EU to crack down on abuses in financing of European parties
Posted 10:34 a.m. Friday
Updated 10:36 a.m. Friday
BRUSSELS — The European Union is readying reforms to crack down on abuses in the financing of European political parties seeking election to the European Parliament, one of the bloc's leading officials said Friday.
Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Commission, said the new rules would close loopholes that have in some cases led to the abuse of European taxpayer money.
"We believe that with these targeted changes we can ensure a more democratic and transparent political landscape," Timmermans said at a news conference in Brussels.
The plan is part of a broader democratic drive by the EU at a time many Europeans complain about Brussels being too detached from citizens.
Timmermans quipped that he knows all too well about that perception. His oldest son, he said, often addresses him as one of the "unelected faceless bureaucrats" over their morning coffee at home.
Timmermans said current rules are "prone to abuse," with several cases of different members of a single national party registering with more than one European party. In some cases a single person has also sponsored the registration of more than one party.
"These are not always genuine political parties with common goals, projects and debates. Some appear to be little more than fronts to extract money from the European taxpayer. This abuse must end, and quickly," Timmermans said.
He refused, however, to cite specific examples of abuse, saying he was not permitted legally to comment on ongoing investigations.
Under the proposed changes, individuals will no longer be allowed to register a party.
He said the current system of funding, which distributes funds equally to all parties in Parliament no matter their size, will be changed to a more proportionate system granting more to bigger parties and less to the smaller ones, "better reflecting the wishes of the electorate."
Those who commit fraud in the future will also have to pay back the money they received, Timmermans said.
The changes must still be approved by the European Parliament and member states. The Commission said it expects the changes to pass and be in force before the 2019 elections to the European Parliament.