Monday

10th May 2021

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."

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

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.

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

Analysis

Relief in EPP group, as Orbán's party finally leaves

The debate over Fidesz had become an unbearable political burden on EPP - but it also represented a core dilemma for many centre-right, mainstream parties struggling to deal with their populist challengers.

EPP group moves forward to suspend Orban's Fidesz

MEPs are scheduled to vote on Wednesday to change the rules of procedure of the centre-right European People's Party parliamentary group to allow the suspension of a member party.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Czech minister plotted to bury evidence on Russian attack
  2. Putin promotes Russia's 'Kalashnikov-like' vaccine
  3. Coronavirus: Indian variant clusters found across England
  4. UN report encourages EU methane cuts
  5. EU court upholds ban on bee-harming pesticides
  6. Israeli tourists welcomed back by EU
  7. EU duped into funding terrorist group, Israel says
  8. Brussels prepares portfolio of potential Covid-19 treatments

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU ambassadors flock to Red Square for Putin's parade
  2. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  3. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  4. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit
  5. EU preparing to send soldiers to Mozambique
  6. EU now 'open' to vaccine waiver, after Biden U-turn
  7. EU mulls using new 'peace' fund to help Libyan coast guard
  8. Poland 'breaks EU law' over judges, EU court opinion says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us