Friday

23rd Aug 2019

Auditors call for stricter rules on donations to EU parties

  • The Court of Auditors wants potentially unlimited fines for 'irregular' loans and donations (Photo: www.gotcredit.com)

Rules on donations and loans linked to the funding of European Parliament's political parties and foundations should be strengthened, the European Court of Auditors have said.

In an opinion issued on Wednesday (20 December), the guardians of EU finances analysed a proposal tabled by the European Commission on 13 September to address loopholes in the funding of European political parties and foundations, following a series of scandals over the past two years.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The auditors noted that the commission's proposal do not regulate donations for EU institutions or authorities "involved in the management of EU funds."

They also noted that the commission did not propose rules on donations to entities related, directly or indirectly, to groups and foundations, nor rules concerning the terms and conditions of loans.

All these issues were included as part of several 2013 court of auditors' recommendations to improve the previous legislation on funding of European parties and foundations.

Loans and donations were at the heart of several scandals concerning fraud allegations against MEPs, and the illegal spending of public money by anti-EU parties and foundations, and other scandals concerning lucrative contracts obtained in exchange of donations by people.

These practices were used for example by the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE), a think tank linked to the UKIP-dominated Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe.

According to the commission and parliamentary services, the auditors report, loans, donations and related "questionable practices" are generally boosted by difficulties encountered by political parties and foundations in finding contributions needed to meet the co-financing threshold.

The co-financing threshold is where EU parties and foundations are required to raise at least 15 percent of their own money before they can access EU funding.

To overcome this issue, the commission proposed to make it easier for parties and foundations to get EU grants, cutting the co-financing threshold to 10 percent for political parties and to five percent for foundations.

Auditors agree with this proposal in order to to "mitigate the risk of using questionable practices".

Other suggestions by the court include that financial sanctions due to any illegal financial activity by political entities "should be raised" and be more severe.

No 'maximum ceiling' on fines

Fines are currently limited to 10 percent of the annual budget of the party or foundation, whereas the court of auditors stated in 2013 that "the amount of a fine should be a multiple of the irregular amounts involved, without a maximum ceiling."

Similarly, auditors considers the ruling of the parliament on imposing fines as too "discretionary".

The auditors recommend that all the provisions concerning the funding of political parties and foundations should be grouped under a single rule book to avoid overlaps and simplify the legislative framework.

Lastly, the auditors warns that "revising legislation early after entering into force and only to address a limited number of issues should, in general, be avoided."

The commission's proposal is part of a 'democracy package' presented by vice president Frans Timmermans, ahead of the 2019 European elections.

The text was approved by the European parliament's constitutional affairs committee on 21 November.

By lowering the threshold for distribution of funds, said S&D MEP Mercedes Bresso on 21 November "we have enhanced the democratic representation of political parties and foundations."

Anti-EU parties face funding cuts

Reforms proposed by Commission would reduce EU funding for nationalist and ultra-right European political parties by up to 66 percent.

MEPs crack down on funding for far right

Four eurosceptic and far-right parties will receive less money up front and will have to present bank guarantees, in a crackdown on misuse of funds after several scandals.

National Front in EU fraud allegation

The National Front is facing allegations of fraud for having the EU parliament pay salaries to MEP assistants who perform tasks unrelated to the assembly.

Investigation

US billionaires funding EU culture war

Conservative US billionaires, some with links to Trump, are paying anti-abortion lobbyists in Europe tens of millions of dollars to shape policy and law.

Investigation

The EU committee's great 'per diem' charade

Around 30 members of European Economic Social Committee, who live and work primarily in Brussels or nearby, have claimed €1.47m in a 'daily subsistence' allowance from European taxpayers to cover accommodation, food and local transport for meetings held in Brussels.

Exclusive

Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings

The German former secretary-general of the European Commission held some 21 meetings which were registered in the lobby register. But no documents appeared to exist summarising what was said.

News in Brief

  1. Ocean Viking to disembark in Malta after ordeal
  2. Germany joins France in world outcry on Brazil fires
  3. British people lose faith in Brexit deal
  4. Brexit hardliners want further changes to EU deal
  5. German manufacturers confirm fear of recession
  6. Belgian socialists and liberals scrap over EU post
  7. Fall in EU migration leading to UK skills shortages
  8. Switzerland makes post-Brexit flight preparations

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Spain heading for yet another general election
  2. EU to discuss Brazil beef ban over Amazon fires
  3. 'Our house is burning,' Macron says on Amazon fires
  4. What happens when trafficking survivors get home
  5. EU states and Russia clash on truth of WW2 pact
  6. EU considers new rules on facial recognition
  7. EU to pledge Africa security funds at G7 summit
  8. Letter from the EESC on per diem article

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us