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Parliamentary questions
19 February 2007
Answer given by Mrs Ferrero-Waldner on behalf of the Commission

The Commission's financial support to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is granted following open calls for proposals (CfP), which are conducted in accordance with published guidelines specific to each CfP under the various EC financial instruments such as MEDA(1) (until 31 December 2006), ENPI(2) (since the beginning of the year) and EIDHR(3). The applicants and their project proposals must meet strict eligibility criteria under the CfP in question in order to be considered for funding. The project selection is based on a careful evaluation of the merits of the proposed project against published assessment criteria and is based on protecting human rights, promoting pluralist democracy, consolidating the rule of law and combating poverty. The Commission requires that the project activities are carried out as stipulated in the grant contract between the Commission and the contracting party (NGO). The projects provide regular reporting on their activities. In addition, they are regularly monitored, controlled, audited and evaluated by the Commission. None of these regular checks have shown, to date, any ‘misuse of funds’ in any of the mentioned projects. Therefore, questions on suspension of funds have not arisen.

It should be reiterated that under the funding mechanisms used for these projects, the Commission does not provide global funding to NGOs, but supports specific projects and well-defined actions which are carried out by NGOs in full compliance with EC rules and procedures in the management of the activities. However, this does not imply that EU external policy has to be systematically reflected in all their statements, seminars or publications, and the Commission requires all project publications to contain a disclaimer with the following statement: ‘This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of [Beneficiary's name] and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union’.

Therefore, the Commission cannot be held responsible for statements made by these NGOs under their own name, nor can the Commission oblige them to refrain from comments which are not necessarily in line with the EU Middle East Policy.

The Commission is respectful of freedom of expression as a key feature of a democratic society. An open debate over political issues is indispensable on the way towards better mutual understanding. At the same time, the Commission is firmly committed to the fight against incitement to hatred between ethnic or religious groups as well as to the expressions of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, and will continue fighting these deplorable phenomena.

(1)Mediterranean-European development agreement.
(2)European neighbourhood and partnership instrument.
(3)European initiative for democracy and human rights.

OJ C 293, 05/12/2007
Last updated: 2 May 2007Legal notice