Transparency International EU Position Paper
On 12 September 2012, the European Commission made a combined proposal for the Statute and financing of European Political Parties and their affiliated political foundations (COM(2012)499 and COM(2012)500). This proposal follows up to the 2011 European Parliament evaluation report drafted under the responsibility of MEP Marietta Giannokou (EPP), who has also been assigned as the lead MEP (‘rapporteur’) for the present Commission proposal. Back in 2011, the TI EU Office contributed with a discussion paper, focussed on the issue of transparency and
presented during an EP hearing, to the debates around the evaluation report.
The new proposal for a Statute of European Parties and Foundations and their financing heavily builds on the previous law regulating Political Parties at European level since 2003 (Regulation 2004/2003) as well as the European Parliament Bureau decision implementing this law. The Treaty on European Union (Article 10) and a similarly phrased reference in the Charta of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms introduced with the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 are the main legal bases for the proposal.
Following the Commission’s proposal, it is now on the European Parliament (Lead: AFCO committee) and the EU Council of Ministers (Lead: Working Party on General Affairs and EU national ministries responsible for political party finance) to agree to a common approach well in time before the 2014 European Parliament elections.
Transparency International EU recommendations (overview)
In light of TI’s global expertise and the findings from the regional corruption study, the EU Office of Transparency International (TI-EU) states that strong rules should be in place at the EU level concerning European Political Parties. Transparency, proper monitoring and effective and proportionate sanctions should feature highly when regulating the statute and financing of European political parties. TI-EU recommends the following steps:
A) The criteria for registering a European Political Party (Art. 3.1b 1) should be lowered to allow more parties to register and therefore to fall under the transparency and supervision rules.
B) The rules should either abolish the distinction between financing European Political Parties, their Foundations and the European Parliament Groups or define more clearly the separation of their tasks in order to prevent confusion or unwanted cross-financing of activities.
C) The change of rules for the funding (‘contributions’ instead of ‘grants’) adapted to political parties’ needs (as proposed in COM(2012)500) should come with more specific supervision mechanisms adapted to political practice (see E).
D) The verification of the fulfilment of conditions for European Political Parties (Art. 3-5) assigned to the European Parliament (Art. 7) in the Commission proposal should executed by a body not dominated by political parties themselves (e.g. the European Court of Auditors in line with Rec. E).
E) The rules defining the supervising mechanisms for the finances of European Political Parties (Art. 19-21) should assign more clearly supervising authority. This will allow effective supervision and swift action in case of infringements, in particular during election campaigns and could prevent a lack of enforcement of the rules. It is proposed to give the EU Court of Auditors the main role in supervising EU Political Party Finance.
F) The timing for reporting (Art. 19.1) needs to be shortened considerably below 6 months in order to inform voters more timely, in particular before and after European Parliament elections.
G) The rules regarding donations and contributions (Art. 15) need to prevent, explicitly, common ways of circumventing upper limits and reporting duties. The threshold for immediate reporting should be 2,000 Euro.
H) The rules on donations and reporting obligations should also apply to European Political Parties’ candidates for European Commission President. Provisions prohibiting use of administrative resources should be included.
I) The provisions on protection of personal data (Art. 25) should be adapted to the actual political process.
J) The rules on transparency (Art. 24) should foresee a timely publication of information following the reception of party reporting. Financial information should be provided in comparable formats, including as open data.
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