Dan Hannan MEP: Four pro-EU "Charities" got £34,597,219.16 last year
Dan Hannan is an MEP for the South East and blogs for The Telegraph.
Is there anyone out there who just happens to support deeper European integration? Without being paid to say so, I mean?
I ask the question perfectly seriously. When he introduced the Bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, made a song and dance about the fact that it wasn’t just Labour politicians who backed the wretched thing. A whole range of NGOs, he told MPs, had also come out in favour.
“The NSPCC pledged its support, as have One World Action, Action Aid and Oxfam,” he said, looking typically pleased with himself. “Environmental organisations support the treaty provisions on sustainable development and even the commission of bishops supports the treaty. This is a coalition, not of ideology, but integrity”.
Integrity, eh? Within a few hours, Eurosceptic blogs were pointing out that every single organisation he had cited received money from the EU (hat-tip EUReferendum.blogspot.com).
Most of them, it turned out, also got bungs from the British government. Hardly surprising, then, that they should dutifully endorse a treaty supported by their paymasters.
What is surprising is the extent of their financial dependency. When Miliband sat down, I fired off a written question asking the European Commission how much money it had paid these organisations. I have just had the answer. In 2007, ActionAid, the NSPCC, One World Action and Oxfam received, among them, €43,051,542.95. (I’ll come to the bishops in a moment.
Just think about that sum for a moment. Can organisations in receipt of such colossal subventions legitimately call themselves “non-governmental”? Can they claim to be independent? Can they even describe themselves as charities – at least in the sense that we commonly understand the word?
Why, after all, should any of us give money to a body that is already forcibly expropriating us through the tax system, and then using part of the revenue to lobby the government to do things that we oppose? The next time you get bumph from, say, Oxfam, bear in mind that it got €37,449,517.55 from Brussels last year. This is a minimum figure, by the way: the Commission is at pains to point out that its statistics don’t include “structural funds via calls for tender managed by Member States’ authorities or grants under indirect centralised management”.
The “commission of bishops” was a little harder to identify, but patient googling revealed that its full name is the “Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community”. Far from being an episcopal body that just happens to back closer union, it is a Brussels-based outfit whose stated purpose is “to promote reflection, based on the [Roman Catholic] Church’s social teaching, on the challenges facing a united Europe”. That’s right: an organisation wholly dependent on the EU believes – get this – that the EU should have more power.
This, of course, is how the EU likes to work. Whenever it wants to extend its jurisdiction into a new field, it goes through the motions of “consulting civic society”. What it means by this is that it invites the opinions of a series of organisations that it has itself created, and which look to Brussels for their income: the European Women’s Lobby, the European Union of Journalists, the European Trade Union Congress and so on.
A couple of months ago, the European Commission wanted new rules on pesticides, so it set up a front organisation called “Pesticide Watch” – an amalgam of various EU-funded bodies – to push it in that direction. In the same way, the Commission pays Friends of the Earth to urge it to take more powers in the field of climate change, it pays WWF to tell it to assume more control over environmental matters, it pays the European Cyclists’ Federation to... oh, you get the picture.
You see how the system works? The EU firehoses cash at these organisations to lobby it, they tell it what it wants to hear, and it then turns around and claims to have listened to The People. And here’s the clever bit: millions of people are thereby drawn into the system, their livelihoods becoming dependent on the European project.
There are occasional grumbles, of course. Last week, a report complained about the influence of industry lobbyists in the European legislative process. What the authors of the report – an alliance of trade unions and eco-groups – fail to see is that they are just as much a part of the problem.
Whenever the European Commission comes up with a proposal, it turns to NGOs and corporate affairs people on both sides. So, yes, you get the pharma giants and the oil lobby and the independent healthcare corporations and the rest. But you also get the greenies and the women’s groups and the assorted busybodies who claim to speak for “civil society”. What you don’t get is any direct input from voters. Public opinion is intermediated by quangoes.
You’ll often hear it said that the EU is undemocratic. Actually, it’s worse than that: it’s anti-democratic, run by and for people who fear the electorate.