The popular press often runs scare stories about plans by "mad eurocrats" – for example to standardise the sizes of condoms or women's clothes, or ban bendy bananas.
Remember this from the Daily Express? "The latest EU ruling will see British women expand beyond recognition." And the story behind it? A mooted standardisation of clothes sizes, based on centimetres not inches. However, there is no such EU ruling – European standards are developed by voluntary agreement between national bodies, with no input from Brussels.
This is just one example of a so-called Euromyth – untrue or distorted information on the EU spread by the media. While some stories are based on facts which are misinterpreted or exaggerated, others are simply made up – like the story published in "The Sun" on alleged EU plans to change the name of the Indian snack "Bombay mix" to "Mumbai mix", for the sake of political correctness. It was dreamt up by the editor of a news agency who said it was "meant to be funny for the tabloids".
Euromyths originate most frequently in the British tabloid press. Other tall tales include the harmonisation of condom sizes – as with clothes sizes, the EU has nothing to do with setting these standards – and a ban on "excessively curved" bananas. This story at least contains a grain of truth: bananas must be "free from malformation or abnormal curvature" if they are to be sold under the "extra class" category - but the EU has never attempted to ban them. And it is important to remember that it is industry and consumers who want standards for goods, not a bunch of "mad Eurocrats" sitting in Brussels!
British journalists are not the only ones with a fertile imagination. When the Danish weekly Søndagsavisen reported on subsidised Viagra pills for eurocrats, another Euromyth was born. What the paper forgot to mention: expenses for Viagra are only covered by EU staff's health insurance for impotence caused by serious illnesses like cancer. And of the EU's thousands of staff members, medical reimbursements for the drug are currently granted to around ten.
Although these stories are a funny read, they hold a dangerous potential – spreading rapidly on the internet and in other media, they live on as accepted truths in public opinion and shape the public's idea of the EU as a meddlesome controller.
Get your facts straight!
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