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Europe’s two far-right parties in hot seat

In 2012, thirteen European political parties benefitted from EU aid. These include two far-right parties: the European Alliance for Freedom and the Alliance of European National Movements. And the sums are anything but negligible: The former received €368,262 in 2011 and €360,455 in 2012, while the latter received €289,266 from the European Parliament in 2012 (the party had not previously asked for aid). In comparison, the Greens received €1.3 million in 2011 and the European People’s Party (EPP, the EP’s biggest political group) received €6.18 million.

The total aid – €649,721 in commitments (on top of which €243,000 for the foundation linked to the European Alliance for Freedom (1)) – does not sit well with the leaders of the EPP, S&D ALDE, Greens and European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) groups. They have filed a complaint with the EP president. Under the EP regulation (Article 210), they can “verify whether or not a political party at European level is continuing (particularly in its programme and in its activities) to observe the principles upon which the European Union is founded, namely the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law”. To do so, the request must be backed by at least a quarter of MEPs.

The five groups that have taken this initiative are currently collecting the necessary signatures. If they manage to do this (which should not be too difficult given that the five groups represent 638 MEPs and only 189 MEP signatures are needed), a parliamentary committee will have to hear the representatives of the two political parties. MEPs will vote on the draft decision adopted by this committee. Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Socialist group, said “the issue is not to whether one is pro-European or anti-European, the issue is that I do not think that the money of EU taxpayers should help finance parties that violate EU values”.

There is a small oddity also: although Jean-Marie Le Pen (NI, France) sits in the Alliance of European National Movements, his daughter, Marine Le Pen (NI, France), who heads the French party Front National created by her father and is also an MEP, sits in the European Alliance for Freedom. Hence Swoboda’s comment that “the Le Pen family has created two EU political parties, which we fear do not fit in with the values of democracy in Europe”.

The Alliance of European National Movements was created in 2009 by four far-right parties from Hungary (Jobbik), Italy (Tricolour Flame), Bulgaria (Attack Political Party) and the UK (British National Party), on top of which there are associate members, who sit in the party on an individual basis, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen. The European Alliance for Freedom includes members of the Austrian FPÖ (Franz Obermayr is the alliance’s president), the Belgian Vlaams Belang (with Philip Claeys as vice-president) and the FN’s Marine Le Pen (also vice-president), as well as the Swedish democrats. As for contradictions between the parties, that is besides the point as the European Alliance for Freedom clearly states that at national level its members do not necessarily subscribe to the policies and beliefs of other members of the alliance.

Financing rules

Since July 2004, EU political parties can receive annual financing from the EP. This aid can cover up to 85% of a party’s eligible expenditure, while the rest should be covered by own resources, such as contributions and donations. The aid pays for expenses, such as meetings and conferences, publications, studies and publicity, administrative costs, staff costs, travel costs and costs linked to EU electoral campaigns. Direct financing from national parties or candidates are not eligible, and neither are non-EU campaigns. For 2013, 21.794 million euro were earmarked for EU political parties and 12.4 million euro for EU political foundations.

(1) The EP finances European political parties as well as political foundations

Credit: Europolitics

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