20 JUNE 2016


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Article from BTNews 20 JUNE 2016

COMMENT: Money and the EU

Whatever you think of the EU, and regardless of the outcome of next Thursday’s referendum, some things are not going to go away. One prevailing perception is that our friends in Europe running things are failing to be careful with budgets.

If the respective Remain/Leave campaigns have taught us anything, it is that the opinions held on either side on the efficiency or otherwise of the EU are not going to change. Certain sections of the media will continue to hammer away with one view while others will argue the opposite.

As we have said before, we have no axe to grind in the referendum debate.

But BTN now has personal experience of one aspect of the EU’s activities that calls for comment and seems to show that talk of inefficiency and waste is not completely wide of the mark.

In short, last week we received an invitation from the abovementioned and we quote:

“I would like to invite you to attend the European Parliament's plenary session which will take place in Strasbourg from Monday 4th to Thursday 7th of July.

“The session will include a debate on Monday the 4th of July and a vote on Tuesday 5th of July on plans to simplify the current legal framework regulating emission limits for non-road mobile machinery. 

“This aims to strengthen member state powers to protect health and safety at work, particular in poor air quality hotspots.

“As a member of the press, you will be given full use of the parliament's media room and have the chance to network with UK MEPs.

“The European Parliament can also offer you reimbursement for a return trip to Strasbourg and a flat-rate allowance to cover the costs of accommodation, meals and local transport.”

We are at a loss to understand why the plenary session generally, and a debate on non-road mobile machinery in particular, should interest readers of BTN. Possibly someone saw the word ‘Travel’ in our title and the word ‘mobile’ in the wording of the debate and connected the dots.

But even given that tenuous link, why should European taxpayers be asked to fund a four-day all-expenses-paid trip to Strasbourg for BTN for this particular session? And what does it tell you about the rumours of waste within the EU? 

PS: Is "non-road mobile machinery" a euphemism in diplomatic language for an aircraft? Sounds less expensive than “a private jet” .

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Norman Bartlett, UK

if you attend your expenses will be paid in CASH. The EP is unable to pay exs in any other way. How convenient.

Andrew Sharp, United Kingdom

Surely 'non-road mobile machinery' encompasses trains? And the emissions from diesel locos and diesel multiple units, like those from diesel cars (agreed, not the subject of this legislation), is an important subject. Especially if you happen to work at a major terminus - like Paddington - where there are many diesel trains. While I agree that it's a pity it's wrapped in jargon, it is in fact the same jargon as is used in North America, where the topic is of rather more interest given their relative lack of electrified railways. There are allegations that the EU is undemocratic. Offering the media opportunities to cover the debates of their elected representatives is surely democracy in action?

David Starkie, United Kingdom

Anyone can attend debates. And an invite does not have to be accompanied by payment. It suggests the object is to buy favourable reviews of the legislation.

A Carver, France

Large companies and organisations often pay for the travel expenses of journalists to attend press related events - surely you are aware of this? Your article smacks of the anti-EU distortion one sees all to frequently in the UK press.

David Trembaczowski-Ryder, Belgium

If the EU is to be transparent it needs to invite potential interested organisations to listen to the debate. I often receive invitations, which I refuse if not relevant to my work. You may care to do the same.