Parliament adopts party funding reform

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MEPs have agreed on reform of European political party financing and the setting up of party-affiliated political foundations, paving the way for political campaigns designed to boost voter turnout ahead of the 2009 elections.

The new rules, adopted by MEPs on 29 November, are set to improve long-term financial planning for the Parliament’s 10 political parties and improve pan-European debates from 2008. A total of €7 million is foreseen for the new political foundations and parties are to receive a total of €10 million in 2008.

“European political parties should enjoy more flexibility in managing their funds and financing their electoral activities,” according to rapporteur and Socialist MEP Jo Leinen.

Under the current rules, EU funds are allocated to recognised European political parties for a given year, but they cannot be used for election campaigns. The new rules allow political parties to carry over up to 25% of total annual income from one year to the next and accumulate reserves of up to 100% of their average income over several years. They will also enable European political parties to finance campaign activities in the run-up to the 2009 European Parliament elections. However, the rules ensure that funds cannot be used to finance national parties or candidates.

The new framework also sets out a legal basis for the creation of European political foundations, which are to be formally associated with established parties. The purpose of these foundations is to serve as “think tanks”, animate debates and organise conferences, studies and training. They are also intended to act as “umbrella organisations” for existing political foundations in some member states. These European political foundations already exist as pilot projects, but will formally start their work from 2008.

“These new rules will create a true European political landscape in Europe, which is less determined by conflicting national interests. This is a decisive step towards a genuine European democracy and towards a European public,” Green MEP Johannes Voggenhuber said on 29 November.

The Council is expected to approve the new rules on party funding and the creation of foundations next week.

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