After glimpsing at the financing of political groups in the European Parliament, we turn to funding for Europarties and their foundations.
Does lavish public funding for incumbents ossify representative democracy at European level too?
The European Parliament contributes 10,858,000 euros to European political parties and 7,000,000 euros to their political foundations, according to the 2009 budget of the European Union.
We know that Libertas’ (at least provisionally) failed bid to gain recognition and funding as a political party at European level sparked controversy.
According to Rule 199(1) of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament (16th edition, October 2008) the Bureau applies the funding rules and lists the allocation of funds:
1. The Bureau shall take a decision on any application for funding submitted by a political party at European level and on the distribution of appropriations amongst the beneficiary political parties. It shall draw up a list of the beneficiaries and of the amounts allocated.
The European Parliament issued a call for proposals IX-2009/01 — Grants to political parties at European level, published OJEU 28.6.2008 C 165/7.
The award criteria for 2009 are based on Regulation No 2004/2003 and they are reiterated in the call for proposals:
2.5. Award criteria
In accordance with Article 10 of Regulation (EC) No 2004/2003, the available appropriations for the financial year 2009 will be distributed as follows among the political parties at European level which have obtained a positive decision on their application for funding on the basis of the admissibility, eligibility, exclusion and selection criteria:
(a) 15 % will be distributed in equal shares;
(b) 85 % will be distributed among those which have elected members in the European Parliament, in proportion to the number of elected members.
Fresh ideas and new movements might be welcome from a general point of view, but electoral rules, financing of parliamentarians and assistants, parliamentary groups as well as political parties and their foundations is weighted towards incumbents.
Even where the rules forbid the use of funds for overt campaign expenses, the entrance costs for new contenders are practically prohibitive.
Is this the right way forward for representative democracy at European level?