EU Hits and Myths

This issue of East sees the launch of a new column, EU Hits and Myths, by Pagella Politica, Italy’s leading fact-checking website.

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Along with its European ‘spin-off’, FactCheckEU, Pagella Politica is dedicated to substantiating the veracity of statements made by Italian and European politicians, and debunking myths and false interpretations. And what better occasion to unveil a column that clears up commonly held clichés associated with Brussels’ institutions than the recent appointment of the new European leaders? Here are a few. Eighty percent of all national laws hail from Brussels.

FALSE - Eighty percent of all national laws hail from Brussels.
This myth we owe to former European Commission President Jacques Delors, who in a parliamentary address in 1988 predicted that by the end of the 1990s, “80% of the legislation related to economics…taxes and social policy will be of Community origin.” Through word of mouth, a simple forecast was turned into a bipartisan myth by a host of politicians, including Jean-Marie Le Pen, Nigel Farage, Viviane Reding and Martin Schulz. In actual fact, Europe has far less influence on national laws: a comparative study by Dr. Annette Töller revealed that the percentage oscillates between 1-3% to approximately 40%. So far Delors’ prophecy has not come true and the figure, reported by many politicians, remains incorrect.

FALSE - A large portion of the EU budget is spent on translations.
In a system that recognises 24 official languages, it’s plausible to think that document translations and interpreting services for meetings and summits might build up to a sizeable sum. Nevertheless, the percentage is not that high. According to several European Commission estimates, the combined cost of all the language services of all the EU institutions amounts to less than 1% of the European Union’s annual budget (or approximately two euros per person per year). For example, our calculations seem to indicate that interpreting services and translators’ salaries account for around 7% of the European Parliament's budget.

TRUE - The EU employs fewer bureaucrats than the County of Derbyshire.
In response to those who say there are too many European functionaries, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pointed out that the English county of Derbyshire has more employees than EU institutions. In 2013, Derbyshire employed 36,519 workers, more than the European Commission (33,000 to 34,000 workers). Of course, if we also count the employees of the European Parliament and the Council (the institutions at the heart of the EU), the number rises to 42,500. While this is more than the British county, when one considers the breadth of responsibilities managed by the ‘Eurocrats’ compared to a local county, the figure may be inaccurate but the message remains essentially correct.

TRUE - Seceeding from a member state, means having to leave the EU.
So said British Prime Minister David Cameron, just days before the Scottish referendum. During the campaign, the separatists claimed that negotiations with Brussels would have allowed Scotland to get fast-track entry into the EU. The European Commission, however, stated Scotland would have had to follow the full accession procedure, which requires a unanimous vote in the EU Council by all Member States, and can take up to nearly a decade. That threat was averted, but the issue is still a very pertinent one for all of the EU’s separatist regions. Catalonia, listen up.

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