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A Euromyth is a term used to describe negative media coverage of the European Union that is purported to be exaggerated, distorted or untruthful.[1][2] The term refers in particular to claims of bureaucratic absurdity; it is sometimes a matter of controversy whether a particular claim is a myth or a partially accurate statement.[3] On occasions, Euromyths may arise when the actions of a different European organisation, such as the Council of Europe, are erroneously attributed to the EU.[4]

The British press and to some extent the Greek press too are often blamed for circulating Euromyths.[5]

The European Union has introduced a policy of publicly rebutting negative coverage that it regards as unfair or distorted.[5][6]


Source of Euromyths

Accusations of distorted, exaggerated or untruthful reporting are most commonly directed at conservative and Eurosceptic sections of the British media.[7] Stories often present the European civil service [8] as drafting rules that "defy common sense". Examples cited as Euromyths include stories about rules banning mince-pies, curved bananas and mushy peas.[2] Others include a story that English fish and chips shops would be forced to use Latin names for their fish (Sun, 5 September 2001)[8], that double-decker buses would be banned (The Times, 9 April 1998)[9], that British rhubarb must be straight[10], and that barmaids would have to cover up their cleavages.[11]

In some cases Euromyth-type stories have been traced to deliberate attempts by lobbyists to influence actions by the European bureaucracy, for instance the imposition of customs duties.[12][13] EU officials have also claimed that many such stories result from unclear or misunderstood information on complicated policies,[14] and are claimed to have seized on minor errors in stories as evidence that they are entirely fictional.[12]

Rebuttal of Euromyths by the European Union and the British government

In 2004, the British representation of the EU created a "rapid rebuttal service" to counter what it regarded as misleading and inaccurate reports.[5] The British government, too, launched a campaign "facts, not myths" to combat misreporting about the European Union.[6]


Examples of Euromyths and rebuttal or explanation

Circus performers to wear hard hats

On the 23 July 2003 The Times ran the following story; "Circus performer must walk tightrope in hard hat, says Brussels. A tightrope-walker says that his career has been placed in jeopardy by legislation originating in Brussels which dictates that he must wear a hard hat to perform".[15] The EU responded that the story stemmed from new EU laws which were introduced to protect workers who operate at height but, in the legislation in question, there is no mention of hard hats or circus performers.[16]

Swings too high

Also in 2003 the BBC reported that a council in Wiltshire had had to remove swings from a village because, under EU regulations, they were considered "too high". As with many Euromyths, there was both fact and fiction in the story: the BBC article continues to note that the EU did not in fact insist that the swings were removed but points out that the council itself chose to remove the swings as the framework itself was considered to be dangerously high, and so unsafe for children to use, under the new EU regulations.[17]

Truck Drivers to eat Muesli

According to the EU commission in Australia and New Zealand[18] it was reported in several British newspapers that truck drivers were going to be forced to stop eating 'fry-ups' and be forced to eat Muesli and Croissants by the EU.

In fact the EU was merely planning guidelines for truck drivers which focussed on health and safety issues such as diet. The legislation was mainly concerned with enforcing driver training and conveying information on the importance of rest and responsible driving. There was no mention of drivers "being forced to eat muesli". This story also appears in the BBC quiz on the EU and "Euromyths".[19]

One-size condoms

The Independent on Sunday, on 12 March 2000 reported "The EU … has decreed that condom dimensions should be harmonized across the seamless Continent".[20] [21]

The European Commission responded:[20]

"The EU is not involved in setting condom standards. The European Standardisation Committee (CEN) is a voluntary body made up of national standards agencies and affiliated industry/consumer organisations from nineteen European countries."

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) likewise rebutted the Euromyth with the statement[21]

Neither the European Union (EU) nor the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) have undertaken work to harmonize condom sizes. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developed a standard in 2002 which covers methods for the testing of condom safety. It includes tests to ensure consumer confidence that the condom is an effective contraceptive, that it is helping to prevent the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), that it is free from holes, does not split during use, is correctly packaged to ensure protection during storage and is correctly labelled.

Seven years later, the EU condom regulation story was repeated as an April Fools' joke by Radio Netherlands. On 1 April 2007 Vanessa Mock, a journalist at the Brussels bureau of Radio Netherlands broke a story about a European Commission proposal to strictly regulate the size of condoms in the European Union. It included interviews with a Commission spokesman and a Member of the European Parliament and credibly argued that regulation was necessary to ensure competition and a level playing field for smaller companies producing condoms.[22]

The banana regulation

The alleged ban on curved bananas is a long-standing and stereotypical claim that is used in headlines to typify the Euromyth.[23][24] Amongst other issues of acceptable quality and standards, the regulation does actually specify minimum dimensions. It also states that bananas shall be free from deformation or abnormal curvature.[25] However the provisions relating to shape apply fully only to bananas sold as Extra class; some defects of shape (but not size) are permitted in Class I and Class II bananas.

On 29 July 2008, the European Commission held a preliminary vote towards repealing certain regulations relating to other fruit and vegetables (but not bananas). According to the Commission's press release, "In this era of high prices and growing demand, it makes no sense to throw these products away or destroy them [...] It shouldn't be the EU's job to regulate these things. It is far better to leave it to market operators."[26] Some Eurosceptic sources have claimed this to be an admission that the original regulations did indeed ban under-sized or misshapen fruit and vegetables.[27][28]

See also


  1. ^ Cross, Simon (2008). Richard Keeble. ed. Communication Ethics Now. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 53. ISBN 9781906221041. "Euromyths are lies and distortions perpetrated by journalists concerning EU-related issues, and dressed up as "facts" [. . .]"  
  2. ^ a b Stanyer, James (2007). Modern Political Communication: Mediated Politics in Uncertain Times (revised ed.). Polity. ISBN 9780745627977.  
  3. ^ Daniel Hannan MEP (2008-11-12). "Bent bananas not a Euromyth after all". Retrieved 2009-09-27. "Hang on: I thought it was all meant to be a scare story. Whenever Euro-enthusiasts found themselves losing an argument, they would say, “You’re making all this up: it’s a tabloid Euro-myth, like bent bananas”. [...] Yet it now turns out that, by the EU’s own admission, there were rules specifying the maximum permitted curvature of bananas."  
  4. ^ BBC (2007-03-23). "Guide to the best euromyths". BBC News Channel. Retrieved 2009-04-09. "In 2002 the press reported a threat to certain breeds of the Queen's favourite dog from "a controversial EU convention". The story turned on one key mistake. A European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals does exist, and it does condemn the breeding of some varieties of dogs as pets. However, it is a product of the Council of Europe, Europe's main human rights 'watchdog', not of the European Union, or 'Brussels bureaucrats'."  .
  5. ^ a b c Cross, Simon (2008). Richard Keeble. ed. Communication Ethics Now. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 54. ISBN 9781906221041.  
  6. ^ a b "Cook warns against EU scare stories". Guardian News and Media Limited. 2000-11-13. Retrieved 2009-04-11. "Euromyths provide great fun for journalists. The media has a mission to entertain, and some of them rise magnificently to that goal, Mr Cook said. "But they are failing in their other mission - to inform. From now on, the Government will be rebutting all such stories vigorously and promptly. You will be hearing the catchphrase 'facts, not myths' until that is the way the EU is reported."  
  7. ^ Gruber, Barbara (2007-08-24). "Euromyths: Brussels bunkum or tabloid trash?" (Audio). Network Europe. Retrieved 2009-04-27.  
  8. ^ a b Sun, 5 September 2001, quoted in Cross, Simon (2008). Richard Keeble. ed. Communication Ethics Now. Troubador Publishing Ltd. pp. 52–57. ISBN 9781906221041. "Chippies [i.e. fish and chip shops] could be forced to sell fish by their ancient Latin names—thanks to the craziest European ruling so far. If barmy Brussels bureaucrats get their way, baffled Brits will have to ask for hippoglossus hippoglossus instead of plain halibut. . . . Takeaway, restaurants, fishmongers and supermarkets are all set to be BANNED from using names that have been around for centuries"  
  9. ^ quoted in Cross, Simon (2008). Richard Keeble. ed. Communication Ethics Now. Troubador Publishing Ltd. pp. 52–57. ISBN 9781906221041.  
  10. ^ The Sun: p. 11. 1996-06-24. "Crackpot Euro chiefs have decreed British rhubarb must be straight. Farmers will have to throw away crooked stalks under barmy new rules. The order follows a review of community fruit and vegetable standards by the EU agricultural directorate"  
  11. ^ BBC (2007-03-23). "Guide to the best Euromyths". BBC News Channel. Retrieved 2009-04-09. "There was great alarm in 2005 when it was reported that "po-faced pen-pushers" from the EU had ordered a cover-up of barmaids' cleavages."  
  12. ^ a b Cross, Simon (2008). Richard Keeble. ed. Communication Ethics Now. Troubador Publishing Ltd. pp. 56–57. ISBN 9781906221041. "In January 2002 a spate of stories appeared in the UK press that briefly cast light on how Euromyths are manufactured and for what sort of purrpose . . . Close inspection . . . revealed the source of the story . . . to be a well-known sauce manufacturer that had retained a commercial lobby group with a remit to find a way round EU rules . . .""  ,
  13. ^ Osborn, Andrew (2002-01-11). "Why journalists protect their sauces". Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2009-04-11. "It all began, I am reliably informed, in the boardroom of a well known sauce manufacturer which must remain nameless. [. . .] Such firms do not understandably like to be seen manipulating or greasing the wheels of power for their own ends, so the company in question retained a lobbying firm which must also remain nameless."  
  14. ^ "Euromyths: Fact and fiction". CNN. 2004-06-08. Retrieved 2009-04-27.  
  15. ^ Young, Robin (2003-07-23). "Circus performer must walk tightrope in hard hat, says Brussels". London: The Times. Retrieved 2009-04-27.  
  16. ^ European Commission. "Euromyth: Circus performers must wear hard hats". Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  17. ^ "'Ridiculous' rules say swings too high". BBC News. 2003-01-21. Retrieved 2009-04-12. "EU edict, European Standard BS EN 11 76, states that swings must be no more than 9 ft 11 ins tall. The inspectors advised the council it would be good practice to remove the "offending equipment", although it was not compulsory for them to do so."  
  18. ^ Delegation of the European Commission to Australia and New Zealand (2004-11-15). "Euromyth No. 10: Truckie fry-up on the ban list". news@eu, the e-newsletter of the European Commission's Delegations to Australia and New Zealand. Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  19. ^ BBC (2003-03-10). "Quiz: Know your 'barmy' EU rules?". Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  20. ^ a b European Commission. "Euromyth: Condom dimensions to be harmonised". The EU in the United Kingdom. Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  21. ^ a b European Committee for Standardization. "Condom dimensions to be harmonized". Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  22. ^ Vanessa Mock (2007-04-01). "Europe pushes for one-size-fits-all condom". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  23. ^ Andrew Duff MEP. "Food, drink and straight bananas". Retrieved 2009-09-22.  
  24. ^ Commission of the European Communities (1994-09-16). "COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 2257/94 of 16 September 1994 laying down quality standards for bananas". Retrieved 2009-09-22.  
  25. ^ Consolidated text of regulation (as amended)
  26. ^ European Commission. "Outcome of Commission meeting of 23 July 2008". Retrieved 2009-10-06. "European Union Member States yesterday held a preliminary vote on Commission proposals to repeal specific marketing standards for 26 types of fruit and vegetables. While not binding, the vote gives a strong indication that these standards will be repealed when the formal vote is taken later in the year. The Member States did not reach a qualified majority either for or against the proposal. If, after allowing time for appropriate scrutiny by our trading partners, this vote were repeated later in the year, the rules would be repealed under the Commission's responsibility. The Commission's initiative to get rid of these standards followed a declaration made last year during the reform of the Common Market Organisation for fruit and vegetables. It is a major element in the Commission's ongoing efforts to streamline and simplify the rules and cut red tape. The proposal would also allow Member States to exempt fruit and vegetables from specific marketing standards if they are sold with a label "products intended for processing" or equivalent wording. Such products could be either misshapen or under-sized and could for example be used by consumers for cooking or salads etc. In this era of high prices and growing demand, it makes no sense to throw these products away or destroy them. "This is a concrete example of our drive to cut red tape and I will continue to push until it goes through," said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. "It shouldn't be the EU's job to regulate these things. It is far better to leave it to market operators. It will also cut down on unnecessary waste and benefit consumers." The proposals would maintain specific marketing standards for 10 products which account for 75 percent of the value of EU trade: apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes, tomatoes. Member States could exempt even these from the standards if they were sold in the shops with an appropriate label. They would abolish specific standards for 26 products: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, water melons, witloof/chicory, while setting new general minimum standards for the marketing of fruit and vegetables. For practical reasons, all of these changes would be implemented from 1 July 2009."  
  27. ^ Daniel Hannan MEP (2008-11-12). "Bent bananas not a Euromyth after all". Retrieved 2009-09-22.  
  28. ^ "Euromyths: Curved bananas". Retrieved 2009-09-23.  

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