White Paper – a Tissue of ‘untruths’?

This afternoon I attended a meeting on the Blue Star Programme for teachers at the European Parliament. The Blue Star Programme involves educating people in our school system on how the EU works. The usual format for these meetings is that I take questions from those at the meeting but on this occasion I decided to reverse the procedure, get in first with a question for them – had any of them heard of the White Paper on The Future of Europe?

Before they answered I went on to explain the significance of this document and how it would shape our future from 2025 onwards. I also explained how when launching the White Paper on March 1st this year, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker promised a series of "future of Europe" debates in cities and regions around the EU. This was to happen between March and September. I stated that the debates had not yet happened and added that since many of my MEP colleagues have been wishing me ‘happy summer holidays’ all day today, it would now most likely never happen. 

Anyway, it transpired that only one of the teachers was aware of the Paper but before I could go any further, an unidentified individual spoke.

He accused me of being "slightly disingenuous" and that there had in fact been meetings on the White Paper.

He mentioned the launch of the Paper in Dublin by Phil Hogan as an example. I attended that meeting. It was not a "future of Europe debate", it was a farce, an EU cheerleading event with Phil and his erstwhile Fine Gael colleagues Deirdre Clune (supposedly representing the European Parliament) and Dara Murphy (then Minister for European Affairs, representing the Dáil and the European Council). Some launch – not a word from the mainstream media about it either that day or the next.

This individual then mentioned another meeting on the White Paper that supposedly took place in May and claimed that there was no MEP at it.

I have to admit – that threw me a little. My office is on red alert to keep an eye out for these debates and immediately inform if one is planned; I had had no such notification.

After he spoke I asked him to identify himself. He informed me that he was the Head of Communications at the European Commission Representation in Ireland and that his name was Timothy Hayes. Interesting.

I finished that discussion by suggesting that if the Commission was so successful in spreading the word on the White Paper then why did only one out of around 20 teachers in the room know about it, teachers who were obviously clued in on the EU given that they were heavily involved in the Blue Star Programme.

Given that evidence, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that in fact almost no-one among the general public knows about this White Paper on our future. And I repeat, this is about OUR future.

That wasn’t the end of it though.

When I got back to my office I decided to get more details on this White Paper meeting that Timothy Hayes claimed was held on May 22nd. As it turns out was a "Citizen Dialogue on Food Safety" (see pic attached), a meeting I believe was an effort to allay real fears people have about the probable flood of cheap Brazilian and Argentinean beef into Ireland if the proposed Mercosur trade deal goes through, nothing whatsoever to do with the White Paper.

This then begs the question – did the head of communications for the European Commission in Ireland deliberately mislead these teachers in order to make it appear that the Commission is listening? I'd like an answer to this question but more importantly, those teachers deserve to be told the truth. They didn't come all the way to Brussels to be spun.

EuropePaul Cotter