Sunday, 10 July 2011

EU dismisses stories on flag fines as 'nonsense'

Last week, there were several stories published about Brussels fining organisations for not flying the EU flag.

On 6 July, the Mail reported:

A few days later, the papers focused on one particular 'fine' that was handed out to the University of Northampton. It was reported by the Express:

The Daily Star:

And, a day later, the Mail:

It was also covered in Richard Littlejohn's Friday column (a column which didn't include one word about phone hacking). He, like the original Mail headline, and the Desmond papers, claimed these 'fines' were for failing to 'fly the EU flag'.

The Express' editorial raged:

To be expected to fly a flag to which very few people feel any allegiance is outrageous. This ridiculous episode is yet another reason for Britain to get out of the EU.

But this isn't quite accurate. It is common for organisations to acknowledge their sources of funding when they receive a grant. In the case of EU funding, it's part of the agreement that some mention is given to the fact the money has come from the EU.

Here's how Tom van Lierop, EC regional affairs spokesman, explains it, as reported on the Express website:

"If there is a contract between a member state and the commission as a co-investor in a region, there is a requirement to have a small indication for every project under half a million euros (GBP470,000).

"The indication could be a mention on a website or in a leaflet, and for bigger projects we ask that on the billboard during the building works it states that it was co-funded by the EU.

"Once the project is finished, there should be a little plaque, but you don't have to wave a big flag above a project: that's nonsense"...

"That's perfectly standard procedure, and private investors in projects, or organisations such as the UK national lottery, also like some recognition of investments they've made."

So they aren't expected to actually 'fly the EU flag' but just make clear where the money has come from.

But has the taxpayer had to foot the bill for 'fines' imposed on the University of Northampton and others?

Well, as the Mail admitted in the final paragraph of its first article:

The European Commission insists Britain is responsible for managing EU funds and can redirect some or all of the cash from fines to other eligible projects, rather than having to reimburse Brussels.

And von Lierop added later:

"We're not fining anyone. The UK authorities oversee the proper spending of taxpayers' money, and if it isn't mentioned that it is co-funded by the EU, a small percentage of the total is re-allocated to other projects in the same area."

So the money is simply given to another project - it's not, as the papers imply, an additional cost to the taxpayer that goes into the pockets of the EU.

Here's von Lievop again:

"We don't want to be flying the EU flag above any kind of project, but it's normal to have some indication of involvement: these stories are total lunacy."


  1. This blog (and others) is going to be a great archive to be presented to whatever enquiry looks into the way our press behave.

    Misinformation and lies are as morally bankrupt as the illegal activities being reported at the moment.

  2. EU hits back at British media over flag flap
    (AFP) – 2 days ago
    BRUSSELS — The European Commission hit back Friday at the "lunacy" of British newspaper reports accusing Brussels of fining a university for failing to fly the European Union flag.
    The EU's executive arm denied imposing a £56,477 (63,200-euro) fine on the University of Northampton for not displaying the EU flag on a billboard to indicate that the commission was co-funding a project at the school.
    "Whatever flagpole some people hoist their flags on, it's not a European flag that we want to be waving above any kind of project. It's total lunacy these kind of stories," said Ton van Lierop, a commission spokesman.
    But he acknowledged that any project under 500,000 euros that receives money from the European Regional Development Fund must indicate the EU's participation in a brochure or website.
    The rules require that the EU's contribution be displayed on billboards for projects above 500,000 euros, which is not unusual to see in highway or building projects across the 27-nation EU.
    If the EU's participation is omitted, then a project can lose two percent of its funding, which national authorities can then use for other plans within the country.
    Van Lierop stressed that it is up to national authorities, not Brussels, to decide whether a benefactor can be stripped of funds for failing to follow the rules.
    Britain's Express newspaper said the University of Northampton was hit by a "huge fine" for failing to fly the blue EU flag with its circle of 12 yellow stars.
    "Only for bigger projects, we ask that on the billboard during the building works that it's indicated this project will be co-funded by the EU," Van Lierop told a news briefing.
    "And once it is finished there should be a little plaque. You shouldn't wave a big flag or whatever above a project," he said. "That's nonsense."

  3. There was also a ridiculous story in the telegraph ( and that said the England footy team, and others, would be FORCED to wear the Euro flag emblem. This was to be published in a report this week entitled "The European Dimension in Sport" so when it's published we can see if this is to be the case.

    Imagine the hideousness of having to support a team under the banner of yellow stars on a blue background. It's unthinkable.

    Oh apart from the Ryder cup but then that must be different somehow.

  4. Well it doesn't matter if it's not true. The story's out there and it will be true in the minds of some tabloid readers. The news that it ain't so will never reach them, and even if they do read that it's an exaggeration at best, they will believe the story even more strongly. Evil EU.

    Job done.

  5. However, it may be coming for here is apropsal. EU Flag Directive by the Committee on Culture and Education
    on the European dimension in sport
    Committee on Culture and Education
    Rapporteur: Santiago Fisas Ayxela
    And here is an expression I did not like,"It is, therefore, all the more important to promote an inclusive approach to sport. All residents of the European Union should have access to sport." I have read about EU Territory and now "All Residents of the EU"? If this is fact indeed, then our Politicians that are in our Parliament at present swore loyal and True allegiance to the Crown and the Crown represents the presence of the people in Parliament. If those words are "fact" then certain terrible charges must be made.

  6. A simple trip to Wikipedia will explain that the flag is NOT just the flag 'of the EU'. It is 'The flag of Europe' a symbol for all of Europe, whether or not they're in the EU. Proof of this is the fact that the flag is the flag of the Council of Europe, an organisation that is often confused with the EU but is, in actual fact, nothing to do with it. The flag is also used to represent Europe in sporting events (the Ryder Cup for example) and just generally in context.


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