More from Dan Hannan, Conservative MEP for South East England
Coverage of the European Parliament last week has focused on its predictable, but non-binding, rejection of the budget cuts agreed by the 27 governments a few months ago.
Far less attention has been devoted to its decision to subsidise the growing of tobacco in the EU – a decision which, unlike the declaratory budget vote, has hard consequences.
With its right hand, the EU harasses and penalises smokers. Not content with draconian rules on cigarette advertising and smoking in public places, MEPs are seriously considering a proposal to ban smoking in cars, lest they be bought second-hand and so constitute a passive smoking threat.
Meanwhile, with its left, the EU hands taxpayers' money to tobacco growers in Greece and elsewhere, and helps them sell their product to developing countries.
So which is it? Is Brussels pro- or anti-smoking? The truth is that this isn't really about tobacco. It is, as always in the EU, about power. Just as the tightening of regulations make more people reliant on EU rules, and oblige both tobacco companies and anti-smoking lobbyists to invest heavily in a presence in Brussels, so the grants draw another set of people into economic dependency on the EU.
In both cases, the real aim is to empower the bureaucracy, increase the number of EU client groups and shift power from nation-states to Brussels. Which is also, of course, the purpose of the budget increases, the higher CAP payments ad everything else. Marvel at the EU's hideous strength.