Saturday, 11 June 2011
The Bilderbergs, Twinings And The Mafia
As the Bilderbergs' meeting draws to a close in St Moritz, Switzerland today, it's without doubt - given the size of the British contingent - that over the four day event, tea will have been served as one of the main beverages. I wonder if, in the assortment of teas which are bound to be on offer, if any are the product of Twinings.
One of my favourite beverages is Twinings Digestif, a blend of fennel and peppermint. Last year it suddenly vanished from Tesco's shelves and when I asked the reason I was told the tea was no longer produced.
Then came the news that Twinings was moving part of its production to Poland with a loss of 400 jobs in the UK. The name Twinings has always been associated with England and afternoon teas so it seemed that the move was a cost saver and nothing more.
But it was more. Through a Polish subsidiary R Twining and Co., Twinings applied for an EU subsidy which would net then €12m. The guidelines state these grants must be used for new investments and not moving factories from other member states.
Last year the Financial Times and the UK's Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that millions of euros in EU subsidies had been allocated to companies relocating plants from western to eastern Europe. The investigation raised questions about whether the EU oversight of grants was strong enough, since EU officials rely upon regional authorities to avoid funding relocations.
Due to the joint investigation which was handed over to MEPs, the EU has blocked Twinings' €12m grant as they are not convinced the money is to be spent appropriately.
The EU Structural Funds Programme, which distributes €347bn of European taxpayers' money across 271 regions in 27 countries, makes up the EU's second biggest budget after the Common Agricultural Funding programme and with only 25 anti-fraud investigators and a web of bureaucracy it's almost impossible to track how money is being distributed and billions is being wasted and lost to fraud.
Twinings is only an ice cube in an iceberg. They should have taken advice from certain people in Italy:
'Italy’s most dangerous mafia, the ndrangheta, has become an expert at getting its hands on these funds'
I wonder if Mario Borghezio was offered the pleasure of tea after his incident with the security which surrounds the Bilderbergs? It's somewhat ironic he is protesting at the secrecy of the Bilderbergs when, as an EU official, he must be aware how opaque the EU is in much of its business.
Back to my wee tale: a month after Tesco's response, I was delighted to find Digestif on the shelves of the local Co-operative. Concerned they perhaps were stocking it as an 'end of line' item I contacted Twinings in London. Their answer was very positive and I was assured there were no plans to end production. "Tesco has decided to concentrate more on our fruit teas." they said. There's only one reason for that.