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

Open Europe
Press Summary Archive
11 October 2010

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.

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.


    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.

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’.

[10/04/2006] EU bribes journalists?


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

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
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