MEPs crack down on funding for far right
Several right-wing parties will have to provide bank guarantees before they can receive EU funding in the future, the European Parliament decided on Monday (12 December) evening.
Among those facing new rules is the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE), which counts MEPs from the UK Independence Party (Ukip), anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Sweden Democrats in its ranks.
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ADDE was found to have misspent EU money on the Brexit campaign and other British elections.
Its foundation, the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE), is moreover under investigation for artificially inflating its own resources in order to be eligible for a parliament grant in the first place.
The parliament's bureau - a governing body gathering the institution's president and vice-presidents and some MEPs - on Monday suspended further funding to IDDE.
MEPs furthermore decided that ADDE and several other right-wing and eurosceptic parties and foundations will in the future receive only a third of their funding up-front, rather than the usual 80 percent.
They will also need to secure the backing of a top-rated bank that they can reimburse the EU grant if they misspend it.
Among the other groups subject to the tougher new standards are the Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF), a neo-Nazi party with members from Greece's Golden Dawn and the National Democratic Party of Germany.
An anti-abortion party, Coalition for Life and Family (CVF), the eurosceptic Europeans United for Democracy (EUD) and various foundations and think tanks related to them will also face the new rules.
It was the parliament's secretariat that decided which of the 16 applicants for next year's party and foundation funding posed a particular risk to misuse funding.
No ban on far-right funding
"We cannot have cases where, intentionally or not, parties are abusing European taxpayers' money," Austrian Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek, one of two bureau members responsible for European political parties, told this website.
Asked why the parliament's decision struck mainly against eurosceptic and far-right parties, Lunacek said that these parties "seem to be more inclined to use and abuse the EU".
"We haven't seen other parties breaking the rules on EU party founding, at least not at that scale," she added.
This autumn, it was revealed that the eurosceptic Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (Meld) and its foundation Feld had misused EU funding. Both have since gone into liquidation, as they couldn't pay back what they owe to the parliament.
The bureau's decision, however, disappointed Marita Ulvskog, a Swedish Social Democrat, who wanted the bureau to put a blanket ban on funding to neo-Nazi APF.
Last week, Ulvskog and her socialist colleague Mercedes Bresso wrote to the bureau to ask them to apply a parliamentary rule which says that political parties and foundations must observe the principles on which the EU is founded: liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.
"I am very disappointed that only my group voted to enforce the rule on European values. But we will keep on looking for ways of making sure that this funding stops," Ulvskog told this website.
"These parties have been able to use large sums of EU money to finance their anti-democratic activities. It makes no sense."
Lunacek said that she and other MEPs "have been emotionally arguing that we cannot give money to parties that act against European values", but that the rule put forward by Ulvskog was not clear enough.
"The problem is that we have rules for party funding, and if we don't stick to the rules they will take us to court," she said.
Lunacek added that the parliament's committee on constitutional affairs (Afco) was asked in May to verify whether APF should be excluded from funding because of its values. So far, the committee has failed to present any results of its probe.