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European Parliament Backs New Rules For Funding Political Parties

The European Parliament has voted to approve plans to reform the funding arrangements and legal status of European political parties and their affiliated foundations, it was announced Wednesday.

The new rules, informally agreed with European Council, will clarify the finances of these bodies and enhance their European character. A method to monitor compliance and impose penalties for breaches is also part of the deal.

The European Parliament approved the new rules in a 539 to 103 vote with 20 abstentions.

The new rules state that EU political parties (EUPPs) and their affiliated foundations must be established under EU law in order to overcome the obstacles created by the diversity of national legal forms and ensure high standards of transparency and accountability.

The new rules will make it easier for European parties and foundations to generate their own resources by raising the ceiling on donations from EUR 12,000 to EUR 18,000 per donor per year. For donations above EUR 3,000, the donors' names and the corresponding amounts will be publicly disclosed. For amounts between EUR 1,500 and EUR 3,000, the donor's prior consent to publication will be needed.

The legislation states that the European Parliament and an independent authority will be responsible for assessing compliance with the rules.

The authority, chosen by the three EU institutions, will be in sole charge of verifying compliance with the rules on registration and deciding on the de-registration of an EEUP. It will also deal with other requirements relating to non-EU funds (i.e. donations and contributions).

If the rules are infringed, the authority will ask for corrective measures, failing which it will be able to impose penalties in the form of fines and, as a last resort, de-registration, which would exclude the party from funding.

Parliament would impose penalties for misuse of EU funding, like in cases such as failure to comply with reporting and transparency requirements or of criminal conviction.

Respecting EU values, as spelled out in the EU Treaty, will be a precondition for any alliance of national parties wishing to apply for EU legal status and funds. To access EU funds, an EEUP will also have to have at least one elected MEP.

Where compliance with EU values is in doubt, the authority will carry out a check and, after seeking the opinion of a committee of "independent eminent persons," could decide to de-register the party in question.

The Authority could decide to de-register an EEUP only in the event of a serious breach and never within the two months preceding European elections. The decision would be applicable provided the European Parliament and the Council did not object and it could be subject to appeal in the Court of Justice.

The European status would not entitle an EUPP to nominate candidates for national or European elections or to participate in referendum campaigns. These issues remain a national competence of the member states.

The agreement still needs to be formally endorsed by the European Council. If that step is also completed successfully, the new regulation is scheduled to apply from January 1, 2017.

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