European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)
Artillery Row

How EU propaganda is targeting the youth of the UK

It is clear that the EU is still thinking of its thousand different ways to win, and it is doing so by bombarding the younger generations with pro-EU messages

On the evening of 1 June 2005, I was in the well-appointed, plush bowels of the European Parliament in Brussels. There to share a glass or two of the rather fine, parliamentary vintage champagne with Nigel Farage and a few others. The Dutch had just voted to junk the European Constitution, following the French vote a few days earlier. The Constitution was dead in the water, and the fight for national democracy had won.

We hailed a couple of friendly Dutch deputies, who, to be fair, were not smiling as broadly as we were. Across the way was Joe Leinen. Unknown, outside the beige Brussels bureaucracy, Leinen was one of the most important power brokers in the European Parliament, a German socialist and Chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, the dynamo of “ever closer union”.

He padded over to us, “You can have your little victory now,” he drawled quietly, “We have a thousand ways to win”.

Most of the EU’s propaganda follows the old Jesuit dictum of catching them young

The bubbles burst, and the wine turned to vinegar. The thing was, he was, of course, correct. In our souls, we knew it. Two years later, the Lisbon Treaty was signed; the first of the thousand ways. As Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the Constitution’s author, put it, “when men and women with sweeping ambitions for Europe decide to make use of this treaty, they will be able to rekindle from the ashes of today the flame of a United Europe”.

I was reminded of those thousands of ways, when, this week, I read a memo from the governing body of the European Parliament, its Bureau. With the title, “Participation of UK citizens and EU27 citizens living in the UK in Parliament’s communication programmes,” it describes how the European Parliament and the broader EU is changing its rules to maintain its dream of creating a situation where, in the future, Brexit could be overturned.

Most of the EU’s propaganda spend is focused on young people, following the old Jesuit dictum of catching them young. The rules governing how it can be spent restrict it to member states of the EU and countries that are formally in accession proceedings. The idea being, to inculcate a sense of European identity amongst the youth of the EU, and to create a cadre of young people in accession countries who will drive forward the European agenda in their home nations.

It is clear that the EU is still thinking of its thousand different ways to win

With the UK out of the EU, these programmes no longer have the legal and political legitimacy here. However, the document’s introduction makes it clear that the European Parliament plans to waive the rules. It aims to maintain its presence in the UK and it will, “focus its actions on and foster contacts with the millions of EU27 nationals who exercised their right of free movement to come to the UK and now find themselves in a third country; and with UK citizens, especially the younger generation, of whom 71 per cent voted to remain in the EU.”

Key targets for the propaganda spend include “Opinion Multiplier Groups” (with the delightful acronym OMG!), the European Parliament Ambassador Schools programme, and the Euroscola programme. These programmes will collectively cost £30m p.a.: a 4 per cent increase on last year and a near 10 per cent rise since 2019, despite Covid-19 restrictions.

Eurosola invites thousands of school children to Brussels every year to discuss matters such as “How can migrants be harmoniously integrated into European society?” and “Ought Europe to restrict freedom of expression where there is a security risk?”

Meanwhile, under the Ambassador programme, schools are funded to set up EU info points and the keenest young pioneers are, “selected by their teacher (Senior Ambassador) for showing enthusiasm and involvement in the programme throughout the year and will receive a special Junior Ambassador Certificate”. The lucky little things.

The school also gets a plaque to commemorate their loyalty to the cause.

The purpose of all these programmes and their cavalier attitude to money (how can it cost more to run things now via Zoom than it did to transport thousands of children to Brussels and Strasbourg every year?), is to target the youth of the UK with pro-EU messages.

The UK rightly opted out of the Erasmus programme, designed as it was, not to help educate, but to increase pro-EU feeling amongst lecturers, and has replaced it with the new Turing programme. Surely the UK should be protesting about this approach from a foreign body to beam its propaganda straight into British schools?

It is clear that the EU is still thinking of its thousand different ways to win.

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