Political Foundations

  1. Establishing political foundations at European level

The regulation (EC) No 2004/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council was made on 4 November 2003 on the regulations governing political parties at European level and the rules regarding their funding.

The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 191 thereof, having regard to the proposal from the Commission, and acting in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 251 of the Treaty (1) states the followings:

Article 191 of the Treaty states that political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union and that they contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union.

A number of basic rules should be laid down, in the form of regulations, for political parties at European level, in particular with regard to their funding. Experience acquired in applying this Regulation should reveal the extent to which these regulations should, or should not, be supplemented by further rules.

Experience has shown that a political party at European level will have as its members either citizens gathered together in the form of a political party or political parties which together form an alliance. The terms „political party” and „alliance of political parties” used in this Regulation should therefore be clarified.

In order to be able to identify a „political party at European level”, it is important to set certain conditions. In particular, it is necessary for political parties at European level to observe the principles on which the European Union is founded, as set out in the Treaties and recognized in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The procedure to be followed by political parties at European level which wish to receive funding pursuant to this Regulation should be laid down. Provision should also be made for regular verification of the conditions applied for identifying a political party at European level.

Political parties at European level which have received funding under this Regulation should submit to obligations aimed at ensuring transparency of sources of funding.

In accordance with Declaration No 11 on Article 191 of the Treaty establishing the European Community annexed to the Final Act of the Treaty of Nice, the funding granted pursuant to this Regulation should not be used to fund, either directly or indirectly, political parties at national level. By virtue of same declaration, the provisions on the funding of political parties at European level should apply, on the same basis, to all the political forces represented in the European Parliament.

The nature of the expenditure that can be funded under this Regulation should be defined. The appropriations allocated to funding under this Regulation should be determined in accordance with the annual budgetary procedure. It is necessary to ensure maximum transparency and financial control of political parties at European level funded from the general budget of the European Union.

A scale should be set for distributing the appropriations available each year, taking into account, on the one hand, the number of beneficiaries and, on the other, the number of elected members in the European Parliament.

Technical assistance to be afforded by the European Parliament to political parties at European level should be guided by the principle of equal treatment. The application of this Regulation and the activities funded should be examined in a report from the European Parliament which should be published.

The judicial control which falls within the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice will help ensure the correct application of this Regulation. In order to facilitate transition towards the new rules, the application of some of the provisions of this Regulation should be postponed until the European Parliament has been formed after the elections due in June 2004.

  1. Conditions of financing political parties at European level

Political parties or foundations at European level can be financed from the general budget of the European Parliament as well. To be financed from the European Union budget, the grant applicants must fulfill a set of criteria. Political parties and foundations receiving grants from the European Parliament must follow the regulations of utilization of grants, rules of financial management.

The legal basis is given in Article 10 paragraph 4 of the Treaty on European Union and Article 224 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The rules of funding are laid down by a regulation adopted by the Council and the Parliament. It has been revised in order to improve the conditions for funding. The implementing rules are adopted by the Bureau of the Parliament.

Conditions

Only political parties at European level can be financed from the general budget of the European Union. To be recognized as European level political party, a political party shall satisfy the following conditions:

  • it must have legal personality in the Member State in which its seat is located;
  • it must be represented, in at least one quarter of Member States, by Members of the European Parliament or in the national Parliaments or regional Parliaments or in the regional assemblies, or it must have received, in at least one quarter of the Member States, at least three per cent of the votes cast in each of those Member States at the most recent European Parliament elections;
  • it must observe, in particular in its programme and in its activities, the principles on which the European Union is founded, namely the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law;
  • it must have participated in elections to the European Parliament, or have expressed the intention to do so.

The European Parliament continuously controls if the political parties at European level satisfy these conditions. If any of the conditions is not fulfilled, the political party loses its “political party at European level” status, thus will be excluded from the financing.

Application for funding

In order to receive funding from the general budget of the European Union, a political party at European level shall file an application with the European Parliament each year. The application shall be accompanied by documents proving that the applicant satisfies the conditions laid down in Article 3; a political programme setting out the objectives of the political party at European level; a statute defining in particular the bodies responsible for political and financial management as well as the bodies or natural persons holding, in each of the Member States concerned.

Any amendment concerning the documents above shall be notified to the European Parliament within two months. In the absence of such notification, funding shall be suspended. The European Parliament shall adopt a decision within three months and authorize and manage the corresponding appropriations.

Obligations linked to funding from the general budget of the EU

European political parties have to cover at least 15% of their eligible expenditure from non EU budgetary resources. A political party at European level financed from the EU general budget shall:

  • publish its revenue and expenditure and a statement of its assets and liabilities annually;
  • declare its sources of funding by providing a list specifying the donors and the donations received from each donor, with the exception of donations not exceeding EUR 500;
  • not accept anonymous donations, donations from the budgets of political groups in the European Parliament, donations from any undertaking over which the public authorities may exercise directly or indirectly a dominant influence by virtue of their ownership of it, donations exceeding EUR 12000 per year and per donor from any natural or authorities of third countries,

Contributions from political parties which are members of a political party at European level shall be admissible. They may not exceed 40 % of that party’s annual budget.

Use of grants

The funding of political parties at European level from the general budget of the European Union or from any other source may not be used for the direct or indirect funding of other political parties, and in particular national political parties, which shall continue to be governed by national rules.

The grant can be used to meet the expenditure directly linked to the objectives set out in the party’s political programme, such as meetings and conferences, publications, studies and advertisements, administrative, personnel and travel costs, campaign costs connected to European elections.

Political foundations

Foundations were funded for the period from October 2007 to August 2008 by action grants awarded by the European Commission under a pilot project. A political foundation at European level is an organization affiliated with a political party at European level which underpins and complements the objectives of that party. A political foundation at European level observes, analyses and contributes to the debate on European public policy issues. It also develops linked activities, such as organizing seminars, training, conferences and studies.

In order to receive a grant from the Parliament, a foundation must satisfy certain conditions:

  • it must be affiliated with a political party at European level which is recognized by the regulation,
  • it must have legal personality, separate from that of the party, in the Member State in which its seat is located,
  • it must observe the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law,
  • it shall not promote profit goals,
  • its governing body shall have a geographically balanced composition.
  • The rules of funding of the parties are laid down by a regulation adopted by the Council and the Parliament. It has been revised in order to allow for the funding of foundations too. The implementing rules are adopted by the Bureau of the Parliament. The grant can cover up to 85% of the eligible expenditure of a foundation, while the rest should be covered by own resources such as membership fees and donations.
  1. Parts of Regulations governing political parties and foundations at European level

 Article 1. Subject matter and scope

This Regulation establishes rules on the regu­lations governing political parties at European level and rules regarding their funding.

Article 2. Definitions

For the purposes of this Regulation:

  1. ‘political party’ means an association of citizens:
  • which pursues political objectives, and
  • which is either recognized by, or established in accordance with, the legal order of at least one Member State;
  1. ‘alliance of political parties’ means structured cooperation between at least two political parties;
  2. ‘political party at European level’ means a political party or an alliance of political parties which satisfies the conditions referred to in Article 3;

Article 3. Conditions

A political party at European level shall satisfy the following conditions:

(a) it must have legal personality in the Member State in which its seat is located;

(b) it must be represented, in at least one quarter of Member States, by Members of the European Parliament or in the national Parliaments or regional Parliaments or in the regional assemblies, or it must have received, in at least one quarter of the Member States, at least three per cent of the votes cast in each of those Member States at the most recent European Parliament elections;

(c) it must observe, in particular in its programme and in its activities, the principles on which the European Union is founded, namely the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law;

(d) it must have participated in elections to the European Parliament, or have expressed the intention to do so.

Article 4. Application for funding

  1. In order to receive funding from the general budget of the European Union, a political party at European level shall file an application with the European Parliament each year.

The European Parliament shall adopt a decision within three months and authorize and manage the corresponding appropriations.

  1. The first application shall be accompanied by the following documents:

(a) documents proving that the applicant satisfies the conditions laid down in Articles 2 and 3;

(b) a political programme setting out the objectives of the political party at European level;

(c) a statute defining in particular the bodies responsible for political and financial management as well as the bodies or natural persons holding, in each of the Member States concerned, the power of legal representation, in particular for the purposes of the acquisition or disposal of movable and immovable property and of being a party to legal proceedings.

  1. Any amendment concerning the documents referred to in paragraph 2, in particular a political programme or statute, which have already been presented, shall be notified to the European Parliament within two months. In the absence of such notification, funding shall be suspended.

Article 5. Verification

  1. The European Parliament shall verify regularly that the conditions set out in Article 3(a) and (b) continue to be met by political parties at European level.
  2. With regard to the condition specified in Article 3(c), at the request of one quarter of its members, representing at least three political groups in the European Parliament, the European Parliament shall verify, by a majority of its members, that the condition in question continues to be met by a political party at European level. Before carrying out such verification, the European Parliament shall hear the representatives of the relevant political party at European level and ask a committee of independent eminent persons to give an opinion on the subject within a reasonable period.

The committee shall consist of three members, with the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission each appointing one member. The secretariat and funding of the committee shall be provided by the European Parliament.

  1. If the European Parliament finds that any of the conditions referred to in Article 3(a), (b) and (c) is no longer satisfied, the relevant political party at European level, which has for this reason forfeited this status, shall be excluded from funding under this Regulation.

Article 6. Obligations linked to funding

  1. A political party at European level as well as a political foundation at European level shall:

(a) publish its revenue and expenditure and a statement of its assets and liabilities annually;

(b) declare its sources of funding by providing a list specifying the donors and the donations received from each donor, with the exception of donations not exceeding EUR 500 per year and per donor.

  1. A political party at European level as well as a political foundation at European level shall not accept:

(a) anonymous donations;

(b) donations from the budgets of political groups in the European Parliament;

(c) donations from any undertaking over which the public authorities may exercise directly or indirectly a dominant influence by virtue of their ownership of it, their financial participation therein, or the rules which govern it;

(d) donations exceeding EUR 12 000 per year and per donor from any natural or legal person other than the undertakings referred to in point (c) and without prejudice to paragraphs 3 and 4;

  1. Contributions to a political party at European level from national political parties which are members of a political party at European level or from a natural person who is a member of a political party at European level shall be admissible. Contributions to a political party at European level from national political parties or from a natural person shall not exceed 40 % of the annual budget of that political party at European level.

Article 7. Prohibition of funding

  1. The funding of political parties at European level from the general budget of the European Union or from any other source may not be used for the direct or indirect funding of other political parties, and in particular national parties or candidates. These national political parties and candidates shall continue to be governed by national rules.

Article 8. Nature of expenditure

Without prejudice to the funding of political foundations, appropriations received from the general budget of the European Union in accordance with this Regulation may only be used to meet expenditure directly linked to the objectives set out in the political programme referred to in Article 4(2)(b).

Such expenditure shall include administrative expenditure and expenditure linked to technical assistance, meetings, research, cross-border events, studies, information and publications.

Article 9. Implementation and control

  1. Appropriations for funding of political parties at European level and political foundations at European level shall be determined under the annual budgetary procedure and shall be implemented in accordance with the Financial Regulation and its implementing provisions.

The implementing procedures of this Regulation shall be laid down by the authorizing officer.

  1. The valuation of movable and immovable property and its depreciation shall be carried out in accordance with the provisions applicable to the institutions as laid down in Article 133 of the Financial Regulation.
  2. Control of funding granted under this Regulation shall be exercised in accordance with the Financial Regulation and its implementing provisions.

Control shall also be exercised on the basis of annual certification by an external and independent audit. This certification shall be transmitted, within six months of the end of the financial year concerned, to the European Parliament.

  1. Further to application of this Regulation, any funds improperly received by political parties at European level from the general budget of the European Union shall be refunded to that budget.
  2. Any document or information required by the Court of Auditors in order to carry out its task shall be supplied to it at its request by the political parties at European level receiving funding granted under this Regulation.

Where expenditure is committed by political parties at European level jointly with national political parties and other organizations, evidence of the expenditure incurred by the political parties at European level shall be made available to the Court of Auditors.

  1. Funding of political parties at European level in their capacity as bodies pursuing an objective of general European interest shall not be subject to the provisions of Article 113 of the Financial Regulation relating to the decreasing of the funding.

Article 10. Distribution

  1. Available appropriations shall be distributed annually as follows among the political parties at European level which have obtained a positive decision on their application for funding as referred to in Article 4:

(a) 15 % shall be distributed in equal shares;

(b) 85 % shall be distributed among those which have elected members in the European Parliament, in proportion to the number of elected members.

For the application of these provisions, a Member of the European Parliament may be a member of only one political party at European level.

  1. Funding charged to the general budget of the European Union shall not exceed 85 % of those costs of a political party or political foundation at European level which are eligible for funding. The burden of proof shall rest with the relevant political party at European level. 

Article 11. Technical support

All technical support from the European Parliament to political parties at European level shall be based on the principle of equal treatment. It shall be granted on conditions no less favorable than those granted to other external organizations and associations that may be accorded similar facilities and shall be supplied against invoice and payment. The European Parliament shall publish details of the technical support provided to each political party at European level in an annual report. 

Article 12. Evaluation

The European Parliament shall publish, by 15 February 2011, a report on the application of this Regulation and the activities funded. The report shall indicate, where appropriate, possible amendments to be made to the funding system.