Category Archives: Euromyths

For those crazy stories they use to bash us with

The EU is not banning kids from blowing up balloons

Can I point out a few things?

1) The EU rules can regulate how things are put on the market, but not how they are used in the home. So they recommend supervision for use of balloons etc that children could choke on, but don’t ban children from using them.

2) 25000 British kids are taken to A&E every year after choking on something. I think doing something to try to reduce those numbers is to be commended.

3) The US has similar rules on toys that constitute a choking hazard.

4) There is no change in the rules – this requirement has existed since 1988.

Summer of euro-scares

What do eggs, flags, cornish pasties and nurses have in common? They are all stories we have been dealing with this summer that have to a greater or lesser extent been misrepresented in some quarters of the British press. At the same time we are clearing up, getting ready for the move to our new office in October. So there was many a wry smile in the office when this article arose from the archive:

Evening Standard on summer Euroscares (Needs to be rotated)

14 years on, nothing much has changed.

[Update 11.40]

Sorry, meant to say, if you’re interested in looking more at this issue, we have a site where we put up our side of these stories and post letters we send to the papers, and that also has an archive of previous #Euromyths (in the right-hand column of the site).

Bullfighting – another Euromyth

On the day that Catalonia bans bullfighting, I just thought I would make clear that whatever you might have heard, the EU doesn’t subsidise bullfighting, either directly (which it never did) or indirectly (through subsidies for raising bulls). Farm  payments are no longer linked to production, so farmers don’t get money for the bulls they raise, but for respecting standards such as environmental legislation.

Science+Europe=accuracy fail

I went to a very interesting event about science journalism in the UK last year at the Royal Institution which I blogged about about the time. One of my conclusions was that many of the issues faced by science journalism reflect very closely issues faced on coverage of European issues. Science isn’t covered well by the general press. Neither is Europe, on the whole. So when you put the two together, as the Daily Mail did this morning, then you can imagine what comes out.

Needless to say, the Daily Mail over-simplified, if not to say ridiculed, the real situation. The project has found ways to improve fruit storage, reduce waste, cut pesticide use and  encourage children to eat fruit instead of sweets. These are important things. An interesting fact: The EU produced 7.7 million tonnes of eating apples in 2008.  So if research like this can cut costs so that apple prices fall by just one penny per kilo that will mean annual savings for consumers of £64 million – or more than five times the cost of the project. Never mind the health benefits of reduced pesticide use, and the suffering caused by allergies (I know alot about that one!) This was the first project to quantify the cholesterol-reducing properties of apples, which can have a direct effect in reducing medicines taken – saving health services money.

Of course, we could have told the Mail all of this if they had bothered to ask us…

Milk and honey

I’m sure today’s Express article (strap on front page, article page 3, opinion page 12) had the good burghers of the UK spitting out their Earl Grey in disgust, where it broke the story that the EU was planning to ban milk jugs in the good old British tea shop. Needless to say it’s rubbish. And it’s an interesting look at how these stories come about. We’ve seen the copy that was filed, which was about the discovery by some Spanish researchers that a lot of milk in coffee shops etc didn’t meet hygiene standards. The leap from there to an EU ban was purely in the mind of some sub at the Express. Purely. I would link to the story, but it was taken down pretty quickly and replaced with something nearer the original when this was pointed out to them. But how will the 700,000 people who bought a copy of the Express know that?

Even as other issues displace Haiti at the top of the news ladder, the relief effort there continues. The Commission’s humanitarian department is supporting NGOs on the ground and has a team out there. Their letters make interesting reading. The latest is on our website. Those from before, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake can be found on the Facebook Page of ECHO, the humanitarian aid department.

Doing the funky chicken

I’m a bit perplexed by the stories today about Viscountess Dilhorne, who was visited by Defra inspectors to look at her 29 laying hens for compliance with the EC Laying Hens Directive. Our Directive only applies if you have more than 350 hens, exactly to avoid this sort of thing. But these are minimum standards, and individual Member States can go further. I contacted Defra, but not having heard back, checked out the UK regulations myself, in case it was a classic case of “gold-plating”. And from what I can tell, they take the EU minimum of 350 hens. So why this lady had a visit from the Defra inspectors (and let’s be clear, all compliance, checks etc are done by the countries’ own services) is beyond me. But it certainly isn’t something required by the Directive.

Sarkozy’s shower

There are various media reports today that EU taxpayers have paid £160m for the French Presidency, including £250,000 for a shower. EU presidencies are paid for by the country that runs them, with the exception of *some* of the costs of the summit(s) held in Brussels. So while I understand there has been considerable criticism within France, and it is a report of the French court of auditors that has led to this story, this is an issue for French taxpayers – the EU budget didn’t contribute directly to the Presidency and its events, and certainly wouldn’t have paid for a shower at the Elysée Palace.

Have you ever been away

Sorry about the extended silence, but it’s my mid-year resolution to write more often (until I go on holiday in 3 weeks time that is…)

We start with the story doing the rounds on EU rules reducing your pensions, which started in the FT and then moved to the Express. This reminds me of the claims that equal pay legislation would price women out of the labour market – and we have seen that that didn’t occur. A case of over-simplifying, and extrapolating from one factor in a decision to an overall effect. All our proposal tries to do is address the need for sound financial institutions, and I think a lot of people can live with that. While I am sure that our proposals need refining, and the process means that if the case is made for sensible changes they can be incorporated, it isn’t going out on a limb to say that changes are needed in the financial architecture, and prudential rules are part of that. Pensions are going to be at least as much affected by the last year’s market volatility as anything the European Commission can come up with. That’s what this and other proposals, at national, regional and hopefully international level, seek to address.

For months we’ve been wrangling with the issue of electronic identification for sheep. The UK was at the forefront of calls for electronic identification of sheep in the aftermath of the foot and mouth crisis, when a report for the government recommended its quick introduction. The UK agreed to the legislation when it was put forward, and supported the Commission when it did its implementing legislation. But now, as the memory of foot and mouth has receded, much (but certainly not all) of the farming industry and members of the government are against it. The Commission, aware that there are costs involved in introducing the technology, has made financing available to help farmers at the beginning, but I understand that issues with co-financing mean this isn’t so readily available to farmers here. EID is already being used in the UK, including by the 2007 and 2008 winners of Farmers Weekly’s Shepherd of the Year.