Danish MEP Morten Messerschmidt misused EU funding through two organisations he used to chair, according to the European Parliament’s Secretary-General Klaus Welle. The MEP will likely have to pay back €400,000 worth of EU money.
The organisations, Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (MELD), and Foundation for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (FELD), have used EU funding to promote the far-right Danish People’s Party during a general election and one EU referendum campaign, says a new report by the auditing firm Ernst and Young.
MELD and FELD are a movement and a fund, respectively, which can apply for EU support for awareness campaigns.
But EU rules clearly prohibit any use of the money for campaigns during national general elections, or similar elections.
However, Danish media have reported that Messerschmidt, who is a prominent member of the Danish People’s Party as well as Vice-Chairman of the Parliament’s European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, spent almost €200,000 worth of EU money on campaign posters, in which Messerschmidt and the leader of the Danish People’s Party, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, are the central element.
The posters were used during the general election in June last year, as well as during an EU referendum campaign in November.
EU support was also used to produce a video where Messerschmidt encouraged the Danes to vote ‘no’ in the EU referendum on whether Denmark should get rid of its Justice and Home Affairs opt-out.
The case has been widely debated in Danish media in recent months, as Messerschmidt, a Eurosceptic, often criticises how the EU spends its resources and wants to cut the EU’s budget.
The report by Ernst and Young, which was carried out on behalf of the European Parliament, states that MELD and FELD have not only misused EU funds worth €400,000, but that the organisations’ annual financial statements are a “mess”.
According to Danish broadcaster DR, the report also directly criticises Messerschmidt. It states that “members of the board did not give any information on the financial situation of MELD/FELD” and therefore concludes that “fundamental information is missing”.
The European Parliament said at the beginning of this year that it was suspicious that something was wrong with the way MELD and FELD were handling EU funds, and initiated its own investigation of the two organisations.
In a 13-page internal note by Welle, obtained by DR, the Secretary-General encourages the Parliament’s Presidium to decide that MELD and FELD must repay €400,000 to the EU. The Presidium is expected to discuss the next steps on Monday (9 May) in Strasbourg.
On the basis of the Ernst and Young revision, however, it’s questionable whether the organisations will be able to return the money.
“I consider this to be obvious political harassment. And the process, where your own political opponents have to make the decision, is grotesque,” Messerschmidt wrote on his Facebook page, declining to repay the money.