Saturday

29th Apr 2017

EU in drive to make Brussels more political

  • The EU could do with a bit more controversy and diversity, according to its communications commissioner (Photo: European Community, 2006)

The European Commission next month is to announce plans to establish European political foundations to spice up the tone of political discourse at the EU level and entice voters to ballot boxes after a series of poor turnouts at the European elections.

According to an EU official closely involved in the proposal, the idea is to give European parties such as the European People's Party, the European socialists or the European liberals greater ability "to develop networks on European issues."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

These foundations - which would be ideologically linked to a political party - would contribute to a European political culture by "observing, analysing and contributing to the debate on European public policy issues and the process of European integration."

They would also support "European seminars" and serve as a "framework for national think tanks, political foundations and academics to work together at [the] European level," says a preliminary paper on the issue, seen by EUobserver.

Proper European debate

At the moment, European parties - there are currently ten - occupy an undefined public space. They are trans-European but lack the link to citizens as national parties are affiliated rather than individual members.

On top of this, they have difficulty making EU political campaigns, hampered by language barriers and different political traditions in the 27 member states.

The move to up their profile is the brainchild of EU communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom who wants to introduce a "proper European debate," with the current European political discussion seen as taking place in a "Brussels bubble" dominated by political elites.

As yet, it is unclear how much money will go towards the scheme - EU officials have previously spoken of €1 million - but 15 percent of the money will be divided equally between all of the foundations while the remaining 85 percent will be distributed according to how many MEPs a party has.

The commission is also to leave the touchy question of setting out criteria for foundations entitled to receive the money up to the parliament saying only that they should respect fundamental European values.

The June proposal is part of the updating of an EU law on funding EU political parties - this law currently states that the parties have to observe the principles upon which the European Union is founded as well as be represented in at least one quarter of member states.

Although political foundations are well established in Germany, where the major parties have ideologically associated foundations - Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, CDU or Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, SPD - and there is a budget line for them in the German parliament, they are not common elsewhere.

Controversy

Ms Wallstrom, who recently said the EU could do with a bit of "diversity" and "controversy" to make it register more with citizens, took charge of the communications portfolio in 2004 - a year that saw record low turnouts in the European elections in central and eastern European member states who had only just joined the bloc.

Three years on little has changed. European elections last week in Bulgaria, a member of the EU since January, saw a turnout of just 29 percent.

The commission is trying to bring about a visible difference in the next European election in mid-2009. This is the time by which most EU leaders want to have agreed a new EU treaty for the bloc - one likely to give much more co-legislation powers to MEPs.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is also planning on publishing a separate proposal next month on how better to communicate with citizens.

The paper is likely to contain proposals to give EU officials more leeway to talk to the media and extend the scope of Brussels' audiovisual services.

EPP group frustrated with Orban

Orban's ruling Fidesz party is getting too much to handle for the EPP group, as they are once again forced to defend the Hungarian premier's controversial actions.

Analysis

Orban set to face down EU threats

The European Commission and Parliament are to debate Hungary's slide into illiberal democracy. But the bloc continues to think that Hungarian leader Viktor Orban is not a systemic threat.

European right divided on EU values after Brexit

A day after the UK notified its exit from the EU, leaders of the European People's Party expressed a different vision of Europe's identity, with Hungary's Orban calling for a stop to the Muslim "invasion".

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  2. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  3. One year later: EU right to open Internet still virtual
  4. Rethinking Europe's relationship with Turkey
  5. Mob storms Macedonian parliament
  6. MEPs retain secrecy on office spending
  7. May accuses EU-27 of 'lining up against Britain'
  8. Resurrected Renzi to regain leadership of Italy's ruling party