Thursday, July 29, 2010

This should keep everyone happy (not!)

Lord Stoddart of Swindon has been pursuing a number of issues with the Cleggeron Coalition, otherwise known as Her Majesty's Government. For example, he asked about the money spent by the Commission on propaganda or media output (but I repeat myself):
To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Howell of Guildford on 12 July (WA 96) about the payment of journalists by the European Commission, what assessment they have made of the impact of that policy on public opinion of the European Commission.
The reply that came through Lord Howell was everything we have learnt to expect from the "transparent" new government:
At a time when both citizens and Governments across the EU are reining in their spending, the EU institutions should be more rigorous in making sure that they get the maximum value out of every euro of taxpayers' money that they spend. I am confident that the majority of public opinion in the UK would agree with me that paying journalists is not a good use of EU funding.
Probably not, though the Commission might consider that paying journalists to produce propaganda in the guise of news and opinion is value for money. The question is what assessment has the government made of the whole process and, more to the point, will anything be done about it. This is, after all, our money.

On to the subject of that blue flag with the gold stars. Readers of this blog will recall a certain recent contretemps about whether the flag should or should not be flown. The Daily Mail said that the UK was fined £150 million for failing to fly the flag and displaying the logo, the Daily Telegraph quoted an EU official who denied the story.
A spokesman said: "The EU has not fined the UK GBP150m and most definitely not for 'not displaying the EU flag'.

"There are legal provisions adopted by the EU member states (the UK included) that ask them to comply with certain minimum requirements on publicity and this includes the display of the EU logo on a permanent plaque.

"However, there have been no issues with the UK in this respect."

The ERDF requires any project accepting its money to display the EU flag on a permanent plaque in a prominent position.
No issues with the UK presumably means that the rule is obeyed and adhered to in every particular. Furthermore, stories that appear in the Daily Wail ought to be treated with some caution.

What is the status of the EU flag. It was, as readers will recall, taken out of the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty thus making it completely different and dispensing with the need for a referendum. According to the official blurb
It is the symbol not only of the European Union but also of Europe's unity and identity in a wider sense. The circle of gold stars represents solidarity and harmony between the peoples of Europe.
As soon as everyone has recovered from nausea and worse we can carry on. The same site informs us that the 12 stars have nothing to do with the number of member states (I should think not, there being 27) but is a symbol of "perfection, completeness and unity". What it does not tell anyone is that the symbol was used by the Council of Europe before the burgeoning European state appropriated it. For once, Wikipedia is a much better source of information. The article gives the list of the many ways in which the number 12 is assumed to be of importance.

The flag may not have been in the treaty but its importance as a symbol of European unification continues to exist. Unfortunately, the people of the various countries do not see it as anything but a flag that needs to be flown from time to time according to some legal requirement.

We come back to Lord Stoddart's question:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the United Kingdom can be compelled to fly the European Union flag or use prescribed logos.
Astonishingly enough Her Majesty's Government saw fit to give some information in its reply:
The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) is the managing authority for the European Development Fund (ERDF). Among other things under EC Regulation 1828/2006, Article 7(2), CLG is required to fly the EU flag for one week from 9 May from the front of its premises. There are two flag poles outside the departmental building of Eland House, and it is the policy of the department always to fly the United Kingdom's Union Flag in the superior position.

Article 9 of the same EC regulation requires that all information and publicity aimed at beneficiaries, potential beneficiaries and the public generally includes the EU emblem, a reference to ERDF and a statement highlighting the added value of the intervention of the Community, in accordance with set graphical standards. In addition, Article 69(1) of EC Regulation 1083/2006 requires that all member states, which act as managing authorities for EU funded programmes, ensure that projects highlight the role of the EU.
Two whole Regulations (which are, allow me to remind everyone) that deal with the need to promote the image and importance of the EU in our lives and to emphasise its benevolence though not, perhaps, the rules whereby all EU money (and Britain is a net contributor) has to be matched by national or local funds even though it is the EU that decides on the validity of the project.

EC Regulation 1828/2006 rejoiced in the catchy title of
of 8 December 2006
setting out rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and of Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Regional Development Fund
Let us have a look at the Article quoted by the noble Minister (or Sir Humphrey's minions who had been detailed to answer the pesky question). Article 7 (on p. 14 of the pdf version) deals with
Responsibilities of the managing authority relating to information and publicity measures for the public
Section 2 in full states:
The managing authority shall be responsible for organising at least the following information and publicity measures:

(a) a major information activity publicising the launch of an operational programme, even in the absence of the final version of the communication plan;

(b) at least one major information activity a year, as set out in the communication plan, presenting the achievements of the operational programme(s) including, where relevant, major projects;

(c) flying the flag of the European Union for one week starting 9 May, in front of the premises of each managing authority;

(d) the publication, electronically or otherwise, of the list of beneficiaries, the names of the operations and the amount of public funding allocated to the operations.
It is not clear whether apart from that one week the blue flag with the golden stars does not need to be flown. If so, why on earth is it always there outside the managing authorities?

So we come to the original Regulation, 1083/2006, for which the Rules were set out in the long Regulation quoted above. While the original Regulation consists of 54 pages, the one that sets out the Rules is 163 pages long. I think this is called simplification of legislation. Or so we are told.

Article 69 of the Regulation deals with - yes, you guessed it - Information and Publicity. Here we are, Section 1 lays it down the line:
The Member State and the managing authority for the operational programme shall provide information on and publicise operations and co-financed programmes. The information shall be addressed to European Union citizens and beneficiaries with the aim of highlighting the role of the Community and ensure that assistance from the Funds is transparent.
Of course, if we are talking about transparency, it would be useful, as I mentioned above, to explain exactly how the funding is managed and have the logos of all the organizations that contribute willy-nilly displayed. I wonder what the taxpayers' logo might be? Perhaps, a milch-cow.

HMG is not happy with the arrangement. How do I know? Well, there is one more paragraph in Lord Howell's response that tells one so:
As laid out in my department's press release of 7 July 2010, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is keen to challenge the complicated and over-bureaucratic rules and to avoid penalties being imposed for minor infringements of the regulations-such as for not displaying the EU emblem. Furthermore, he is urgently reviewing how these funds are managed and distributed to make sure that taxpayers' money is used wisely.
Who decides what is wisely and how is the Secretary of State going to change EU rules? We await answers with bated breath.

1 comment:

  1. If there are fines to be paid, and £150,000,000 was the suggested "fine" where has this fine got to be paid and to whom?i