Friday, April 01, 2005

Eurotrash

Followers of the daily cartoon in the Telegraph business section will readily empathise with Alex who has been lumbered with a "Eurotrash" graduate trainee.

With a German father, Spanish mother, who grew up in France and went to university in Italy, the creepy Christian speaks five languages and attracts total hostility from Alex. He confides with Clive that anyone from abroad wishing to come here for work should be made to take a rigorous test on their linguistic ability and professional qualifications… and should not be let in if they speak more than four languages or "have a blasted MBA".

That example of "Eurotrash" could well have come from one of the Euro-schools featured in an article run by the Telegraph today, which reports on how the UK is challenging their subsidy.

The government, it seems, is also fed up with Eurotrash and is preparing for a showdown with its EU partners over the more than £14 million that Britain spends every year subsidising this network of elite schools set up to service the progeny of EU bureaucrats.

These are the "European Schools", established by the six original member states of the EEC in Luxembourg on 12 April 1957. They are official educational establishments controlled jointly by the governments of the member states of the EU, tasked to provide a free "multicultural, multilingual and multi-denominational" education for nursery, primary and secondary level pupils.

There are currently twelve Schools (Alicante, Uccle, Woluw√©, Ixelles, Mol, Bergen, Frankfurt-am-Main, Karlsruhe, Munich, Varese, Culham & Luxembourg), in seven countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain and Luxembourg), with a total of over 16,000 pupils, costing up to £8,000 each per year.

The system is defended strongly by the EU which argues that the availability of high-quality, multi-lingual free schooling "has made it easier for [EU] institutions to recruit experienced, highly qualified staff", confirming the status of the schools as the spawning ground for what is effectively becoming a hereditary caste of Eurocrats.

The trouble is – as always – that Britain spends proportionally more than any other nation on funding the schools, whose overall budget this year is £160 million.

Our government pays the salaries of British teachers seconded to the schools, who comprise about 240 of the 1,400 full-time staff – thanks to a growing demand for native English-speaking instructors. And the teachers do not come cheap, being paid salaries of up to £62,000 a year.

In 2004-5, the Government spent just under £9 million on direct subsidies to the schools and, through British contributions to the EU's overall budget, an additional £5 million of UK taxpayers' money was channelled to them by the EU commission.

Now the funding is to come up for debate next month at a meeting of the board of governors, where the British government is looking for substantial cost-savings. In particular, it objects to the current system of "effectively open-ended EU funding" which "has not provided adequate incentives for better resource management".

Still, it is rather fitting that the Eurotrash should learn the basics of profligate, unaccountable spending, right from the very start of their academic careers, ready to put those skills into use in their professional lives.

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