STATUTE AND FINANCING OF EUROPEAN POLITICAL
Draft Council Regulation on the statute and financing of European political parties.
||Article 308; unanimity
||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration:
||Minister's letter of 16 July 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 28-x (2000-01), paragraph 7 (28 March 2001)
|To be discussed in Council:
||8 October 2001 General Affairs Council
52.1 Article 190(5) of the EC Treaty, as amended
by the Treaty of Amsterdam, provides for the European Parliament
(EP) to lay down the regulations and general conditions governing
the performance of the duties of its Members. In December 1998,
the EP adopted a proposal for a Statute laying down these regulations
and conditions. Members of the EP (MEPs) had hoped that it would
be agreed before the European elections in June 1999. We cleared
a Council draft on 21 April 1999.
However, agreement was not reached and in February 2000, after
almost a year of deadlock, the EP decided to set up a group of
eminent persons to make recommendations on the Statute.
52.2 We considered the group's report on 25 October
2000, 15 November 2000 and 10 January 2001.
On 25 October 2000, we recommended it for debate in European Standing
Committee together with Special Report No.13/2000 of the Court
of Auditors on expenditure by the European Parliament's political
52.3 We considered the proposal again on 28 March
and cleared it, but asked the Government to inform us if it decided
to challenge the legal base.
52.4 On 13 July, the proposal emerged from the
Working Group and the Belgian Presidency has produced a new text
which, at the time of writing, is only available in French. It
invites comments from Member State delegations before 28 August.
The Minister's letter
52.5 In a letter dated 17 July, the Minister
for Europe (Peter Hain) says that the Presidency is aiming to
get this text agreed at the 8 October General Affairs Council.
He describes the main provisions of the text, a copy of which
he attaches, as follows:
Qualifications for the registration of a Statute by a European
Political Party (EPP) are: participation or intended participation
in EP elections; clear political objectives; and respect for the
principles of liberty, democracy, human rights and fundamental
freedoms, and the rule of law.
"(ii) Verification. The EP will verify
these qualifications by a simple majority after a request of a
quarter of its members from at least 3 Political Groups and after
consultation with a Committee of Independent Persons (composed
of 3 members nominated respectively by the EP, the Council and
"(iii) Legal Personality. In each Member
State, European Political Parties shall have the most extensive
legal personality as accorded to legal persons under national
legislation; and can acquire property and appear in Court.
"(iv) Financing. Eligibility depends
on having elected representatives from the EP or national or regional
Parliaments in at least a quarter of the Member States or having
received at least 5% of votes at the last EP elections in at least
a quarter of the Member States; full and transparent annual publication
of finances; and prohibition of anonymous donations above 100
euros, or from EP Political Groups, or from legal persons (individuals,
companies etc) with the exception of national parties.
"(v) Expenses. Funds can be used for
administration, technical support, meetings, studies, information
and publications. But they cannot be used for direct or indirect
funding of national political parties or for campaigning.
"(vi) Control. Money must be accounted
for in accordance with the rules applicable to the general budget
of the EC and the financial regulation on the basis of an annual
certificate by an external and independent auditor to be transmitted
to the EP and the European Court of Auditors.
"(vii) Distribution. 15% of the financing
will be divided between the eligible EPPs on a flat-rate basis,
and 85% will be distributed in ratio to the number of their MEPs.
Community funding cannot be more than 75% of the budget of an
"(viii) Expiry. The regulation will expire
at the end of the second financial year after entry into force."
52.6 The Minister recalls that his predecessor,
(Mr Keith Vaz) informed us in his Explanatory Memorandum of 20
March 2001 that the Government has three main objectives in the
negotiations on this proposal:
"I. To reform thoroughly
the funding of European Political Parties, as recommended by the
European Court of Auditors;
"II. To prevent any EC funding for national
political parties; and
"III. To avoid any bias against EPPs on the
basis of their views on European integration, either for or against".
52.7 The Minister then comments:
"I am confident that
the final text will meet these objectives. I welcome the progress
made so far, in particular:
- the clear reference in the Statute to the prohibition
of the funding for national political parties;
- the tighter language on implementation and control;
- the flexible definition of European Political
Parties, which includes an 'alliance of political parties'."
52.8 He says that the Government intends to clarify
further with the Commission the question of legal personality
for European political parties and the sources of their financing.
The legal base
52.9 As regards the legal base, the Minister
"The Commission are
proposing that Article 308 (which requires unanimity) be used
as a temporary legal base for this Statute before the entry into
force of the Treaty of Nice which will provide a new legal base
(amended Article 191 TEC) with decisions by QMV. We have considered
this proposal carefully and have come to the conclusion that the
use of Article 308 is justified legally. Provided we get the details
right, I am content that Article 308 be used, not least to ensure
full transparency of funding for EPPs as soon as possible".
Informing the UK parties in the European Parliament
52.10 The Minister then informs us that he will
be writing separately on this proposal to the Treasurers of the
UK parties represented in the European Parliament.
52.11 We support the Government's desire to
ensure full transparency of funding for European political parties
as soon as possible and can see that this desire underlies the
decision to make use of an existing Article, even if this smacks
of expediency triumphing over principle. However, as the Treaty
of Nice will provide a sound new legal base and the Regulation
will expire after two years, we do not propose to withhold clearance.
Nevertheless, we remain doubtful about the adequacy of the legal
52.12 This is the only aspect of the proposal
which gives us concern, and we now clear the document.
93 (19675) 13978/98; see HC 34-xvi (1998-99), paragraph
11 (21 April 1999). Back
9712/00; see HC 28-ii (2000-01), paragraph 2 (10 January 2001);
HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (15 November 2000); and HC
23-xxvii (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (25 October 2000). Back
9560/00; see HC 23-xxvii (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (25 October
2000) and HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 1 (15 November 2000).
See also Official Report, European Standing Committee
B, 29 January 2001. Back