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A euromyth is what the European Commission calls media stories about its policies which it claims are untrue. Such stories are usually seen as disparaging of the European Commission and its supposed bureaucratic absurdity. The European Commission often claims such stories are invented by the media, while Eurosceptics argue such stories are often true, and that hostile media reaction has caused an unpopular policy to be abandoned. Some Eurosceptics now use the term "Euromyth" to describe inflated claims made about the achievements of the EU.
Sometimes debate as to whether a particular claim is true or not continues long after the original story appeared. 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.
The European Union has introduced a policy of publicly rebutting negative coverage that it regards as unfair or distorted.
Source of Euromyths
Accusations of distorted or untruthful reporting are most commonly directed at conservative and Eurosceptic sections of the British media. Stories often present the European civil service as drafting rules that "defy common sense". Examples cited as Euromyths include stories about rules banning mince-pies, curved bananas and mushy peas. Others include a story that English fish and chips shops would be forced to use Latin names for their fish (Sun, 5 September 2001), that double-decker buses would be banned (The Times, 9 April 1998), that British rhubarb must be straight, and that barmaids would have to cover up their cleavage.
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. EU officials have also claimed that many such stories result from unclear or misunderstood information on complicated policies, and are claimed to have seized on minor errors in stories as evidence that they are entirely fictional.
The alleged ban on curved bananas is a long-standing, famous, and stereotypical claim that is used in headlines to typify the Euromyth. 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. 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." Some Eurosceptic sources have claimed this to be an admission that the original regulations did indeed ban under-sized or misshapen fruit and vegetables.
On 25 March 2010, a BBC article noted that there are EU shape standardisation regulations in force on: "apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes," and "Marketing standards for 26 types of produce were scrapped by MEPs in November 2008, in a drive to cut EU bureaucracy, with misshapen fruit and vegetables coming back on sale in the UK last summer. This happened after it was revealed a fifth of produce had been rejected by shops across the EU because it failed to meet the requirements."
- "Guide to the best euromyths". BBC News. 23 March 2007.
- Stanyer, James (2007). Modern Political Communication: Mediated Politics in Uncertain Times (revised ed.). Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-2797-7.
- Daniel Hannan MEP (12 November 2008). "Bent bananas not a Euromyth after all". The Daily Telegraph (London). 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."
- BBC (23 March 2007). "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'.".
- "Cook warns against EU scare stories". London: Guardian News and Media Limited. 13 November 2000. 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."
- Gruber, Barbara (24 August 2007). "Euromyths: Brussels bunkum or tabloid trash?" (Audio). Network Europe. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
- Sun, 5 September 2001, quoted in Cross, Simon (2008). "Hippoglossus hippoglossus and chips: Twice please love? Adventures in the underbelly of Euromyths". In Richard Keeble. Communication Ethics Now. Troubador Publishing Ltd. pp. 52–57. ISBN 978-1-906221-04-1. "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"
- quoted in Cross, Simon (2008). "Hippoglossus hippoglossus and chips: Twice please love? Adventures in the underbelly of Euromyths". In Richard Keeble. Communication Ethics Now. Troubador Publishing Ltd. pp. 52–57. ISBN 978-1-906221-04-1.
- The Sun. 24 June 1996. p. 11. "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"
- BBC (23 March 2007). "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."
- Cross, Simon (2008). "Hippoglossus hippoglossus and chips: Twice please love? Adventures in the underbelly of Euromyths". In Richard Keeble. Communication Ethics Now. Troubador Publishing Ltd. pp. 56–57. ISBN 978-1-906221-04-1. "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 . . ."",
- Osborn, Andrew (11 January 2002). "Why journalists protect their sauces". London: 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."
- "Euromyths: Fact and fiction". CNN. 8 June 2004. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
- "Straight bananas and tea-bag consultations". The Economist. 24 August 2007. "Some are entirely invented for excitable journalists—"Mumbai mix"— while others are tenuously connected to facts, such as the most famous Euromyth of them all, straight bananas."
- "Euromyths: Fact and fiction". CNN. 8 June 2004. "Mother of all euromyths: Bananas must not be excessively curved. . . . Some wise cracker asked: 'What does this mean for the curvature of bananas?'" recalled one EU official. The question stuck and a myth was born."
- "Guide to the best euromyths". BBC. 23 March 2007.
- "Euromyths – time to set the record straight". European Commission. 23 August 2007.
- Andrew Duff MEP. "Food, drink and straight bananas". Retrieved 2009-09-22.
- Commission of the European Communities (16 September 1994). "COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 2257/94 of 16 September 1994 laying down quality standards for bananas". Retrieved 2009-09-22.
- Consolidated text of regulation (as amended)
- 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."
- Daniel Hannan MEP (12 November 2008). "Bent bananas not a Euromyth after all". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2009-09-22.
- "Euromyths: Curved bananas". Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- BBC (25 March 2010). "Attempt at EU-wide 'wonky fruit and veg' ban fails". BBC News.