Sunday, 15 February 2009

EU Law: Political parties at European level

Europarties, officially political parties at European level, are seen as a means to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the EU citizens.

The existing treaty offers a legal base for rules on the Europarties and their funding.

We describe what the Treaty of Lisbon proposes before looking at some of the secondary legislation concerning European political parties and the funding newcomers, the European political foundations.

***

Current treaty

Article 191 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) lays down the basic principles governing political parties at European level.

According to the first subparagraph the Europarties are seen as a factor for EU integration.

Regulations concerning (the status of) European parties and their funding can be issued by co-decision (OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/132): .


Article 191 TEC

Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union.

The Council, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251, shall lay down the regulations governing political parties at European level and in particular the rules regarding their funding.


***

Original Lisbon Treaty

Article 1, point 12 of the original Treaty of Lisbon replaced the existing Article 8 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) by four Articles, 8 to 8c. Of these Article 8a(4) contained words on forming European political awareness and on the expression of the will of EU citizens (OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/15):

4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.


*

Article 2, point 180 ‘deleted’ the first paragraph of Article 191 TEC. As we saw, its slimmed resemblance had appeared in the new Article 8a(4) TEU (ToL). Then came some amendments to the wording of the second subparagraph (OJEU page 101):

180) In Article 191, the first paragraph shall be deleted. In the second paragraph, the words ‘, by
means of regulations,’ shall be inserted before ‘shall lay down’ and the words ‘referred to
in Article 8 A(4) of the Treaty on European Union’ shall be inserted after ‘at European level’.


***

Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

The basic provisions on representative democracy and the Europarties have been renumbered in the consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty.

First Article 10 of the amended Treaty on European Union, in Title II Provisions on democratic principles (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/20), with the political parties mentioned in paragraph 4:


Article 10 TEU

1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.

2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.

Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.

3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.

4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.



*

Article 224 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) took over the substance of the second subparagraph of Article 191 TEC, with the minor amendments seen above (OJEU page 149):


Article 224 TFEU
(ex Article 191, second subparagraph, TEC)

The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, by means of regulations, shall lay down the regulations governing political parties at European level referred to in Article 10(4) of the Treaty on European Union and in particular the rules regarding their funding.


***

Secondary legislation


Statute for a European political party

There are existing statutes for European companies (SE) and European co-operatives as well as proposals for European associations and European mutuals, but there is no enactment on truly European political parties.


***

Funding for Europarties


It took a long time before the European Parliament and the Council were able to agree on European level political parties. The result was Regulation (EC) No 2004/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 on the regulations governing political parties at European level and the rules regarding their funding (OJEU 15.11.2003 L 297/1), since amended by Regulation No 1524/2007 (OJEU 27.12.2007 L 343/5).

The consolidated version (of 27 December 2007) of Regulation 2004/2003 is available here:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CONSLEG:2003R2004:20071227:EN:PDF



If no true category of European political party is created, the Regulation lays down certain criteria for the parties eligible for funding from the European Union. Cf. Article 1:

Article 1
Subject matter and scope

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


***

Europarty defined

Article 2 defines a political party at European level eligible for funding from the budget of the European Union:

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 recognised by, or established in accordance with, the legal order of at least one Member State;

2. ‘alliance of political parties’ means structured cooperation between at least two political parties;

3. ‘political party at European level’ means a political party or an alliance of political parties which satisfies the conditions referred to in Article 3;
-----


***

As we see, both a political party and an alliance of political parties can fulfil the criteria.


***

Conditions for EU funding

Article 3(1) of Regulation 2004/2003 lays down the conditions for funding from the EU budget. Respect for the founding principles of the European Union is required and it must at least have the intention to participate in the European elections.

In addition the Europarty has to be represented by elected politicians in the EP or in national or regional parliaments in at least a quarter of the member states (meaning at least 7). Alternatively at least 3 % of the votes in the EP elections in seven member states qualify:


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.
-----


***

There are more detailed provisions on applying for funds, verification of the conditions, obligations linked to funding etc.


***

Implementing decision

The implementing procedures have been laid down in a Decision by the EP Bureau. The first Decision (published OJEU 2004 C 155/1) seems to have been replaced by the Decision below.


The Decision of the Bureau of the European Parliament of 29 March 2004 laying down the procedures for implementing Regulation (EC) No 2004/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the regulations governing political parties at European level and the rules regarding their funding, has been published as amended by the bureau Decision 1 February 2006 in OJEU 28.6.2006 C 150/9.

The Decision contains detailed provisions including application forms.

It is worth notice that the conditions have to be met prior to 15 November the preceding year.


***


Eurofoundations




The amended Article 2(4) of Regulation 2004/2003 introduced the definitions concerning a political foundation at European level. These show that only foundations affiliated to the Europarties are eligible:


4. ‘political foundation at European level’ means an entity or network of entities which has legal personality in a Member State, is affiliated with a political party at European level, and which through its activities, within the aims and fundamental values pursued by the European Union, underpins and complements the objectives of the political party at European level by performing, in particular, the following tasks:

— observing, analysing and contributing to the debate on European public policy issues and on the process of European integration,

— developing activities linked to European public policy issues, such as organising and supporting seminars, training, conferences and studies on such issues between relevant stakeholders, including youth organisations and other representatives of civil society,

— developing cooperation with entities of the same kind in order to promote democracy,

— serving as a framework for national political foundations, academics, and other relevant actors to work together at European level;

-----


***

Funding conditions for Eurofoundations

According to Article 3(2) of Regulation 2004/2003 the Eurofoundation has to fulfil the following criteria:

2. A political foundation at European level shall satisfy the following conditions:

(a) it must be affiliated with one of the political parties at European level recognised in accordance with paragraph 1, as certified by that party;

(b) it must have legal personality in the Member State in which its seat is located. This legal personality shall be separate from that of the political party at European level with which the foundation is affiliated;

(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 shall not promote profit goals;

(e) its governing body shall have a geographically balanced composition.


***

Expenditure

Under the European Parliament in the European Union budget for 2009 there are the following appropriations:

Article 402 contains EUR 10.858 million for European political parties and Article 403 allows contributions to European political foundations worth 7.0 million.



Ralf Grahn