EU-level political parties and foundations should have a legal personality based directly on EU law, said Parliament on Wednesday. Greater flexibility in financing, a higher ceiling for donations and a right for European parties to take part in referendum campaigns are among other suggestions made.
Parliament backed these proposals, with 560 votes in favour, 93 against and 22 abstentions, in a vote on a non-binding resolution by Marietta Giannakou (EPP, EL) on the functioning of current EU law on European political parties. This resolution may later lead to legislative proposals amending the law.
The rapporteur stressed in a debate on Tuesday that "up to now political parties have not been able to benefit from a statute befitting their work under the Lisbon Treaty. A European party cannot function the same way as a non-governmental organisation".
Need for more convergence
Most of the European political parties receiving EU funding are currently registered as non-governmental organisations in Belgium, but some are based in other Member States. MEPs argue that more convergence is needed and conclude that this "can only be achieved by establishing a common legal and fiscal status based on EU law for the European political parties".
An authentic legal status would "enable the European political parties and their political foundations to act as representative agents of the European public interest", add MEPs. They therefore ask the Commission to propose a draft statute.
Funding criteria and referenda campaigns
Parliament recommends several reforms of the rules on political party funding. Currently EU funding can cover 85% of the expenditure of a party, which must therefore find the remaining 15% itself. MEPs believe the 15% "could be reduced to 10%".
They also suggest raising the ceiling for donations from €12,000 to €25,000 per year per donor and paying the annual grant to parties earlier in the year. Relaxing the funding rules would be counterbalanced by providing for sanctions.
A distinction is made between granting a party recognition as a European political party and giving it funding. MEPs believe that to receive EU funding, the party should have at least one Member in the European Parliament.
They also suggest that European political parties be allowed to take part in referendum campaigns, so long as the subject "has a direct link with issues concerning the European Union". The current regulation forbids this.
European political parties are umbrella organisations made up of national political parties in the EU states. A regulation passed in 2003 lays down the criteria they need to meet as well as the funding rules. Parliament was required by the current law on European political parties to draft a report on how it is functioning.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution