UKIP-vs-EUkip CLICK The Pic. for travel!

Thursday, 28 October 2010


Dear friends and supporters,

Two supporters have sent me further information about pan-European political parties (or, inevitably, "Europarties"). I am very grateful to

i. Lawrence Webb for some material on the history of the thinking - the highly integrationist thinking - behnd these parties and

ii. Richard Teather for information on the sums of money involved in their funding.
(Lawrence Webb is UKIP's London Region Organizer and Richard Teather is Senior Lecturer in Tax Law at Bournemouth University.) I have brought their material together in another note, again attached here.

In essence, UKIP in the UK would gain next to nothing from its MEPs converting their current "Europe for Freedom and Democracy" group into one constituent of a  larger pan-European party. Some money would become available to the new "Europarty", but only for the purpose of pan-European political activity. None of it could be used in the UK. In fact, the relevant EU regulation specifically says that the money must not be directed to fund the collecting of signatures in a referendum on, for example, continued EU membership.

In any case, the amount of money involved is trivial relative to the sums routinely mentioned in British political fund-raising. Does the future of UKIP really depend on one million euros handed to its MEP group, with numerous strings attached, by the European Parliament?

Of course I agree with the 2010 Torquay conference motion, that any decision on UKIP involvement with a pan-European political party (and/or foundation) must be put to the party membership as a whole. In any debate on the subject I will be emphatically opposed to UKIP having an association or involvement of any kind with a newly-formed pan-European political party.

More on pan-European parties:

Threat or opportunity for the UK Independence Party?
Would the UK Independence Party betray its principles by joining a pan-European party of any kind, including a pan-European party which is (actually or allegedly) “Eurosceptic” in attitude? Or would UKIP benefit from extra funding made available – via the European Parliament – from the European Union?
In this note I discuss the origins of the idea of a pan-European party and the nature of the funding that would be opened up if UKIP were to join it.

Origins of the idea of pan-European parties

The first mention of pan-European parties was in 1992 in the Maastricht Treaty (section 41, added article 138a to the treaty of Rome). In its words, “Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union." But – at that stage – political activity and party formations remained almost wholly national, and there was no suggestion that the European Union might fund political parties.

This changed in the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, with article 138/191 envisaging a possible new mechanism to fund pan-European parties from the European Union‟s general budget. More explicitly, the 2001 Nice Treaty added a second paragraph to the Treaty of Rome. To quote, "The Council, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 251, shall lay down the regulations governing political parties at European level and in particular the rules regarding their funding." By implication, the European Parliament would become involved, and pan-European party funding would be regulated by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, acting together.

In 2003 Regulation (EC) No 2004/2003 (4 November 2003) defined what a "political party at European level" actually was. It also specified that EU funding should not go to national parties (as distinct from the new pan-European parties), either directly or indirectly. Further tweaking of the rules and regulations followed. The latest is Regulation (EC) No 1524/2007 (18 December 2007). The regulation both sets further limits on the activities that EU political funding may legitimately cover and paves the way for the financing of “political foundations” at the “European level".

The practical meaning of the regulation is that pan-European parties can set up and use EU money to meet the expenses of legally separate, but still affiliated “think-tanks”, while the funding of national parties as such remains forbidden. The revised regulation also contains wording which appears to gives pan-European parties the exclusive responsibility to campaign for the European elections. The precise message here is rather unclear and highly controversial, since – at face value – the EU appears to be trying to prevent a national party, such as the UK Independence Party, from participating in European elections. This is a grotesque insult to democracy and mocks the highfalutin verbiage in various EU founding documents.

The funding of pan-European political parties

The following notes have been sent to me by Mr. Richard Teather, senior lecturer in tax law at Bournemouth University, to whom I am most grateful.

1) Pan-European political parties (or “Europarties”) are meant to be funded "from the general budget of the European Union", although funds are actually administered by the European Parliament.

2) Europarties are alliances of national political parties. Although theoretically individuals could join a Europarty directly, they generally do not.

3) Europarties overlap with, but are different from, the "groups" within the European Parliament. (Thus, before 1999 the Conservative Party was not a member of the European People's Party as a Europarty, but it was a member of the EPP Group within the European Parliament.)

4) The party must meet various conditions to be approved as a “Europarty”, the main ones being:

a) it must have political representation (at MEP, MP or regional assembly level) in at least a quarter of EU Member States [i.e., in seven states];

b) it must "observe, in particular in its programme and in its activities, the principles on which the European Union is founded, namely the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law"; and

c) it must "have participated in elections to the European Parliament, or have expressed the intention to do so".

5) Funding of 10.6 million euros per year* is available and to be shared between all the recognised Europarties. Some funding (1.6 million euros) goes equally to each recognised Europarty, but the remaining 9 million euros is divided up according to the number of MEPs each Europarty has. It is therefore very valuable for a Europarty to have MEP members. At a rough calculation, each MEP member must be worth almost 15,000 euros p.a. to the Europarty. (* The number relates to 2008 and is probably much higher in 2011.)

6) Restrictions are imposed on what a Europarty can do with its funds. In particular funds can only be used for pan-European campaigns, not for "direct or indirect funding of national political parties or candidates", and funds cannot be used "to finance referenda campaigns".

7) Additional funding of 5 million euros (again, the figure relates to 2008) for European “foundations” where “foundations” are think-tanks linked to each Europarty. Cool A Europarty based on the current EFD group (which has 32 members) would get funding of almost 600,000 euros p.a. plus funding of around 250,000 euros for an associated "foundation".

These notes make sense given what I have heard elsewhere about the funding of pan-European political parties, but raise further questions. In fact, the whole subject is puzzling.

On the face of it, the EFD group would pick up a little under one million euros a year if all its constituent parties – including the UK Independence Party – decided to form a Europarty. Frankly, this is chickenfeed relative to
i. the larger issues raised by the UK‟s membership of the European Union and
ii. the sums of money routinely discussed in British political fund-raising.

I am astonished that anyone involved in the leadership of UKIP could want to convert the party into a Europarty for such a trivial amount.

True enough, the basis of allocation between the notional Europarties is such as to encourage “groups” to convert themselves into “Europarties”. The European Union imposes a limit on the total that can be spent on Europarties. In other words, the trough has only a finite amount of swill inside it. If one group in the European Parliament does not convert itself into a Europarty (such as the proposed “European Alliance”), the amount of swill available for the other groups (i.e., those which do convert themselves) is higher than would otherwise be the case. Hence, the two sentences in the Bonici e-mail (which I sent out yesterday), “The European Alliance will help parties dissiminate [sic – she meant „disseminate‟] information by using European funds available to us, and if we don't apply the other Parties/Alliances such as the PES, EPP, Greens etc... will have the money which is allocated to us to share between them. Basically it is like giving ammunition to your enemy for free.”

Nevertheless, it remains unclear to me what advantage UKIP would get from belonging to a Europarty such as the proposed “European Alliance”. The 600,000 euros (plus or minus 250,000 euros) could not be used for a specifically British political purpose in this country, but must instead be part of a pan-European political programme of some sort. Since the UK Independence Party is the only significant political force in the European Parliament committed to its nation’s withdrawal from the EU, how could such a pan-European political programme be to UKIP’s benefit?
Interestingly, Europarty money cannot be used for the purposes of promoting referendums. Indeed, this seems to be specifically identified as an unacceptable destination of Europarty money. There is an obvious - indeed hilarious – discrepancy between item 6 in Richard Teather‟s notes above, and item 4, with its assertion that the EU “is founded” on “the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law". Democracy? Oh, yes, the EU is founded on the principle of democracy, until Europe’s peoples vote against further European integration. When any of Europe’s peoples vote that way, the EU and its related “political class” ignores their democratic verdicts. Remember how the EU’s politicians and bureaucrats overrode referendum results in Ireland, France, the Netherlands, etc.

Since any money arising from Europarty status cannot be used to promote UKIP in the UK, I cannot see any purpose in seeking Europarty status. My view is that UKIP should have nothing to do with Europarties.

Tim Congdon
28th October, 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment