It seems difficult for much of the Fourth Estate to report any news from the EU without significant exaggeration, or even blatant dishonesty, and a project approved back in 2008 typifies this. The European House Of History, which is intended to showcase the recent history of Europe – all of it – has not even come into being, but the creative re-telling has started.
This project even taxed the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) this week, although the reason is unclear, as there is no new news to report. The TPA, characteristically, has called this out as “waste”, although the real reason, as with that of the anti-EU press, is that they are frightened of people becoming more knowledgeable about Europe.
Uncomfortable history: Wannsee Conference House in Berlin ...
So how much history will be on offer? The line coming from much of the press is that only events since 1946 will be shown, which would be a pity: my personal response to that is that going back at least to 1848, year of revolutions, would be necessary, as this would also take in the unification of Italy in the 1850s and 60s, and the later unification of Germany. And, of course, both World Wars.
... Hochstrahlbrunnen and Red Army Heroes' monument in Vienna ...
But the reporting has instead homed in on the cost. And here the charge has been led by our old friend Bruno Waterfield at the Telegraph (the TPA, for some reason, links to the equivalent story in the Mail). Bruno has seen “documents”, although for some reason their title and provenance has eluded him. These form the basis of his assertion that the project will go way over budget.
... Bosque del Recuerdo in Madrid ...
So instead of £58 million, readers are told that the cost is to be £136.5 million. Waterfield then asserts that this means the UK will have to stump up £18.6 million, at which point he slips up. The UK contribution to the EU budget (figures from 2010) is 11.7% of the total, which would make £16 million. If Waterfield can’t get his sums right, I’m not inclined to believe those “documents” sight unseen.
Meanwhile, one aspect of the project suggests that it won’t all be about the EU, or glossing over the unhappier aspects of the recent past: one of the “committee of experts” is Maria Schmidt, director of the “House Of Terror” museum in Budapest. This is housed in the building on Andrassy út which was used in turn by the Hungarian Nazis and communist secret police as a prison and torture centre.
This, though, will cut no ice with hacks who will see that the “committee of experts” numbers just nine people, and that none of them are British. This will be held to prove that the project is an example of “brainwashing”, “imposition of diktat by Brussels”, and that it is “undemocratic”. That there is a wider history of Europe with lessons for all of us will be ignored.
Expect much more on this project in the coming months.