Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

European Commission needs to stop flushing money away

Plans will be tabled by the European Commission to bring in the harmonised ‘eco-flush’ across Europe meaning the European standard will set a maximum full flush of six litres
Plans will be tabled by the European Commission to bring in the harmonised ‘eco-flush’ across Europe meaning the European standard will set a maximum full flush of six litres

This week we learned that the European Commission will shortly outline its proposals to standardise the flush on toilets across Europe.

The Commission for the last three years has considered this issue and much research has been carried out on ‘best practice’, ‘user behaviour’ and the various ‘cultural aspects’ from country to country.

 

People across Europe will be baffled that any time has been spent on this issue, but as a result of it plans will be tabled by the European Commission to bring in the harmonised ‘eco-flush’ across Europe meaning the European standard will set a maximum full flush of six litres. This is a ludicrous waste of time and money on an issue that is of no relevance to the vast majority of people across Europe.

 

Of course this is what many people have come to expect of the EU. Past directives have exposed the lunacy of some in the Brussels bureaucracy.  A 2011 directive issued by the European Commission say that it is illegal for companies who sell bottled water to say that it can counteract dehydration! Another proposed directive, if implemented, would have made it an offence to advertise the sale of eggs by the dozen. Instead shops would have been forced to advertise eggs, apples, oranges and other items sold by number, by weight instead.

 

However of all the ludicrous decisions made the EU, among the worst was the decision to have two seats for the European Parliament; one in Brussels and one in Strasbourg. By law, the European Parliament is required to meet in Strasbourg 12 times a year. As the European Parliament meets in Brussels the rest of the time, it means that once a month all 766 MEPs have to make their way to Strasbourg, which is generally a more difficult and expensive city to reach. In addition to that 5000 staffers make the journey to Brussels along with thousands of cases that have been loaded with the files and equipment that MEPs will need when they arrive.

 

 This is not only a huge waste of time, but also a waste of money. It is estimated that it costs around €200m per year to maintain the two seats in Brussels and Strasbourg. It would make sense to change EU rules so that the Parliament only met in one city, with Brussels being the obvious choice as it is already the home of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union and the European Council. However any decision to move the Parliament from Strasbourg would be a decision for the European Council, where any decision would require unanimity. However France has already indicated that it would veto this. This is despite a clear majority of the European Parliament having voted for a single seat parliament.

 

These issues demonstrate what is wrong with the EU. They make it appear out of touch, not just with ordinary people, but with reality as well. It implements directives that appear to interfere rather than provide harmonisation across Europe on practical issues. And it appears to have a complete lack of regard for the way in which is spends taxpayers money, and the decision not to save millions by having a single seat is evidence of this.

 

The Prime Minister is right. Europe needs reform as it cannot go on like this. If it does it will only lead to greater disillusionment with the institutions and the European Union.