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Document 52012AR2244

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on ‘The statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations’

OJ C 62, 2.3.2013, p. 77–81 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)

2.3.2013   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 62/77


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on ‘The statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations’

2013/C 62/15

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

is convinced that this proposal can help make it easier for debates to take place at European and transnational level, and can help European-level public opinion to emerge;

agrees that obtaining European legal status should be subject to compliance with high standards of governance, accountability and transparency;

supports the fact that representation at the level of regional parliaments is taken into account in the regulation alongside the European and national levels at the point when political parties and the foundations affiliated to them apply to the European Parliament for registration as European political parties or foundations;

calls on the Council and the European Parliament to involve the CoR in this process of verifying compliance with the fundamental values of the EU;

considers the proposed allocation of EU funding to be acceptable, but proposes that the distribution also take into account the number of representatives in the CoR;

recommends that it should be allowed for European funds to be used for referendum campaigns or popular initiatives at European level.

Rapporteur

István SÉRTŐ-RADICS (HU/ALDE), Mayor of Uszka

Reference document

Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations

COM(2012) 499 final - 2012/0237 (COD)

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions – The statute and funding of European Political Parties and European Political Foundations

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

1.

welcomes the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations, published by the European Commission on 12 September 2012. The proposal repeals and replaces Regulation 2004/2003/EC, which has until now governed political parties and foundations;

2.

intends – particularly since it is made up of political groups – to make its contribution towards the drafting of this legislative proposal, which has, among other merits, also the capacity to draw more attention at local and regional level to European political decisions and also to the involvement of the members of the Committee of the Regions in shaping those decisions;

3.

confirms its commitment to promoting EU citizenship (1) and supporting EU citizenship education (2), as it has recently confirmed in detail in several opinions;

4.

reiterates in particular its support for developing EU citizenship and the rights attached to it, including the right to vote. The Committee of the Regions activities in the context of the 2013 European Year of Citizens, will focus on this issue (3);

5.

emphasises the need for EU citizenship to help encourage the emergence of European democracy by involving citizens in the European integration process. It is therefore in the interests of the people of the European Union that European representative democracy can flourish. Truly transnational European political parties and foundations play a key role in ensuring that people's views are heard at European level;

6.

is convinced that this proposal can help make it easier for debates to take place at European and transnational level, and can help European-level public opinion to emerge; that, furthermore, it can raise public interest in European elections and can help increase participation in those elections, as well as reinforcing the democratic legitimacy of the European Union;

7.

supports the overarching objectives of the regulation, namely to increase the visibility, recognition, effectiveness, transparency and accountability of European political parties and foundations;

8.

considers it absolutely essential to improve the links between European political parties and European political foundations, and agrees that it should not be possible for more than one political foundation to be formally affiliated to a given European political party;

Registration and monitoring

9.

considers that the creation of a single European legal status allowing European political parties or European political foundations to register as such and obtain a legal status based on EU law, thus freeing them from the diversity of national legal forms on which they have hitherto relied for their existence, would be an important step towards the political unification of Europe; notes, however, that the ability of the present draft to fulfil this function depends on the appropriate implementation by the Member States;

10.

underlines that the framework proposed by the Commission for the European statute is based on experience drawn from the operation of the parties, alliances of parties and foundations which currently exist at national level and are widely recognised but that the current proposal has certain limitations (notably with regard to the independent European legal status) which suggest that the experiences of the European political parties since 2004 have not all been fully taken into account in designing the new statute;

11.

highlights the fact that creating a genuine European legal status is of crucial importance for European political parties and the European political foundations affiliated to them, in that it allows them to choose, on the same terms, to have their headquarters in any Member State, in line with their own characteristics and political identity;

12.

therefore insists that the European legal statute introduced by this regulation must take account of national legislation; nevertheless recommends that the European institutions consider developing a fully-fledged European legal statute in the future;

13.

agrees that obtaining European legal status should be subject to compliance with high standards of governance, accountability and transparency;

14.

considers it to be an important step that the specific conditions and requirements governing the grant and, even more important, the retention of European legal status include observance of the values on which the EU is founded. That was already an accession criterion for candidate countries, but the regulation makes the fundamental values of the EU into a criterion that can and should be scrutinised as part of political monitoring;

15.

supports the fact that representation at the level of regional parliaments is taken into account in the regulation alongside the European and national levels at the point when political parties and the foundations affiliated to them apply to the European Parliament for registration as European political parties or foundations. In view of the differences in structures among the Member States, however, it remains necessary to clarify the nature of the intermediate political level (Land, region, county, department, province);

16.

supports the annual monitoring by the European Parliament of compliance by European political parties and European political foundations with the conditions and requirements set out in the regulation, and its power to verify, upon request, that a party or foundation does indeed still observe the values on which the European Union is founded;

17.

calls on the Council and the European Parliament to involve the CoR in this process of verifying compliance with the fundamental values of the EU;

18.

recommends that it should in any event be mandatory to involve the CoR in cases where the party being reviewed is represented in the CoR;

Financing

19.

recalls that in its opinion on the new multiannual financial framework for the post-2013 period (4), the CoR insisted on the need to provide adequate resources to allow the public to participate in efforts aimed at promoting fundamental rights and democracy and at building European citizenship. Truly transnational European political parties and their affiliated European political foundations have a key role to play in making people's views heard at European level, by bridging the gap between national and European politics;

20.

notes that the Commission proposal distinguishes between the criteria for granting legal status and those that relate to eligibility for financing;

21.

agrees that EU funding provided to European political parties and European political foundations should continue to come from the budget of the European Parliament;

22.

welcomes the fact that recognition as a European political party or European political foundation - and therefore compliance with the conditions and requirements to which such recognition is subject - will be a prerequisite for eligibility for financing from the EU budget;

23.

considers the proposed allocation of EU funding (15 % to be divided equally and 85 % to be divided among the parties in proportion to their number of Members of the European Parliament) to be acceptable, but proposes that the distribution also take into account the number of representatives in the CoR;

24.

welcomes the fact that this proposal raises the level of donations permitted per year and per donor (be that a natural or legal person) from EUR 12 000 at present to EUR 25 000, so as to improve the capacity of political foundations and parties to generate their own resources;

25.

supports the principle and practice according to which European financing is not used to fund, directly or indirectly, national, regional or local elections or other political parties, particularly national political parties or their candidates: that would indeed be contrary to the supranational spirit of the proposal;

26.

does not, however, see why European political parties and European political foundations should not be able to use their own income to fund candidates who are standing on behalf of their European political families in national, regional or local elections;

27.

understands why the proposal also aims to prohibit the use of European funding for national, regional or local referendum campaigns (for example those relating to a treaty amendment), but recommends that it should be allowed for European funds to be used for referendum campaigns or popular initiatives at European level;

Practical operation and local and regional perspectives

28.

is convinced that European political parties will be more and more effectively able, within the scope of their operations, to express and make known the will of the people in relation to elected officials and other European-level representative functions, and that they will be able to establish a more direct link between European and local/regional levels of power;

29.

emphasises the need to ensure that EU citizens within the territory of the Member States have full access to information, since that is a prerequisite for their active political participation, and calls on its members to take action to ensure that the Member States guarantee access to information (5). The existence of truly transnational European political parties also has an important role to play in this respect;

30.

recognises that the existence of truly transnational European political parties could lead to candidates standing in local and regional elections for a European political party, rather than for their national or regional party - thus making the direct link between European and local/regional politics even clearer;

31.

supports the political will to ensure that the European legal statute and the rules on financing enter into force well before the 2014 European Parliament elections, and can also apply to the funding of campaigns carried out at the local or regional level by European political parties and European political foundations in relation to European Citizens' Initiatives;

Subsidiarity, proportionality and better regulation

32.

recognises that the proposal can be considered to comply with the subsidiarity principle, in that rules on the European legal statute and on the financing of European political parties and European political foundations can only be laid down at EU level;

33.

notes that the multi-level structure of the emerging EU democratic system could be expressed in practice by allowing the CoR to participate in the process of verifying compliance by European political parties and European political foundations with the fundamental values of the EU;

34.

recognises that, in general terms, the proposal can be considered to comply with the proportionality principle, in that it does not exceed what is necessary to achieve the objectives established at European level;

35.

considers it to be contradictory that even though the proposal aims to create a new European legal form for both types of entities (parties and foundations), they would in most aspects of their practical activities continue to operate on the basis of a legal form recognised in the legal order of the Member State in which they have their seat;

36.

regrets the absence of an impact assessment in relation to the proposal;

37.

acknowledges that the European Commission has consulted stakeholders and has taken the results of that consultation into account in the proposal; however, the document does not make clear whether the local and regional levels were involved in those consultations;

38.

also calls on the European Parliament to involve the Committee of the Regions in the process of evaluating the European legal statute and the system of financing, which the proposal provides for in the third year following the next European Parliament elections.

II.   RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AMENDMENTS

Amendment 1

Article 2(5)

Definitions

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

(5)

"regional Parliament" or "regional assembly" means a body whose members either hold a regional electoral mandate or are politically accountable to an elected assembly,

(5)

"regional Parliament" or "regional assembly" means a body at an intermediary level between the municipality and the state whose members either hold an electoral mandate or are politically accountable to an elected assembly at sub-national level,

Reason

Intermediate-level elected assemblies do not have the same characteristics in the various Member States. They are not always identified as "regional parliaments" or "regional assemblies". In view of this variety of structures, the nature of the intermediate political level (Land, region, county, department, province etc.) should be clarified. The expression "intermediary level", as proposed in the amendment, is more general and provides a concept that applies to all Member States, while at the same time being clearly distinguishable from a municipal-level electoral mandate.

Amendment 2

Article 7(2)

Verification of registration

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

(2)   Whenever requested to do so by one quarter of its members, representing at least three political groups in the European Parliament, the European Parliament shall decide by a majority of its members whether the condition in Article 3(1)(c) for a European political party and in Article 3(2)(c) for a European political foundation continues to be met.

(2)   Whenever requested to do so by one quarter of its members, representing at least three political groups in the European Parliament, the European Parliament shall decide by a majority of its members whether the condition in Article 3(1)(c) for a European political party and in Article 3(2)(c) for a European political foundation continues to be met.

Before reaching its decision, the European Parliament shall hear the representatives of the European political party or European political foundation concerned and ask a committee of independent eminent persons to give an opinion on the subject within a reasonable time period.

Before reaching its decision, the European Parliament shall hear the representatives of the European political party or European political foundation concerned and ask a committee of independent eminent persons to give an opinion on the subject within a reasonable time period. It shall involve the Committee of the Regions in this procedure, at least in those cases where the verification relates to a European political party represented in the Committee of the Regions.

This committee shall consist of three members, with the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission each appointing one member within six months after the end of the first session of the European Parliament following elections to the European Parliament. The secretariat and funding of the committee shall be provided by the European Parliament.

This committee shall consist of three members, with the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission each appointing one member within six months after the end of the first session of the European Parliament following elections to the European Parliament. The secretariat and funding of the committee shall be provided by the European Parliament.

Reason

Since the regional dimension is one of the prior conditions for registration, it makes sense for the Committee of the Regions to have a role to play in the process of verifying compliance with the fundamental values of the EU, at least in those cases where the party concerned is represented in the CoR.

Amendment 3

Article 18(4)

Prohibition of funding

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

 

(4)   Support from European political parties and European political foundations to campaigns relating to European citizens' initiatives shall not be affected by this prohibition on funding.

Reason

The need for European political parties and European political foundations to be present and to communicate with EU citizens arises not only in European Parliament campaigns, but also, in the interval between electoral campaigns, in relation to the promotion of European values, for example through European citizens' initiatives.

Brussels, 31 January 2013.

The President of the Committee of the Regions

Ramón Luis VALCÁRCEL SISO


(1)  CdR 355/2010.

(2)  CdR 120/2005.

(3)  R/CdR 1030/2012 item 7.

(4)  CdR 283/2011.

(5)  CdR 170/2010, point 17. See also CdR 355/2010, point 37.


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