Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday 15 March 2005

The EU and its proposed Constitution

Now I am broadly in favour of having an EU Constitutional Treaty, even if I have some reservations with the document that has been agreed. Others are completely against the EU, even before we get around to discussing a Constitution. Fair enough - lots of viewpoints.

However, when I read this about plans to spend GBP5.5 mmillion (Euros8.8 million) on a campaign to explain what the Constitution is all about, I thought, no, surely it cannot be April 1st already - have I been asleep for a couple of weeks? This princely sum is to be spent across the whole EU, twenty-five countries with, Oh I don't know, 320 million residents or thereabouts, not just the UK. This works out at at less than 2p per head - you won't get much publicity for that, for or against the Constitution, even if it could all be done in one language, which of course is not realistic anyway.

The other big joke in this article is the contention (source not stated) that 'only 11% of EU residents have read the constitution'. I would be absolutely amazed if anything like that level had read the Constitution; I can just about believe that around that level might have heard of it and have a vague idea of what it is all about, in the most general terms. Naturally the Conservative shadow Europe minister Graham Brady is quoted as saying:

"British taxpayers are among the biggest contributors to EU funds and it is unacceptable for these funds to be used to finance propaganda in support of the European Constitution that would be bad for Britain.

"Even if the British government says that it won't use these funds, we need assurances that neither the European Commission nor the European Parliament can use this money to pay for campaign material in Britain."

- now I don't want an unbalanced information exercise either, but there does need to be a modicum of information to allow voters in those countries that are having a referendum to use their votes sensibly, one way or the other. Or do the Conservatives think it too dangerous to let people know the implications? Well I suppose it is just possible that the Conservatives will win the forthcoming General Election and be able to set the agenda themselves. Splash of cold water on the face - ah, that's better, I think I must have been asleep whilst writing that last bit. Maybe I'll find tomorrow, I live in hope, that the BBC article was just some kind of elaborate wind-up ...

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