The European Parliament, European parties, and the use of public funds

Following research on the distribution of European public funding to European political parties, European Democracy Consulting has identified cases of maladministration from the European Parliament. Legislative reform is needed to provide legal certainty and ensure the respect for the intent of European treaties. Read the full report here.


Context

European Democracy Consulting has carried out extensive research on European political parties — their structure, their electoral results, their funding, their visibility, and paths for their reform for a strengthened European democracy. As part of this effort, we have reviewed the distribution of European public funding among the various European parties, which is guided by Articles 17 and 19 of Regulation 1141/2014 on European political parties.

In the current framework, 90% of the sum allocated for the public funding of European parties is distributed in accordance with parties’ number of MEPs (the remaining 10% being distributed equally as a lump sum). Knowing which MEP belongs to (or, as we will see, is attributed to) which European party is therefore a key question, with a direct and major impact on the financing of European parties. As a reminder, public funding represents, in average, between 85 and 90% of European parties’ income.

Our research has identified specific discrepancies in the attribution of certain MEPs to a European political party. While these cases remain limited, they should not be dismissed as irrelevant. Firstly, the misattribution of even one or two MEPs can have significant consequences on the financing of smaller European parties where MEPs are in the single digits.

Secondly, the distribution of European public funding is a use of European taxpayers’ money, even if that money does not stem from direct European taxes on citizens; as such, the proper use of these funds, whatever the actual amount, must be closely monitored to ensure that it complies fully with applicable regulations.

Thirdly, our research shows that, beyond the specific cases identified, the distribution of public funding by the European Parliament has made use of a concept of “indirect membership” not found in EU law, going against the wording of Regulation 1141/2014, and, in practice, undermining the proper development of European parties and of their membership. For the benefit of the functioning of European parties and the strengthening of European democracy, this practice must be discontinued.

Unfortunately, the European Ombudsman, seized of the matter, chose not to assess the merits of the complaint and instead to refer it to the European Court of Auditor, finding it better placed to address this funding-related issue. The European Court of Auditors, in turn, claimed that its mandate does not encompass the handling of such complaints and limited itself to passing on this information to its audit department to inform future audit processes. Following this response, the Office of the European Ombudsman maintained that the Court of Auditors was better placed to address the complaint, thereby confirming its refusal to assess the claims brought forward.

The last lesson from this experience is therefore the difficulty to ensure the proper use of EU funds, when oversight bodies decide to shirk their responsibility. In our case, the administrative services of the European Parliament deny any wrongdoing, the European Ombudsman refuses to examine the content of the complaint, and the Court of Auditors refuses to consider complaints of third-parties.

Short of legislative reform initiated by the European Commission or introduced by MEPs, these discrepancies and ultra vires practices by the services of the European Parliament are bound to repeat themselves and continue unabated. We therefore call on the AFCO Committee, which is to examine the European Commission’s legislative proposals for the reform of European parties, to account for the shortcomings identified and to amend Regulation 1141/2014 to provide legal certainty and ensure the respect for the intent of European treaties with regards to the purpose and functioning of European political parties.


Our complaint against the European Parliament for failure to properly distribute funding to European political parties in accordance with Regulation 1141/2014, presented below, comprises two parts: the specific case of MEP Corina Cretu, and the general creation of the concept of “indirect” membership by the administrative services of the European Parliament.

Disclaimer: all bold sections of quoted documents are emphases added by European Democracy Consulting for the understanding of the reader.

The specific case of MEP Corina Cretu

Description of events

Context

Ms Corina Cretu was elected to the European Parliament in 2019 on the list of PRĂ” Romania, a national political party in Romania. At the European level, PRĂ” Romania is a member party of the European Democratic Party (EDP).

Ms Cretu had previously been a member of, and elected to the European Parliament on the list of, Romania’s Social Democratic Party (Partidul Social Democrat, PSD). At the European level, the Social Democratic Party is a member party of the Party of European Socialists (PES).

Ms Cretu herself has long been an individual member of the PES. In the European Parliament, since her first election as MEP in January 2007, upon the accession of Romania to the European Union, Ms Cretu has continuously sat with the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

Alongside Ms Cretu, Mr Mihai Tudose was also elected to the European Parliament, for his first mandate, on the list of PRĂ” Romania. On 6 January 2020, Mr Tudose changed political party and joined the Social Democratic Party. In the European Parliament, Mr Tudose has continuously sat with the S&D.

Aftermath of the election and distribution of European public funding

Documents published by the Authority for European Political Parties and European Political Foundations (APPF) and submitted by the EDP (July 2019) and by the PES (February 2020) reveal that, following the 2019 European elections, both parties listed Ms Cretu and Mr Tudose as part of “their” MEPs. However, by December 2019 (confirmed in February 2020), the EDP was already no longer listing Mr Tudose as part of its MEPs.

Following European parties’ applications for funding (submitted by 30 September 2019, for the year 2020), the Secretary-General of the European Parliament circulated a note to the members of the Bureau of the European Parliament on 9 December 2019. Annexed to this note was the list of names of MEPs allocated to each of the European political parties. This list, released by the European Parliament upon request from European Democracy Consulting, reveals that, in late 2019, the APPF and the European Parliament considered neither Ms Cretu and Mr Tudose as member either of the EDP or of the PES.1

A year later, following European parties’ applications for funding (submitted by 30 September 2020, for the year 2021), the Secretary-General of the European Parliament circulated a note to the members of the Bureau of the European Parliament on 11 December 2020. Annexed to this note was a list of the number of MEPs allocated to each of European political parties; for that year, however, MEPs’ names were not provided. This list revealed that the EDP had been allocated 9 MEPs, the number of MEPs it had itself declared, in a list which included Ms Cretu. Therefore, in late 2020, the APPF and the European Parliament considered Ms Cretu as a member of the EDP. In the absence of MEPs’ names, the case of Mr Tudose was left unclear.

Ms Cretu’s position

In November 2020, after having noted Ms Cretu’s presence on the lists of the EDP and the PES, European Democracy Consulting reached out to Ms Cretu in order to assess her own position concerning her party membership. Ms Cretu responded: “Yes, I am Member of PES, as political party. I am not Member of EDP and I was very clear from the very beginning that my Group is SD and, consequently, the party is PES. I was not aware until your email that EDP count me as their MEP.”

In an email to both European parties and to the APPF, and shared with European Democracy Consulting, Ms Cretu reiterated her position, saying: “I have expressed my willingness from the beginning of my mandate that I want to be a part of S&D political group and consequently the PES Party. For me it was a surprise and most probably a misunderstanding to find out that my name is appearing on EDP list. I would like to kindly ask the EDP leadership to withdraw my name from the list and to notify the Authority about the EDP actual party membership as well as to ensure that this is properly reflected in the documents provided to APPF.”

She added, in a further email to European Democracy Consulting: “I have just send a notification to the Members of European Parliament affiliated to EDP asking for withdrawal my name from their list and clarify the documents.”

Aftermath

To this day, despite Ms Cretu’s messages and subsequent follow-up by European Democracy Consulting with the EDP, no changes have been made to the documents issued by the EDP and later published by the APPF on its website.

Furthermore, in its recently published consolidated list of MEPs by European political party, the APPF itself lists Ms Cretu simply as a member of the EDP and of PRÔ ROMANIA, with no further information concerning Ms Cretu’s individual membership of the PES.

As a result, it is expected that, by 30 September 2021, the EDP and PES will once again apply for European public funding and both claim Ms Cretu as one of their own MEPs. It is likely that the APPF and the European Parliament will take the view that Ms Cretu’s membership should be allocated to the EDP.

Interpretation and consequences

Legal provisions

Regulation 1141/2014 contains two distinct areas relating to European parties’ membership: membership for the purpose of party registration (Article 3(1)(b)), and membership for the purpose of public funding (Article 17(3)).2 Given the scope of this complaint, we focus on this second area.

Article 17(3) of Regulation 1141/2014 (not amended since the original 2014 version of the Regulation) states that: “For the purposes of determining eligibility for funding from the general budget of the European Union […], a member of the European Parliament shall be considered as a member of only one European political party, which shall, where relevant, be the one to which his or her national or regional political party is affiliated on the final date for the submission of applications for funding.”
This provision is transcribed, with slight variations, in each year’s call for contributions — the process through which European political parties apply for European public funding from the European Parliament.

  • In 2018, the call read that “a multiple individual membership in several European political parties will result in excluding the mem­ber concerned”, but makes no reference to an MEP’s membership of a national political party.
  • In 2019, the call read that “a multiple individual membership of a Member of the European Parliament in several European political parties will result in considering the Member concerned as a member of only one European political party, which shall, where relevant, be the one to which his or her national or regional political party is affiliated on the final date for the submission of funding applications, excluding the member concerned”.
  • Since 2020, the calls have indicated that “membership of a Member of the European Parliament in several European political parties will result in considering the Member concerned as a member of only one European political party, which shall, where relevant, be the one to which his or her national or regional political party is affiliated”.
Applicability to the case of Ms Cretu

As we see from Regulation 1141/2014, there is no blanket interdiction — on MEPs or on any other individual — to belong to more than one European political party.3 Provisions to the contrary may be found in the statutes of the European parties themselves, at their discretion.

Article 17(3) of Regulation 1141/2014 itself does not limit MEPs’ right to belong to one or more European political parties. Instead, it indicates that, for the specific and limited purpose of determining European political parties’ eligibility for funding (and, consequently, the apportionment of such funding), MEPs who belong to more than one European political party will only be considered as a member of one of these European parties. It goes on to indicate how the choice of this party membership is made.

At first glance, according to Article 17(3), Ms Cretu should therefore, for the specific and limited purpose of eligibility to public funding, be considered a member of the EDP, since PRĂ” ROMANIA is a party member of the EDP.

However, Ms Cretu’s message leaves no doubt as to the status of her membership: she is a member of the PES, and is not (and has never been) a member of the EDP. Only PRÔ ROMANIA is (and was ever) a member of the EDP.

This distinction is essential in order to properly respect Ms Cretu’s right to be a member of the political party — including European political party — of her choice. As such, the joint Guidelines on Political Party Regulation of the OSCE/ODIHR and of the Venice Commission recall:4

141. It is vital to note that associations of individuals with political parties must be voluntary in nature. As indicated by the definition of political parties provided in this text and as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 20), all individuals must be free to belong to or abstain from joining associations as is their preference. Membership should be an expression of an individual’s free choice to utilize the collective means of a political party for the full enjoyment of his/her individual right to freedom of expression and opinion and the right to vote and stand for election.

142. The freedom of association not only includes the positive right to establish associations – like political parties – and to become member of such associations. In this freedom is also contained the negative right, implied in Article 11 ECHR and Article 21 ICCPR and explicitly recognised in Article 20(2) UDHR, not to participate and not to become a member. The case law of the ECtHR concerning the right not to join a trade union is equally applicable to the right not to become a member of a political party.

As stated in these Guidelines, the freedom to be a member of a political party contains the freedom not to be a member of a political party, and one cannot be, or be considered (since from this consideration derive direct legal and political consequences), a member of a European political party without one’s explicit consent — let alone against one’s will. As a result, Ms Cretu cannot be considered a member of the EDP by mere virtue of the party membership of PRÔ ROMANIA and against her will.

Accordingly, Ms Cretu is indeed not a member of the EDP and, therefore, not a member of more than one European political party. As indicated in the European Parliament’s calls for contributions, it is the “membership of a Member of the European Parliament in several European political parties” that would “result in considering the Member concerned as a member of only one European political party”.

Consequently, Ms Cretu does not have to “be considered as a member of only one European political party” in the sense of Article 17(3) and must instead be recognised (and not merely “considered”) by the APPF and the European Parliament solely as a member of the PES, for all purposes, including for the distribution of public funding.

Consequences

As indicated in section 1.1, documents provided by the European Parliament attest that:

  • In December 2019 (following the call for contributions issued in July 2019), Ms Cretu and Mr Tudose were considered neither as members of the EDP, nor of the PES.
  • In December 2020 (following the call for contributions issued in July 2020), Ms Cretu was considered as a member of the EDP.

According to Article 19(1) of Regulation 1141/2014, 90% of the public funds allocated for the financing of European political parties are distributed in proportion to European parties’ share of MEPs. According to Article 17(4) of Regulation 1141/2014, European political parties are allowed to receive a maximum of 90% of their annual reimbursable expenditure from European public funding. In practice, European public funding makes up between 80 and 90% of European parties’ income, making them extremely dependent on the amount allocated to them. Ensuring the proper apportionment and distribution of this public funding is therefore essential for European parties themselves and for the fair promotion of a European representative democracy.

As a result, the two decisions of the European Parliament indicated above had direct financial consequences for the funding of the European political parties in question:5

  • For the funding distributed in 2020, the EDP declared 10 MEPs following EP elections, but was considered to only have 8 members. The PES was considered to have 146 MEPs.
  • For the funding distributed in 2021, the EDP declared 9 MEPs and was considered to have 9 MEPs. The PES declared 142 MEPs following Brexit and was considered to have 139.

Complaint

Given the elements provided above and the consequences of the decisions made by the European Parliament, European Democracy Consulting calls on the European Ombudsman to recognise the errors made by the European Parliament in implementing Regulation 1141/2014 with regards to the distribution of European public funding. These errors constitute a clear case of maladministration with direct consequences on the rights of certain individuals, as well as on the use of EU funds.
With regards to Mr Tudose, in the absence of the EDP’s application for public funding, it is unclear whether the EDP listed him in as part of their MEPs. Since the deadline for applications was 30 September 2019 and Mr Tudose only changed parties in January 2020, it would seem likely that the EDP considered him a member MEP by the end of September 2019. If so, the reason for his consideration as a member of no European political party is unclear.

  • We therefore request the verification of the EDP’s application, an explanation of the European Parliament’s decision, and, depending on the EDP’s application, a revision of the European Parliament’s decision concerning Mr Tudose with regards to public funding attributed for the year 2020 with a view to considering him a member of the EDP by December 2019. Any financial consequences on the amounts of public funding received by European parties should be rectified.

With regards to Ms Cretu, two interlinked elements must be addressed. The first one is why, in the absence of changes in Ms Cretu’s own membership status and of PRÔ ROMANIA’s membership, Ms Cretu’s party membership was considered differently in December 2019 (member of no party) and in December 2020 (member of the EDP).

Secondly, given Ms Cretu’s clear indication of her exclusive membership of the PES and her absence of membership of the EDP, the European Parliament’s decision concerning the distribution of funding for the years 2020 and 2021 must be reviewed in order to properly reflect Ms Cretu’s continued membership of the PES.

  • We therefore request an explanation from the European Parliament for its differing assessments in December 2019 and December 2020, as well as a revision of the European Parliament’s decisions concerning Ms Cretu with regards to public funding attributed for the years 2020 and 2021 with a view to considering her a member of the PES for both years. The APPF should also amend its listing of MEPs’ party membership and request that the EDP update its list of member MEPs. Any financial consequences on the amounts of public funding received by European parties should be rectified.

It is directly in the public interest that the distribution of European public funding be carried out dutifully and in line with MEPs’ actual membership. Through this complaint, European Democracy Consulting therefore seeks to ensure that the distribution of EU funds — and, therefore, of European citizens’ money — was made dutifully and in line with MEPs’ actual membership, and to correct what appears to be administrative mistakes made by the European Parliament with regards to the distribution of public funding for the financial years 2020 and 2021.

The general concept of indirect membership

Context

The specific case of Corina Cretu discussed above does not take place in a vacuum. Instead, it is part of a general and long-running practice, set up and encouraged by the administrative services of the European Parliament, to rely on a concept of “indirect” membership in order to account for European political parties’ member MEPs.

In this sense, the above argument does not accuse the EDP of false declarations concerning its MEPs. Instead, the EDP merely failed to exercise any verification of the membership of the MEPs it claimed and followed a practice developed and recommended by the European Parliament.6

Direct and indirect membership

With slight variations in language, the yearly calls for contributions (see annex 3) — through which European political parties apply for European public funding — ask European parties to list their “direct” and “indirect” member MEPs. These refer, respectively, to MEPs who are individual members of a European political party, and to MEPs who are individual members of a national party that is itself a member party of (or is “affiliated” to) a European party.

As seen above, however, the notions of direct and indirect membership do not appear in Regulation 1141/2014. Likewise, these notions do not appear in the decisions of the Bureau of the European Parliament laying down the procedures for implementing Regulation 1141/2014 (see annex 1 of the report).

Instead, Article 19 of Regulation 1141/2014 states that the apportionment of public funding “shall be based on the number of [MEPs] who are members of the applicant European political party”.

The precise meaning of “members” is not defined in Article 2 (“Definitions”). However, Article 2(3) and Article 3 (“Conditions for registration”) indicate that a European political party is a “political alliance”, and Article 2(2) states that a political alliance is a cooperation “between political parties and/or citizens”. These definitions place political parties and citizens squarely on an equal footing as members of European political parties, and does not refer to citizens members of [national] political parties.

Other definitions closely linked to that of members are those of “donation” and “contribution”. In simple terms, donations and contributions are any amount of money or in-kind good or service provided to a European political party or foundation. The only difference being that a contribution is made by a member of a European party, while a donation is made by a non-member (in both cases, these can be either natural or legal persons).

At no point in these definitions is there a notion of “indirect membership”, whereby an amount of money provided by an individual member of a national party that is a member party of a European political party (but who is not him/herself an individual member of that European political party) would be considered a contribution (therefore provided by an “indirect” member of the European party) instead of a donation (by a non-member of the European party).

Therefore, the phrasing of Article 19 (MEPs “who are members of the applicant European political party”) can and should only refer to MEPs who are themselves individual members of European political parties. The meaning of this specific phrasing is further confirmed by its use in Article 32 (“Transparency”), which requires that the European Parliament make public “an updated list of Members of the European Parliament who are members of a European political party”, and not merely MEPs who are individual members of member parties of a European party.

Despite the absence of the concept of “indirect membership” in EU law, the European Parliament has made consistent use of it. In his report of 2016 on the funding of European political parties, the Secretary-General of the European Parliament even stated that “since the financial year 2013, Parliament follows the line that a Member of the European Parliament may only be a member of the political party at European level of which his or her national political party is a member. This interpretation is currently part of the annual calls for proposals for the grants.” This radical stance is later directly linked to Article 17(3) mentioned before.7

Since it is virtually impossible for any citizen to become an MEP without being affiliated to a national political party, such a blanket policy on behalf of the European Parliament nullifies any individual membership of a European party for MEPs, despite this being entrenched in Regulation 1141/2014 and an essential right for all citizens (see annex 1 of the report).

Consequences and interpretation

Impact on European political parties’ membership

The use, by the European Parliament, of the concepts of direct and indirect membership has had a direct and profound impact on the structure, membership and relevance of European political parties.

By allowing European parties to receive European public funding for MEPs merely members of national parties, the European Parliament may have sought to make it easier on European parties to receive a share of funding commensurate with the MEPs they broadly represent.

However, this practice has instead removed any requirement for MEPs to become individual members of European political parties and, in effect, removed a major interest in becoming a member (that is, to financially support your European party of membership). By doing so, it has therefore contributed to European parties’ grave deficit of individual members, since even elected officials (those most likely to be involved in party activities and decisions) do not need to become members.

In the absence of MEPs as a core group of individual members who would have demanded their individual membership to be associated with rights within the party, European parties have been hollowed as representative organisations and failed to develop any semblance of true internal democracy.8 Where at least a number of publicly and directly elected European representatives could have come together to take party decisions on behalf of their constituents, decision-making power has instead been left mostly to national party leaders. As a result, the statutes of European political parties, adopted mostly by the representatives of national parties, leave at best marginal rights, and oftentimes no influence to speak of, to their individual membership (see annex 2 of the report). When affiliated MEPs are granted rights, these do not stem from a true individual membership, but are instead granted ex-officio, often only for the duration of their term.

By doing so, recognising a so-called “indirect” membership has hampered the proper development of truly European parties — entrenching instead their essentially trans-national nature — and gone directly against the intent of Article 10(4) TEU, according to which “political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union” (see annex 1 report).

European partyMEPsIndividual members
ALDE71955
ECPM454
ECR544
EDP94
EFA90
EGP576
EPP17411
ID612
PEL29351
PES139138
Source: European Parliament9
Interpretation

In adopting both Regulation 2004/2003 and Regulation 1141/2014, the European Commission, as the initial drafter of those texts, and the European Parliament and Council, as co-legislators, have made a clear choice. They have chosen to keep the European party system strictly separate from the party systems of the Member States.

Instead of building an integrated pan-European political party system, akin to those found, for instance, in the federal systems of Germany and Austria — where political parties exist as a single entity acting across different administrative levels with a common membership — they have, for better or for worse, decided to entrench a strict distinction between European and national parties with strictly separate memberships. This choice has consequences that cannot be single-handedly undone by the administrative services of any EU institution.

One of these consequences is the strict separation between the membership of a national political party and the membership of a European political party, and, subsequently, the freedom retained by citizens — including MEPs — to choose not only their affiliation to a national party but also, independently (unless prohibited by the parties themselves), their affiliation to any European party. This is directly in line with freedoms recognised by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (see annex 1 of the report).

The rise of the concept of “indirect” membership flies in the face of such freedom, and its use by the European Parliament to favour automatic (and, in the case of Corina Cretu, unwanted) affiliation to a European party over individual (and, in Ms Cretu’s case, pre-existing) affiliation, is in violation of the choices made by the co-legislators in their Regulations and of the freedoms of MEPS.

In layman’s terms, Article 17(3) states that “if an MEP is a member of more than one European political party” (which is implicitly authorised by Regulation 1141/2014, and may be permitted by European parties themselves), “then the affiliation, for the purpose of funding, is the one matching the affiliation of the MEP’s national party.” The choice, for the purpose of public funding, of one of several party affiliations is necessary and legitimate.

However, this is extremely different from the European Parliament’s practice, confirmed in the Secretary-General’s report, which boils down to “if a national party is a member of a European political party, then its member MEPs are automatically members of that European party and, for the purpose of funding, any other party membership is moot.”

Since Article 17(3) states that a member of the European Parliament “shall be considered as a member of only one European political party”, this provision clearly refers to cases of double membership by MEPs themselves of European political parties, and not to the membership of a national party conflicting with a direct membership of a European political party.

This is why the case of Corina Cretu is so important: it seems to indicate that, in the practice of the European Parliament — spelled out in the calls for contributions and in the words of the Secretary-General of the European Parliament — and in contradiction with EU law, MEPs’ direct membership is inferior to their national party’s affiliation to a European party. Article 224 and 225 of the Financial Regulation make it clear that the calls for contributions must comply with Regulation 1141/2014 (see annex 1 of the report).

While this stance may be understandable for cases of double direct membership, the European Parliament has extended this principle to any direct membership differing from a national party’s affiliation.

Ms Cretu never registered as a member of the EDP, and the fact that she ran and was elected on the electoral list of PRĂ” ROMANIA does not, and should not, change this fact. Nowhere does Regulation 1141/2014 say that affiliation to a national party or list leads to an MEP’s membership to a specific European political party, let alone supersedes or cancels an MEP’s existing and direct membership of another European party.

Complaint

Given the elements provided above, European Democracy Consulting calls on the European Ombudsman to recognise the actions ultra vires of the European Parliament in creating and implementing a concept of “indirect membership” not found in or supported by Regulation 1141/2014 or any other source of EU law. These actions constitute a clear case of maladministration with direct consequences on the rights of MEPs, as well as on the use of EU funds.

  • We therefore request the recognition that the practice set up by the European Parliament in its calls for contributions is not in line with its administrative powers deriving from Regulation 1141/2014. The practice of considering an “indirect membership” as valid for the purpose of the distribution of EU funds should be discontinued, and only MEPs “who are [individual] members” of European political parties — meaning who have applied for individual membership and whose membership is valid and not tied to their position as MEPs — should be counted in the calculation leading to the apportionment of European public funding. This change should take effect for the distribution of European public funding for the year 2022, for which the call for contributions will close on 30 September 2021.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the case of Ms Corina Cretu exemplifies in the clearest manner the shortcomings of a long-running practice of the European Parliament with regards to the distribution of funding to European political parties.

A concept that may have been initially designed to simplify administrative process is in reality a dangerous overreach by the European Parliament’s administrative services, running against the spirit and the letter of Regulation 1141/2014.

In fine, not only does the notion of indirect membership bring only marginal administrative simplification, but it has contributed to the diminished role and importance of European parties as political actors “[contributing] to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union”, as enshrined in EU treaties, by way of their only directly elected European representatives.

Regardless of potential changes in Regulation 1141/2014 that may be brought about by European institutions, it is high time to give meaning to European citizens’ — and, in particular, MEPs’ — individual membership of European political parties. The first step in this essential process requires that advantages, including European public funding, conferred on European parties be not merely derived from the membership of national parties, but truly and only the result of a their own individual membership.

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  1. Note of the Secretary-General of the European Parliament to the Bureau (Dec. 2019): “As a practical arrangement between the Authority and the Parliament, the former controls the number of elected MEPs who are members of a European political party on the final date for the submission of applications for funding. The Authority then communicates the number to the European Parliament. The distribution of funds is based on the number of elected MEPs who are members of the beneficiary party on the final date for the submission of applications for funding.” []
  2. Since the 2018 revision of Regulation 1141/2014, individual MEPs can no longer sponsor the registration of European political parties; as a result, the impact of MEPs’ individual membership on party registration is very limited. []
  3. Article 3(1)(ba), introduced in 2018, does request that national political parties not be party members of more than one (registered) European political party; this does not apply to natural persons who are individual members of European parties. []
  4. Joint Guidelines of the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission on Political Party Regulation (2nd edition, 2020), CDL-AD(2020)032, available at https://www.legislationline.org/odihr-documents/page/guidelines and https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2020)032-e. []
  5. In late 2020, with 607 MEPs “allocated” to European political parties and an MEP-based sum of €41,400,000, each MEP directly endowed the European party s/he was allocated to with over €68,000 in public money. []
  6. This being said, with the 2019 election taking place in late May and the application for funding submitted by 30 September, it may somehow be understandable that the EDP would have assumed that Ms Cretu would be an EDP member following her election on the PRĂ” ROMANIA list. However, it becomes very surprising, to say the least, that a full year later, in September 2020, the EDP would still consider Ms Cretu a member, unbeknownst to her (as her email confirms). Surely, a year and a half should be sufficient time to realise that your supposed single MEP from a given Member State (and one of only 9 MEPs in total) is, in fact, not a member of your political party. []
  7. “For the purposes of determining eligibility for funding from the general budget of the European Union […], a member of the European Parliament shall be considered as a member of only one European political party, which shall, where relevant, be the one to which his or her national or regional political party is affiliated on the final date for the submission of applications for funding.” []
  8. For more details on the limited rights of individual members in European political parties, see Isabelle Hertner (2018): United in diversity? Europarties and their individual members’ rights, Journal of European Integration. []
  9. European Parliament, Number of individual members per European Political Party, May 2021, and Secretary-General of the European Parliament, Note for the attention of the Members of the Bureau of the European Parliament on the funding of European political parties and European political foundations for the financial year 2021, D(2020)33207, 11 December 2020 (annex 2, contribution calculation). []

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