Friday

19th Aug 2022

New rules to boost profile of European political parties

The EU Commission on Wednesday (12 September) unveiled plans designed to give a legal boost to European political parties as they gear up for the 2014 elections, expected to be a watershed date for the politicisation of European debate.

The draft statute would give the political parties a legal footing - until now many registered as a Belgian not-for-profit organisation - and loosen funding rules.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Campaigning for the European election last time around (Photo: European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari)

Single donations of up to €25,000 a year would be allowed while the EU money given to the parties would no longer be in the form of a hand-tying grant, allowing parties more freedom on how to spend the cash.

"We have very often a real disconnect between political parties in the capitals and the European political parties here in Strasbourg," Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told MEPs, explaining the need for the changes.

There are currently 13 European political parties with a budget of €31m between them, but they have made little headway in fostering EU-wide debate since the rules were first established in 2003.

"Truly transnational European political parties and foundations are key to articulating the voices of citizens at European level, and generating Europe-wide public debates," said institutional affairs commissioner Maros Sefcovic.

Aside from trying to create the elusive European public space, supporters of the initiative hope it will raise the turnout in the European election.

Voter numbers have decreased each year since elections began, even as the legislating powers of MEPs have grown exponentially over the same period.

The new rules - which come with spending and donor transparency obligations - chime with the intention of the major parties for the first time to field candidates for European commission president.

With the president traditionally chosen after a behind-closed-doors huddle by EU leaders, this is meant to make the process more democratic as well as high-profile.

"There won't be a direct vote for the presidential candidate but as that candidate will be spear-heading the campaign and they will be putting forward the main policies of each European party, that means they will at least have some democratic legitimacy," Kostas Sasmatzoglou, European People's Party (EPP) spokesperson, told this website.

But many details - not least how the parties themselves will choose their candidates - have to be worked out.

"In some countries you can have TV ads and in others not. Will we, for example, have co-branding of the Fine Gael (Irish centre-right party) logo and the EPP logo? The campaign will be two tier - national level and European where the candidate will be flying around to the different member states, doing press, doing appearances with national MEPs and so on."

Having candidates openly running for the job as commission president has meant speculation has started early about who could be the next president, although the post only comes up for grabs in mid 2014.

Der Spiegel recently ran an article suggesting that Polish centre-right leader Donald Tusk might be favoured by Berlin. Martin Schulz, the socialist head of the parliament, crops up as a potential name for the left. Meanwhile, Barroso himself is technically not barred from running for a third term.

"It's much too early for names," said one parliament official.

Pan-European parties statute to be taken to Court

The statute for European political parties, adopted today by the European Parliament, has been deemed discriminatory by the smaller political groups, as they risk not being entitled to funding.

European political parties line up for EU funds

European political parties will receive money from the EU coffers this year from an annual budget totalling 6.5 million euro, under new rules adopted by EU states last year.

Agenda

Socialists open political season this WEEK

The EU's political season ahead of the 2014 elections will kick off this week with a Socialist Party congress, setting the ground for a centre-left candidate to run for the head of the European Commission.

Slovakia's government stares into the abyss

When a pro-western coalition swept to power in Slovak elections in 2020, many saw it as the start of a new era. Yet fast forward two-and-a-half years, and the four-party coalition is teetering on the brink of collapse.

Column

Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.

Opinion

Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

News in Brief

  1. China joins Russian military exercises in Vostok
  2. Ukraine nuclear plant damage would be 'suicide', says UN chief
  3. Denmark to invest €5.5bn in new warships
  4. German economy stagnates, finance ministry says
  5. Syria received stolen grain, says Ukraine envoy
  6. Truss still leads in next UK PM polling
  7. UN chief meets Zelensky and Erdogan over grain exports
  8. Fighting stalls ahead of UN visit, Ukraine says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. European inflation hits 25-year high, driven by energy spike
  2. No breakthrough in EU-hosted Kosovo/Serbia talks
  3. Letter to the Editor: Rosatom responds on Zaporizhzhia
  4. Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?
  5. Serbia expects difficult talks with Kosovo at EU meeting
  6. How scary is threat to Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant?
  7. Slovakia's government stares into the abyss
  8. Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us