BRUSSELS bureaucrats were slammed yesterday after it emerged they plan to spend more than £225million of taxpayers’ money next year on pro‑EU propaganda and spin.
The shameless plans were discovered in the small print of proposals for an inflation-busting 4.9 per cent rise in the EU’s total budget for 2012.
The details emerged on Europe Day – an annual commemoration of the first step taken in 1950 to create the union. It drew demonstrators on to the streets of Britain to shred the EU flag in a major snub to Brussels’ demands for it to be flown across the entire bloc.
Mats Persson, director of the Open Europe thinktank, said: “Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for PR exercises that vainly try to make them love the EU. The EU needs reform, not more spin.”
Nearly half the proposed budget, £115million, would be spent on administration and more than 1,000 staff in the EU’s communication division.
A further £84million would go on “informing about policy”, while some £25million is earmarked for events and publicity to promote Europe.
Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for PR exercises that vainly try to make them love the EU
Mats Persson, director of the Open Europe thinktank
Within the proposed package, £31million would be spent over the next four years on “information events” aimed at journalists to help “connect” the Commission with the people by ensuring they can provide “reliable and timely” coverage of the EU.
Ukip leader and Euro MP Nigel Farage said he feared a “sinister” attempt to “indoctrinate” journalists, adding: “Do they think journalists, or the public, are stupid? No amount of money or PR can make people like the EU or stop the press reporting the political reality of Brussels.”
A Commission spokesman said the communications budget added up to less than 0.2 per cent of the overall EU draft budget.
Yesterday two Government departments flew the EU flag. Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable hoisted it over his offices in Westminster and it was also raised above the Department for Communities and Local Government. Downing Street, however, refused to fly the flag.
Ukip member Ken White organised a protest against Europe Day in Maidenhead, Berks, where a pair of garden shears were used to shred the EU flag.
He said: “Why should the EU demand we fly their flag. The whole thing is so undemocratic. We must fight this.”
A protest also overshadowed yesterday’s celebrations at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In a major embarrassment for the EU, politicians from the UK, the Netherlands, France and Denmark held up their national flags.
Mr Farage, who led the protest, said: “We have never voted for this EU flag or anthem, nor has anybody else in Europe voted for it. It has no legitimacy whatsoever.”
Europe Day commemorates the anniversary of French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman’s call for a coal and steel community – the forerunner of the EU.