by Stan Shatenstein
At the end of June, the Foundation for Future Studies (Stiftung für Zukunftsfragen) launched the online project, ‘United Dreams of Europe’ (www.uniteddreamsofeurope.eu), the goal of which was allegedly to offer “an insight into the European study of the same name to be published in autumn 2011. For this project more than 15,000 Europeans were questioned in addition to 27 in-depth interviews with Members of the European Parliament, scientists and students.” It would all be so, well, dreamy, except that the Foundation for Future Studies is a creation of British American Tobacco (BAT) Germany, founded in 1979 and based in Hamburg, just another part of the usual scheme of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) whitewashing that’s now the hallmark of the tobacco industry. In the firm’s own inarticulate words, justifying the existence of the project, “British American Tobacco (Germany) believes in adding values to the community in which they operate.” (sic) What must be taken seriously, however, is that BAT Germany has forged powerful alliances. The home page of the book project (http://www.uniteddreamsofeurope.eu/the-book) features José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, sharing top-equal billing with BAT’s Prof Dr Ulrich Reinhardt, Scientific Head of the Foundation for Future Studies. And before anyone from the general public was able to post a dream, eight MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) from seven countries – Germany, Hungary, Spain, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Austria and the Czech Republic – got the ball rolling by sharing their harmonious ‘future visions’. Over the past couple of days, tobacco control advocates have begun to dominate the dream entries, sharply changing the substance and tone of the postings in ways sure not to please BAT Germany. It remains to be seen if the Stiftung für Zukunftsfragen will take down any postings or encourage pushback from BAT Germany employees, MEPs or other supporters. Below is a slightly edited version of my posting to the ‘United Dreams of Europe’ site. I represent myself as from Riga, Latvia, birthplace of one of my grandparents, rather than my native Canada, so that my dream would appear on the main list, but entries may be posted from anywhere in the world.
from Riga / Latvia
So many people have posted thoughtful, even profound visions for a united Europe but my dream is that all who have written will post again and withdraw their names from “the chance to win a trip to Brussels”.
If it has not been made clear to you already, the ‘United Dreams of Europe’ is a campaign cynically crafted by the Stiftung für Zukunftsfragen (Foundation for Future Studies), an Initiative of British American Tobacco.
The tobacco industry does not sponsor dreams, it crushes them.
Professor Dr Ulrich Reinhardt, the Scientific Head of the Stiftung für Zukunftsfragen, and Chair of the Board of Trustees, has been, since 1999, Research Associate at the BAT Freizeit-Forschungsinstitut (Leisure Research Institute). Other members of the Executive Board include Peter Halacz, General Manager British American Tobacco Baltic and Ulf Bauer, Head of Corporate Communication and Policy, British American Tobacco (Industrie) GmbH, with these Members of the Board of Trustees as well, Ad Schenk, CEO of British American Tobacco (Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees) and Michael Kraushaar, former Director of Policy and Corporate Communication Europe, British American Tobacco.
It is important to name and shame these people. It is important to be reminded that smokers and their families and friends cannot enjoy their ‘leisure’ years because smoking has ruined their ability to breathe if it hasn’t actually killed them off before they retire.
These soulless sellers of poison have asked you to pour out your hearts and share your visions of what Europe can be, but they kill Europeans – and Asians, and Africans, and Americans and Oceanians – for a living. The better they and their shareholders do, the more Europeans, our fellow men, women and children, will die prematurely and unnecessarily.
Even if you smoke, don’t allow yourself to be bought by these cynical death merchants who want to treat you to a trip to Brussels paid for by the misery and suffering of others.
British American Tobacco’s dream is everyone else’s nightmare.