Sunday, 8 May 2011

The EU Flag dispute

Tomorrow is "Europe Day" - the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration - which is seen as the genesis of the developments which have taken us to the European Union. I'm saddened to report that Europe is again being used as a distraction device to move the spotlight off the deeper problems of the current government. (This is NOT a party political point - governments of all colours have turned to Europe to provide distraction since - well since the Schuman declaration was made!).

Patrick Hennessy reports -

"While No 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office will not fly the European Union flag on Europe Day tomorrow, the Department for Business, headed by Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat, will do so.

No 10 flew the blue and gold EU banner on May 9 during Gordon Brown’s time as Prime Minister.

However, a spokesman said last night: “We are keeping it simple. We are flying the Union flag.”

The Foreign Office, where William Hague, the Cabinet’s leading Eurosceptic, is in charge, will not fly the EU flag in Whitehall or any of its official buildings in Britain.

The Treasury also said it will not fly it. Embassies and other diplomatic outposts abroad will “make their own decisions” on the issue.

However, a spokesman for Mr Cable’s department said that its senior civil servant, Martin Donnelly, had decided to continue with its recent tradition of raising the 12-star flag.

The split over the flag mirrors tensions between the coalition partners that surfaced when Tory and Lib Dem negotiators were drawing up the agreement last year that joined them in government.
 Lib Dems, who have backed closer ties with the EU, are suspicious of what they see as anti-EU stance among many Tories.

Europe Day marks the anniversary of French foreign minister Robert Schuman’s call in 1950 for a coal and steel community, which became the forerunner of the European Union."

When the Soviet Union and its empire existed, "Comminism" or "Russia" was the bogeyman. Since the loss of that convenient distraction, the Right in Britain has adopted the European Union for that role. Like many such tactics - it relies on playing on prejudice and fuels that prejudice by disinformation.

See this example from the Daily Express on May 4th - headlined "EU FLAG RULE: BIG FINES IF OUR PUBLIC BUILDNGS FAIL TO MARK EUROPE DAY" - full "story" (in both senses of the word) is available here.

The British Office of the European Commission tried to put the record straight (the Editor of the Daily Express declined to print this!)

"Regarding your front page of today, only 2 buildings in the UK are expected to fly the European flag for Europe Day and the Commission would not fine countries that did not do so. The rules that make this provision were passed in 2006 by all EU countries, including the UK. No other public building has to fly the flag on 9 May though some may choose to do so. Some schools want to do something to mark the day and ask us for ideas. We send these purely on demand and they in no way constitute “instructions”.

Such is the volume of disinformation that a website has been set up to deal with Euromyths. It can be accessed here. The only antidote to lies is the truth - and informing people of what is reality. Had we adequate education about the EU in this country - then most of these myths would fail to take hold.