• The Commission is funding its own cheerleaders

    The European Union’s popularity is on the rise, according to a recent survey by the European Commission. 39 percent of the surveyed citizens in the member states have a positive perception of the union. Only 22 percent are negative.

    This is good news for Juncker and his fellow commissioners. The Commission’s communication ministry, the Directorate-General for Communication, has decided that at least half of the EU population shall have a positive view of the EU by the year 2020.

    But it is not actual policy changes that will make you and me more sympathetic to the European project, but pure propaganda. By funding think tanks and individual projects that advocate the continued political and economic integration within the union the Commission hopes to bridge the gap that obviously exists between the EU elite and the voters about the future direction of the EU.

    We’re not talking about pennies. During the period 2007-2013 more than 200 million euro were paid via the program “Europe for Citizens” which aim is to ”bring Europe closer to its citizens” and to ”enable them to fully participate in the construction of Europe.”

    Today we present a new report, “At Any Price”, which shows that most of this money are used in order to fund established and clearly pro-European think tanks. Europe for Citizens is not an effort to support a free and open discussion on the future of the EU, if anyone thought that was the case. On the contrary, this is about buying favors in the political debate by doping certain political groups and opinions.

    Among the beneficiaries we find organizations such as Notre Europe, the European Movement and the Union of European Federalists. These three organizations received more than nine million euro during the years 2007-2013, money that among other things were used to pay for an active presence in Brussels, for example facilities, personnel, representation and production, with the ultimate goal to influence legislators and policy makers.

    The NGO’s strong financial dependence to the Commission is off course a concern. Even more serious, however, is the risk of cronyism. At the head of the biggest beneficiaries we find primarily people who previously held high positions within the EU machinery: former Commissioners, MEPs, ministers from individual member states and Commission officials. In some cases individuals hold several board seats at the same time.

    The Commission clearly doesn’t see any problems with the programme and recently gave the go-ahead for a new seven-year period of Europe for Citizens. More than 200 million euro have been earmarked for activities aimed at getting us to like the EU more.

    Europe for Citizens is a democratic anomaly and an example of an unacceptable management of our common resources. This should not stand and I ask all members of the European Parliament to question the existens of Europe for Citizens.

    Philip Lerulf

    Chairman of the Brussels-based think tank OEIC and author of the report “At Any Price”

    The report you find here AtAnyPrice2015