New role for political parties to make European elections truly European
With just two years to go until the next European Parliament elections, Commission President José Manuel Barroso has called for a truly pan-European debate on trans-national issues – a debate that will be helped by the Commission's proposal to give European legal status to European political parties.
Speaking in his annual State of the Union speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, President Barroso said: "We have to recognise the political debate is cast all too often as if it were just between national parties. Even in the European elections we do not see the name of the European political parties on the ballot box, we see a national debate between national political parties. This is why we need a reinforced statute for European political parties."
He added: "An important means to deepen the pan-European political debate would be the presentation by European political parties of their candidate for the post of Commission President at the European Parliament elections already in 2014 [...] This would be a decisive step to make the possibility of a European choice offered by these elections even clearer. I call on the political parties to commit to this step and thus to further Europeanise these European elections."
The proposal on European political parties will help not only to increase their visibility, as mentioned by President Barroso, but also their effectiveness, transparency and accountability.
By providing European-level legal status for European political parties and their affiliated foundations – most at present are simply registered in Belgium as non-profit-making organisations, which makes it difficult for them to operate in other countries – the proposals will help to overcome the most important obstacle they face.
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, the Commissioner responsible for relations with the European Parliament, echoed the President's comments: "Truly transnational European political parties and foundations are key to articulating the voices of citizens at European level, and generating Europe-wide public debates. They have a central role to play in shaping the debate on European issues, which in view of the 2014 European elections, promises to be lively in the years to come. This ambitious proposal is an important step towards consolidating European democracy."
V-P Šefčovič stressed that the new proposals would strengthen the standards on internal democracy, governance, accountability, transparency, and respect for the values on which the Union is founded for political parties and foundations. He stressed in particular that all aspects of party funding will be subject to a comprehensive set of rules, including strict reporting and control requirements. A regime of administrative sanctions will be introduced in case of infringements.
The new proposals will not, however, mean an increase in the funding available for political parties: the overall amounts made available under the EU budget for funding of political parties and foundations remains unchanged. But the rules governing such funding will be streamlined and adapted to their specific situation and needs. For example, European political parties will have to publish the names of donors contributing more than €1,000/year, while the annual limit on individual donations will rise from €12,000 to €25,000.
Proposal on the statute and funding of European political parties and foundations: