next five years and most of the cost will be passed on to drivers.
A Friends of the Earth report this week said that biofuels could increase emissions because forests were being cut down to clear land for crops.

Times


Confidence in EU institutions at an all time low ahead of European elections

El País reports that public confidence in EU institutions has plummeted with the economic crisis and that record levels of abstention predicted for the European elections threaten Europe’s future. According to the Eurobaromoter survey, in Spain only 27% of the electorate are likely to vote, and yet in 1987, the year after Spain joined the EU, turnout was at 69%.
Le Figaro has published an article by Jean-Dominique Giuliani from the Fondation Robert-Schuman analysing the European elections. Entitled “A Parliament in search of credibility”, the article highlights voter apathy and explains that while the electorate demands more transparency and proximity to EU issues, the majority of French citizens prefer national politics. He argues that the candidates chosen by political parties and the size of the constituencies contribute to the nationalisation of European elections. However he also emphasises how the Parliament has become increasingly powerful and influential.
In article in the Independent looking at the European elections, Adrian Hamilton writes that the expected low voter turnout “is an indication of just how little the great European experiment has impressed itself upon the consciousness of the ordinary citizen.”
He writes that, with a resurgence of the Franco-German axis, evident at the G20 summit, and with the recession testing the EU’s ability to co-operate, “All of a sudden Europe has become an interesting place, although you won’t have any reflection of that when voters come to choose their European candidate in June.”

El País Independent: Hamilton Le Figaro

The Lisbon Memo / Insider Email: A Campaign Based On Proven Dishonesty

THE LEAKED BRITISH E-MAIL ON THE IRISH GOVERNMENT’S REFERENDUM STRATEGY

From last Monday’s IRISH DAILY MAIL

(Front page report on Monday 14 April 2008 + Editorial on page 14)

__________

THE TREATY CON by John Lee and Michael Lea

The Government has hatched an elaborate plan to deceive voters over the forthcoming EU treaty referendum, the Irish Daily Mail can today reveal. A leaked email shows that ministers are planning a deliberate campaign of misinformation to ensure that the Lisbon Treaty vote is passed when it is put to the public as required by the Constitution

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern has even been personally assured that the European Commission will “tone down or delay” any announcements from Brussels “that might be unhelpful”. Alarmingly, the email says that ministers ruled out an October referendum, which would have been better procedurally, because they feared “unhelpful developments during the French presidency – particularly related to EU defence”.

This suggestion will raise grave fears that the State’s constitutional commitment to military neutrality could be undermined by the treaty – a rehashed version of the failed EU constitution.

The memo was sent to the British government by Elizabeth Green, a senior UK diplomat in Dublin, following a briefing from Dan Mulhall, a top official in the Department of Foreign Affairs. Its aim was to relay to her political masters in London the lengths to which the Government here was going to in its bid to ensure a “Yes” vote in the referendum.

Ireland is the only EU state which is allowing voters a say on the treaty, and European heads of state are terrified that they will reject it. Campaigners have warned that the new treaty could remove Ireland’s powers to decide its own tax rates and social policies.

However, the most controversial aspect is the likelihood that it will be used to advance the concept of a “European army” which would violate the principle of neutrality that has long been a foundation-stone of the State. France is particularly keen to advance the notion of an EU force, which critics fear could be ordered into action over Irish objections by a majority vote of EU heads of state.

Already concerns have been raised that soldiers who are part of the Irish peacekeeping force being sent to Chad could be compromised by French political and military objectives in the area. The leaked email admits that this is one of the issues which needs to be kept from voters, saying that the possibility of the French speaking out on this issue meant that the referendum could not be delayed until the autumn.

It states: “Mulhall said a date in October would have been easier from a procedural point of view. “But the risk of unhelpful developments during the French presidency – particularly related to EU defence – were just too great. (Nicola) Sarkozy was completely unpredictable.”

The Irish official was also worried that the latest World Trade Organisation talks, which have already aroused the fury of farmers, could turn the voters against the new treaty. Farmers and suppliers are planning a one-day shut down this week to protest at the tack being taken by EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson. The email said that Mulhall was concerned about “a WTO deal based on agricultural concessions that could lead the powerful farming association to withdraw its support”.

However, Government ministers appear to be basing their hopes on the fact that the treaty cannot be read or understood by most voters – and that launching a quick referendum would stop them from doing so. “Most people would not have time to study the text and would go with the politicians they trusted,” it said. And it pointed out that the Government plans to keep people from analysing the details, saying the “aim is to focus the campaign on overall benefits of the EU rather than the treaty itself”.

It goes on to explain the details of the Referendum Bill, which it says, was “agreed following lengthy consultation with Government lawyers and with the political parties”. However, it admits that the bill is “largely incomprehensible to the lay reader”.

The memo refers to plans to fool campaingers over the date and states: “Irish have picked 29 May for voting but will delay an announcement to keep the No camp guessing. “The Taoiseach and (Dermot) Ahern saw a slight advantage in keeping the No camp guessing.” It has since been stated that the referendum will be held on June 12 – although it is not clear from the email whether this is the correct date or whether the May 29 option is still being considered as a possibility in order to destabilise the “No”campaign.

The email adds that the EC was doing its best to keep any bad news from the Irish voters and that Mr Mulhall had maintained that other partners – including the commission – were playing a helpful low-profile role.

It added that during a trip to Dublin, Vice-President Margot Wallstrom “had told Dermot Ahern that the commission was willing to tone down or delay messages that might be unhelpful:.

The leaked message also points out that most Irish media have been supine on the issue, saying “Mulhall remarked that the media had been relatively quiet on the ratification process so far. We would need to remain in close touch, given the media crossover”

A Government spokesman refused to comment on the leaked email last night- merely saying: “The date is as set by the Taoiseach, there is no change in that.”

__________

Editorial Comment (page 14)

LISBON CAMPAIGN IS ANOTHER BITTER BETRAYAL

Whether the Lisbon Treaty is accepted by the Irish public or not, one thing is clear – the Government campaign in its favour is already one of the most deeply dishonest in Irish history.

The revelation that the Government has conspired with foreign politicians to deceive its own electorate speaks of profound betrayal. For months, ministers have been calling for a fair campaign based on the facts of the treaty itself. Now we know that all the while the very same ministers have been collluding in a campaign of deliberate misinformation.

That the Irish people should be the victims of a dishonest alliance between their own government and outside powers is something many will find very hard to forgive quickly.

As for the Lisbon Treaty itself, voters will now find it very difficult to trust a single word the Govenrment says in its defence. At each stage, the aim has not been to inform the electorate but to deceive it. Instead of scheduling polling day for October,which would allow the country to come to grips with the treaty’s byzantine complexity, the Government has specifically chosen a date to capitalise on the artificial uncertainty this premature vote creates. Even the precise timing has been cynically manipulated to catch the other side off-guard.

This is not just poor form; it is a thoroughly undemocratic way to conduct what is supposed to be a free and fair vote. These low tricks are not just a case of using dark arts for narrow tactical advantage, they are deliberate lies about crucial matters of the Irish national interest.

One reason there is so much understable uncertainty in the electorate over the Lisbon Treaty is that it might mean we lose control over our military commitments and that our low corporate tax rate might be abolished by Brussels.

Now we know that on both counts the Government’s conspiracy has specifically sought to conceal the truth. We are voting earlier than would ordinarily be expected so that voters will not have a chance to see new defence developments in the EU that officials expect from the French EU presidency later this year.

Opinion divides on the merits and demerits of Irish neutrality, but that question should be decided by Irish voters, not slipped through on false premises. Today’s revelations also prove that neither our Government nor the French Government can be trusted when they say that well-known plans to introduce tax harmonisation have been sidelined.

This all amounts to a shocking culture of lying in the highest echelons of Irish politics. Deliberate lying about vital matters of Irish national interest should be unreservedly condemned by those in favour of Lisbon as much as by those against. The political culture in which this is possible is the proof, also, of just how corrosive the departing Taoiseach’s lying has been for public life.

Many people have not yet reached an opinion about the Lisbon Treaty. That decision must be taken on the full facts and not on a shimmering mirage of dishonesty. Nor should we be afraid to consider our relationship with the EU anew. We have been well served by EU membership in the past. We are under no obligation, though, to vote blindly for whatever is put before us simply for that reason.

If there is a case for the Lisbon Treaty on the merits of the actual document, the Government should make it – and should be able to make it easily and persuasively. That they have not will lead many to wonder why a campaign based on proven dishonesty should be given the benefit of the doubt when such crucial issues are at stake.

[04/05/2006] EU Commission Office in Dublin induces Irish broadcasters to act illegally

Huge sums of EU political advertising to influence Irish voters in next EU Treaty referendum


The EU Commission Representation in Ireland has induced Newstalk 106 and local community radio stations across the country to act illegally during March and April by carrying daily political advertisements aimed at influencing voting behaviour and party attitudes in the upcoming referendum on the proposed EU Constitution, or an alternative Treaty based upon it, within the next year or so.
It is illegal for Irish broadcasters “to accept any advertisement directed towards any religious or political end” under the provisions of the Radio and Television Act 1988, s.10(3),which governs local broadcasters, and the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960, s.20(4), which governs RTE.*
The advertisements. which were paid for by the Commission Representation in Molesworth Street, Dublin, are one-sided propagandist statements of positive-sounding facts about the EU that are capable of influencing people’s attitudes and votes in a future referendum on the EU Constitution or other Treaty aimed at increasing the powers of the EU and its institutions, among them the Commission itself.
The advertisements are ostensibly aimed at telling people of the existence of a “Europe Direct” information centre, which people are urged to contact if they require further information on the EU or wish to obtain a speaker on it. Each reference to “Europe Direct” is preceded by a potent and one-sided propagandist statement about the merits and benefits of the EU, which is certainly capable of influencing attitudes and votes, and the views of political parties and the party allegiances of citizens, under the guise of providing objective information from and about this information service. On any fair and objective assessment this March-April advertising is directed towards a political end and is therefore illegal in Ireland.
Here are examples from the series of 10 or so different advertisements:
“Do you know that since 1973 Ireland has received over 5.5 billion euros from the European Community? To find out more about the EU, contact Europe Direct…” (phone number follows) (Mon.10 April, Newstalk 106, 7.15 a.m., During the Eamon Dunphy Breakfast Show)
“Do you know that as a citizen of the EU you are guaranteed the right to buy goods in any of the EU Member States? What’s more, the introduction of the euro enables you to compare prices and get the best value for your money in the EU. To find out more, contact Europe Direct etc.” (Tues. 11 April, 8.30 a.m. and Wed.12 April, 8.15, Newstalk 106)

“Do you know that the EU has an expert panel of speakers available to speak on EU policies and development? To hear a speaker, contact Europe Direct etc.” (Sat. 8 April, South-East Radio, lunchtime)

“Do you know that telephone calls cost less because of the EU?” (Sun. 9 April, Newstalk 106)

“Do you know that there is EU legislation to ensure the food you eat is safe?” (Tuesday 18 April, Newstalk 106)

“Do you know that the EU is the largest contributor of development aid to poorer countries?” ( Newstalk 106, Mon. 20 March)

Irish EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy stated at the launch of this advertising campaign in February: “Following rejection of the Nice Treaty in 2001, Ireland knows only too well the importance of communicating Europe. After the French and Dutch rejections of the Constitution, all of Europe knows it now. This campaign wll not only inform people of the different information sources available but will also show the benefits of EU membership, and provide very practical advice on how to avail of European laws to protect their rights.”

This political advertising campaign is the first time that the EU Commission, through the office of its Dublin Representation, has financed anything of this kind in this country. It is possible that the Commission and its Secretary-General in Brussels are unaware that its Irish Representation is encouraging Irish broadcasters to act illegally.
On the other hand, if the Commission Representation in Ireland, or its superiors in Brussels, can get away with these political advertisements on the pretext that they are only providing “information” and stating objective facts, the citizens of Ireland may as well throw their hats at any attempt to protect their democracy from external, politically motivated manipulation from now on. They will be exposed to having their political attitudes to the EU and its affairs moulded by a self-interested Brussels Commission with effectively limitless amounts of money at its disposal to influence the voting intentions of Irish citizens in future EU-related referendums here, thereby increasing the Commission’s own powers.
The background to the emergence of the EU Commission as a major political advertiser in Ireland, and as a direct player on the local political scene is this:
The EU Commission has been allocated some 200 million euros to spend in the current period to encourage “reflection” on the situation regarding the proposed EU Constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters a year ago. The ratification process of The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe**, to give it its proper title, has now been resumed, as if the French and Dutch referendums had never happened. Belgium decided to ratify the EU Constitution in March. Finland is expected to do so by parliamentary vote next month, before it takes over the six-month EU Presidency in July. The remaining parliamentary ratifications will then follow, with possibly an Irish referendum at their end, so that by this time next year all EU States will have ratified the EU Constitution with the exception of France, the Netherlands, Britain and possibly Poland. Germany will then be in charge of the EU and a new French President will be in office, and steps will be taken to finesse the French and Dutch Nos and put maximum pressure on the countries still to hold referendums.
This is the real reason for this EU-funded political advertising campaign that has commenced in Ireland at this time. The Commission’s 200 million euro “information” budget is being targeted mainly at the countries where referendums on the EU Constitution are necessary, with a view to influencing eventual voting behaviour there. While pleading that it is providing “impartial information” through its betwork of some 300 Europe Direct Centres across the EU, the Commission is in fact producing potent propaganda – all as part of the real-politik of reviving the EU Constitution.
If an Irish political party such as Fianna Fail or Fine Gael sought to advertise the existence of a party information line or speaker-service on Irish radio, or to used advertisements to tell people that they had done such-and-such when they were last in Government, broadcasters would immediately refuse such advertisements as illegal. The EU Commission, a much more powerful body than any Irish political party, must not be allowed to use its virtually limitless funds to subvert our democracy in this way.
Unsurprisingly, the advertisements for “Europe Direct” do not draw public attention to less palatable facts about the EU: For example that only one-third or so of our laws now originate with the Oireachtas, the rest coming from Brussels Š Or that Spanish and other EU fishermen have the same legal entitlement to exploit Irish fishing waters as Irish fishermen do Š Or that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy raises food prices for families and discriminates against Third World agriculturalists Š Or that it costs Irish taxpayers so many millions to adapt the country’s bridges and roads to accommodate the 50-ton lorries permitted by EU law.
Patricia McKenna, former Green Party MEP, is making representations to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and to the RTE Authority, asking them to take steps to ensure that Irish broadcasters cease breaking the law in this matter, as they have been doing, perhaps unwittingly, by carrying these EU-funded political advertisements during March and April. She is also making representations to the Secretary-General of the EU Commission in Brussels to take steps to prevent the officials of the Commission’s Representation in Ireland from abusing their responsibilities by encouraging Irish broadcasters to act illegally and misusing EU funds for purposes that are illegal under Irish and possibly EU law.
Patricia McKenna comments: “If the EU Commission is allowed to get away with this type of political advertising at taxpayers’ expenses, including Irish taxpayers, it will undermine the entire thrust of the Supreme Court’s 1995 McKenna judgement which was supposed to protect people from having their money used to persuade them to vote in a particular way.” In 1998 Patricia McKenna made representations to the EU Commission in Brussels which led to its telling its officials in the Commission Representation in Dublin to desist from disseminating one-sided pamphlets geared at influencing Irish citizens to vote Yes in the Amsterdam Treaty referendum as being in contravention of both Irish and European law.
Ms McKenna can be contacted for further information if need be, at (01) 8300818 or 087-2427049
We appeal to all Irish democrats, whatever their vews on the EU, all fair-minded citizens and all responsible media bodies, to raise their voices on this matter.
If you should hear any of these broadcasts on your local community radio station, please phone the station to tell those in charge there that they are acting illegally by broadcasting it, and then inform the local police that the sttaion in question is breaking the law.
(Signed)

Anthony Coughlan,
Secretary (01-8305792 /6081898)


* A discussion of the case-law on this topic up to 2003 may be found in Marie McGonagle, Media Law, Round Hall Press, 2003. There have been some further relevant cases since the latest edition of this book.

** The Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe would repeal all the existing EC/EU treaties and establish what would be legally quite a new EU, based like any State upon its own Constitution. It would give the EU the constitutional form of a supranational State for the first time and would make us all real citizens of that, owing it our obedience and allegiance, rather than be notional or honorary EU “citizens” as at present. It would give the EU a political President, a Foreign Minister and diplomatic corps and would increase the EU’s policy-making powers in nearly 100 new areas.

[10/04/2006] EU bribes journalists?

EU FUNDING JOURNALISTS TO COVER EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

By Dan Bilefsky,  International Herald Tribune

Wednesday 5 April 2006

BRUSSELS:  The European Parliament is subsidizing journalists to cover its
parliamentary sessions in Strasbourg, a move that legislators say aims to
ensure that the EU's only democratically elected body is not ignored.

As part of a program dating to the 1980s, journalists from across the EU
member states are receiving travel and entertainment subsidies from the
Parliament to help defray the cost of covering the legislature when it
shuttles once a month to Strasbourg, in Eastern France, from Brussels,
journalists and legislators say.

The program is being criticized by some members of Parliament who have
themselves recently come under pressure to give up generous perks.

The funding for journalists can include payment of a first-class round-trip
train ticket or an economy-class plane ticket to Strasbourg from any of the
25 EU countries and a daily stipend of E100 to cover hotel, food and
entertainment over two days.

About 60 journalists from across the bloc are invited to Strasbourg each
month under the program, which is administered by parliamentary offices in
EU member states. Media organs that have benefited from the subsidies in
the past include RTBF of Belgium, RTE of Ireland, ERT of Greece and ORF of
Austria, among dozens of others, EU sources said.

Attempts to contact these organizations for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The Parliament also provides television journalists with unlimited use of
free state-of-the-art television studios, free sound and camera equipment,
and free two-person camera crews that can be borrowed for the day.

"The parliamentary sessions are stultifyingly dull, so the Parliament does
whatever it can to make it easier for us to work here, including paying for
our journeys and providing plush facilities," said a broadcaster who has
benefited from the program and who requested anonymity. "I would never get
my Parliament reports on the air if the Parliament wasn't paying for it."

Hans Peter Martin, an independent member of Parliament from Austria and a
former journalist for the German magazine Der Spiegel, said the
Parliament's funding of journalists showed that representatives of EU
institutions had not understood the principles of free press and democracy.
Martin, who has been campaigning to rein in parliamentary perks, came to
prominence in 2004 for surreptitiously filming fellow Parliament members
leaving Brussels and Strasbourg after signing in for daily stipends.

"The funding of journalists creates the impression that the Parliament is
paying for propaganda, and by doing so it harms the ideals of the EU more
than any positive headlines they might get out of it," he said. He added
that journalists could not hold the Parliament accountable if they
themselves were benefiting from its funds.

Although it is generally viewed as unethical for journalists to accept
funding from institutions they cover, analysts said that in countries that
rely on public broadcasters, the notion of using available public money to
fund journalists may be viewed as acceptable.

Jaime Duch, spokesman for the Parliament, said the funding was intended to
encourage EU journalists who would not otherwise cover the Parliament to
make the monthly pilgrimage to Strasbourg. He said the Parliament under no
circumstances interfered with what was reported. "If we didn't help them,
they wouldn't come because they have other priorities," Duch said. "And if
we stopped the funding, the journalists would protest."

One television journalist who regularly travels to Strasbourg using funding
from the program said the daily stipend was sufficient to pay for a quality
hotel and lunch at an upmarket brasserie, including a glass of Bordeaux
wine and a dish of Strasbourg's celebrated sausages. The neo-classical
Hotel Hannong in Strasbourg - popular with journalists - costs about E60 a
night if booked on the Internet.

Another broadcaster, who like others interviewed for this article requested
anonymity, said perks such as these had prompted journalists to refuse
requests by editors to write stories on members' privileges and travel
expenses at the Parliament, a topic of growing interest in Europe. "How can
I expose such perks when I myself am benefiting from them?" the journalist
asked.

Harald Jungreuthmayer, a correspondent for ORF, the Austrian broadcaster,
defended the funding as necessary to generate coverage of an institution
that is often maligned and even more often ignored. "It's part of the PR of
the European Parliament," he said. "The Parliament's aim is not to put a
spin on coverage, but to get any coverage at all."

He added that he had never observed any attempt by the Parliament to
influence coverage.

Other institutions have drawn strong crtiticism for efforts to influence
media coverage. The Bush administration came under fire in November when it
came to light that the Pentagon had contracted with the Lincoln Group, an
American public relations firm, to pay Iraqi news outlets to print positive
articles while hiding their source.

The Strasbourg payments are likely to fuel controversy at a time when
European Parliment perks are under scrutiny. The Parliament, which spends
E200 million a year shuttling between Brussels and Strasbourg, agreed last
June to reform part of its generous system of members' allowances,
including perks that allow members to be reimbursed for the most expensive
economy-class air tickets even if they fly a budget airline.

But perks for journalists have so far remained intact. In fact, legislators
confided, some members of Parliament from smaller countries like Portugal
and Greece have been lobbying to have the subsidies for journalists
expanded in order to ensure that the members receive coverage back home.

The Parliament's efforts to raise its profile come as the EU is suffering
an existential crisis caused by the rejection of an EU constitution by
France and the Netherlands. The Parliament shapes legislation on everything
from environmental regulations to warnings on cigarette pacts. However, it
still remains better known for its generous members' perks than for its
public policy. In the last European elections in 2004, voter turnout fell
to 45 percent from 50 percent.

Brussels's 1,550 journalists, one of the world's largest press corps
outside Washington, benefit from a host of perks and privileges from EU
institutions, including free meals and unlimited free phone calls during EU
summit meetings and free television studios at the European Commission. At
the beginning of every six-month EU presidency, the presiding country
invites journalists to a free junket in the capital. In February, Austria,
the current holder of the EU's presidency, invited 62 Brussels-based
journalists to Vienna, paying for their lodgings in a lavish Hilton hotel
and hosting a complimentary dinner in an 18th-century baroque castle where
a soprano sang Strauss operettas - all on the tab of the Austrian
government. Media organs had the option of paying for the trip. Only eight
opted to do so, according the Austrian representation to Brussels.

"It was a worthwhile investment," said Nicola Donig, spokesman for the
Austrian presidency.

__________
Copyright © 2006 the International Herald Tribune All rights reserve

[28/02/2006] EU reappoints failed anti-fraud chief

*** EU REAPPOINTS FAILED ANTI-FRAUD CHIEF

The commissars of the EU Commission have overruled Member States' request
for a new head of the EU's internal anti-fraud agency, OLAF.  The
Commission has re-appointed German citizen Franz-Hermann Bruner, who has
headed OLAF since March 2000, from among 181 candidates for the job.

Bruner has been strongly criticised this past two years for his handling of
the "Tillack case", in which a respected German journalist was arrested and
accused of bribery for uncovering fraud at the EU Commission.  Bruner was
also in charge when leaked OLAF documents said that the agency conducts
"fake investigations," and he has faced criticism for his mishandling of
the major Eurostat fraud scandal.  Under EU rules the Commission has to
consult Member States and the European Parliament on these top
appointments, but the final decision rests in its own hands. Commission
spokesman Johannes Laitenberger argued that OLAF is "a special case,"
exempt from the principle that top Commission officials have to be rotated
every seven years. . . Clearly another case of the Brussels bureaucrats
looking after their own!

[24/08/2005] Euro bank: secretive & sloppy

"SECRETIVE AND SLOPPY" EURO BANK ATTACKED

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph,23 August 2005

The European Central Bank has been accused of secrecy, ineptitude, and
sloppy use of inflation targeting by one of Britain's leading monetary
experts.

Prof Charles Goodhart, a former member of the Bank of England's monetary
policy committee, said the ECB's claim to manage inflation over the "medium
term" was an empty mantra that let it dodge responsibility for failures.

In an open letter to ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet, published in the
journal, Central Banking, he slammed the "conscious refusal" to be more
precise.

"Is the medium term two years, three years, five years, n years, or what? By
refusing to define the term, you can never be accused of missing your
target. [It] is just an exercise in obfuscation," he said.

He counselled Mr Trichet to have a good night's sleep before handling the
press following key decisions - given past gaffes.

"A meeting of the governing council is likely to be tense, often lengthy,
and almost always extremely fatiguing. You will face the world's media at a
time when you are worn out and stressed. I think it fair to claim that your
predecessor suffered many of his most unhappy occasions at exactly such
press conferences," he said.

Mr Goodhart, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics, said the
ECB should air its internal policy disputes by publishing the minutes rather
than relying on secrecy to give a false sense of unity.

"It is hardly desirable, nor does it lead ultimately to credibility, to
suggest that consensus existed when, in practice, it did not," he said.

An ECB spokesman said secrecy was needed to shield the governors from
national pressure. "Some could be in a hard position in their home countries
if it was known how they argued at meetings," he said. Mr Trichet is
expected to address the criticisms at a press conference on September 1.

The letter was part of a The Euro at Risk series published in the latest
edition of Central Banking.

An article by Henrik Enderlein, a professor at Berlin's Free University,
said the euro's one-size-fits-all monetary regime had blighted Germany from
the outset.

"Germany is the biggest economy in EMU and, as is now becoming obvious, has
suffered most from the current EMU set-up," he said.

Prof Enderlein said interest rates had been 11.2pc too high for German needs
on average since 1999, reaching a peak distortion of 31.2 in early 2001.

He doubted whether structural reform in Germany could be successful until
monetary policy comes to the rescue. "Ultimately, there could be a risk that
EMU splits into two equally-sized groups of countries, one with high growth
and high inflation, the other with low growth and low inflation," he said.

While monetary policy was likely to be wrong for all states, those like
Germany with very low inflation (or high real interest rates) could be
trapped in a "bust cycle".

He said the only solution is for the ECB to drop its one-size-fits all
policy and instead set rates for a homogenous core built around Germany.
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