By Christopher Booker
The EU wants to see all the sportspeople of its member states wearing the ring of stars logo, writes Christopher Booker.
There has been quite a stir over a proposal going before the European Parliament this week, that participants in major sporting events in the EU should carry on their team strip the EU “ring of stars”. Under the heading “European identity through sport”, the Spanish rapporteur of the Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee wants to see it made compulsory, not just for the EU flag to fly at big sporting occasions, but for “the jersey of the athletes of the Member States” to be blazoned too.
This follows closely on last week’s news that dozens of organisations here, including councils, museums, universities, businesses – even the Peterborough YMCA – have been fined by Brussels, to a total of nearly £500,000, for failing to display the EU flag after receiving cash from the European Regional Development Fund. The rules impose this advertising as a condition of EU funding, even though every penny of it must be matched by funding from national taxpayers, and for every pound we get from Brussels we have paid £2 to the EU in the first place.
What the stories have in common is that they both exemplify the one agenda that underlies everything the EU does – whether it’s the wonderful euro or the way we must all carry EU passports – which is to promote ever-closer integration and our “common European identity”.
There is nothing new about the idea of using sport to this end. It goes back at least quarter of a century, to a report entitled A People’s Europe, produced by Pietro Adonnino, a former Italian MEP, and approved by EU leaders in 1984 and 1985.
It is to Adonnino that we owe the ring-of-stars flag itself, as well as the idea of “Europe” having its own anthem. Among his other proposals that have since come to fruition are the European driving licence, the ring-of-stars logo on number plates, and the Euro-lottery. One thing he was particularly keen on was building “European identity” through sport – which is why, since 1988, the ring of stars has been so prominently waved whenever Europe plays the US for the Ryder Cup.
One reason that sport now looms large on the integrationist agenda is that under Article 165 of the Lisbon Treaty (aka the EU constitution, the one on which both Mr Brown and Mr Cameron failed to deliver a promised referendum) it has become a full EU “competence”. So we can expect much Brussels interference in how sport is organised and regulated, beginning with the various measures to be proposed this week in the European Parliament.