Funding, both public and private, is an essential tool for political parties, regardless of the level at which they operate. In 2021, European Democracy Consulting published the first detailed analysis of European political parties’ donations and contributions to remedy the lack of contextual and visual information provided by the Authority for European Political Parties and European Political Foundations (APPF) on its website. Today, we are unveiling our annual update of this data with newly released figures for the financial year 2021. We hope that this data and visualisations will support journalists, researchers, decision-makers, and all interested European citizens, in better understanding the funding of our common European parties.
Summary and findings
This report updates and improves upon our previous analyses of European parties’ donations and contributions, and now covers four years between 2018 and 2021. It also provides a finer analysis of our data, a special focus on donations and unique donors above €3,000, and maps and flow charts for a better overview of the origin and destination of European parties’ private funding.
Overall, the continued difficulty to access financial information on European political parties, their extreme reliance on European public funding, and the almost non-existent role of small donations underline many shortcomings of Regulation 1141/2014, nine years after its adoption, and despite revisions in 2018 and 2019. Current negotiations between the European Commission, Parliament and Council do not seem likely to meaningfully improve this situation.
As trilogues continue on the reform of this Regulation, we call on the Parliament and Council to seize this opportunity and to strengthen transparency on the funding of European parties as much as the Commission’s recast method allows for.
Following our review, we can make the following recommendations in order to strengthen European parties’ private funding, in particular small donations from citizens, as well as the transparency of this funding.Strengthening private funding
Reporting donations and contributions
European political parties, like all other political parties, need money for their operations. Since 2004, they receive public funding from the European Union, in addition to their private fundraising. The current framework regulating European parties’ funding — including the structure of public funding and provisions on private funding — is detailed in Regulation 1141/2014.
The adoption of Regulation 1141/2014 also set up the Authority for European Political Parties and European Political Foundations (APPF), which is mandated to publish the donations and contributions received by European political parties. In a nutshell, “contributions” are defined as payments made by party members (individual member or national member parties), while “donations” are payments made by non-members, including companies and individuals.
However, contributions from individual members of European political parties (including their membership fees) fall through a loophole. Article 32(1)(f) requires the publication of contributions referred to in Article 20(7) (“Contributions to a European political party from its members”, so presumably from both member parties and individual members), but “reported in accordance with Article 20(2)”. Article 20(2), for its part, requires European parties to “transmit a list of all donors with their corresponding donations” and says that this requirement “shall also apply to contributions made by member parties of European political parties” — this time with no mention of contributions from individual members. As a result, the APPF must publish all the contributions transmitted to it by European parties, which they can receive them from both members parties and individual members, but European parties only need to transmit the ones from member parties, despite also transmitting all donations down to the smallest ones. It is unclear whether this situation is intentional; it also seems to go against established practice, since European parties fill in a template which explicitly has a field to transmit to the APPF its amount of contributions received from individual members.
For the first time, contributions from individual members appear on the list of donations and contributions received by several European political parties for the financial year 2021 (the most recent complete data to date1). Previously, for the financial year 2020, only the ECR indicated an amount for contributions by individual members. Since it seems unlikely that this practice would have started at the same time for five different parties, this may reflect a change in reporting or publication of this information. The APPF has not yet responded to our queries.
For these contributions, no information on the identity of the contributors or even on the number of such contributions received by each European party.
With regards to the information to be reported by the APPF, Article 32(1) requires the publication of:
(e) the names of donors and their corresponding donations reported by European political parties and European political foundations […] with the exception of donations from natural persons the value of which does not exceed EUR 1 500 per year and per donor, which shall be reported as ‘minor donations’. Donations from natural persons the annual value of which exceeds EUR 1500 and is below or equal to EUR 3000 shall not be published without the corresponding donor’s prior written consent to their publication. If no such prior consent has been given, such donations shall be reported as ‘minor donations’. The total amount of minor donations and the number of donors per calendar year shall also be published; (emphasis added)
(f) the contributions […] reported by European political parties and European political foundations […], including the identity of the member parties or organisations which made those contributions;
As a result of these provisions:
- annual donations from legal persons and donations from natural persons above €3,000 are always published with the name of the donor and the corresponding amount;
- donations from natural persons below €1,500 are grouped as minor donations;
- donations from natural persons between €1,500 and €3,000 are published with the name of the donor and their amount if the donor agrees, and as minor donations otherwise; and
- the sum total of contributions is published with the list of contributors, but without the disaggregated amounts.
Visualising donations and contributions
The shortcomings of the APPF in the implementation of its transparency obligations were already the subject of a complaint to the European Ombudsman by European Democracy Consulting.
In particular, European Democracy Consulting has long noted that financial information is not provided in open data format but in PDF files, and that no contextual or visual information is provided for the proper understanding of the published data. In her January 2021 decision, the European Ombudsman asked the APPF to provide information, in particular financial information, in open data format.
Additionally, it takes the APPF a disproportionate amount of time to publish information it received on donations and contributions; for instance, the PDF file reporting donations and contributions for the financial year 2021 is dated 20 January 2023, despite European parties being under the obligation to provide the APPF with this information at the latest six months following the end of the financial year — therefore by 30 June 2022. All these points drastically reduce the effective transparency of European parties’ private funding.
For the first time this year, the APPF published information on donations and contributions both in PDF and Excel formats. Likewise, partial information provided for the 2022 is available in both formats. This is an encouraging step forward and the APPF should be commended for it. However, data for the years 2018 to 2020 remains only available in PDF format — this data is, however, provided in Excel format by European Democracy Consulting as part of our dataset.
Overall, we are convinced that this limited transparency on the donations and contributions received by European political parties is detrimental to our European democracy. This is why European Democracy Consulting decided to remedy these shortcomings and to provide European citizens with relevant visualisations, which we seek to update on an annual basis. For reference purposes, we would like to indicate that the entire time dedicated to this work — including data collection, data analysis, visualisation design, and website editing — was merely a few days’ work.
Similar to last year’s edition, this year’s analysis includes the breakdown of parties’ private income between contributions from member parties, identified donations and minor donations, the evolution of these amounts between 2018 and 2021, a comparison between European parties’ private and public funding, specific visualisations for donations above €3,000 — for which the European Commission proposes additional due diligence measures, as well as maps and flow charts for a clear overview of the origin of identified donations and member party contributions.
The related dataset can be found here.2
Visualising donations and contributions
Amounts and shares
The first visualisation presents the simplest of overviews and shows the sum totals of donations and contributions received by the current ten registered European political parties between 2018 and 2021, with the possibility to narrow down the time span.
As per the provisions of Regulation 1141/2014 and the data provided by the APPF, each party’s income is split between member party contributions, individual contributions, identified donations (donations for which the identity of the donor is known), and minor donations (which are reported together as an anonymous single amount).
Immediately, we note great disparities between the private funding collected by the various European parties, with the EPP and PES largely leading the raising of private funds. The picture is less clear for the remaining parties, with four parties above and below the one-million-euro mark (in increasing order, the PEL, ECR, EGP and ALDE) and four others around €400,000 (the ECPM, EDP, ID and EFA).
Since the EPP and PES are also clearly the largest parties, these discrepancies beg the question of whether larger European parties fare better in the raising of private funds than smaller European parties. This question can be answered by looking at amounts of private funds raised pro rata of European parties’ number of MEPs or of their reimbursable expenditure (the category of expenses used to calculate how much European parties can receive).3 This is a major argument used by the European Commission, in its recast of Regulation 1141/2014, to justify its proposal to lower European parties’ co-financing rate (the amount of private funding requested as a share of European parties’ budget) from 10% in the current Regulation down to a proposed 5% (and even 0% in election years).
Under this angle, the data looks very different, and there are no signs that smaller European parties face more difficulties in private fundraising compared to larger ones. When looking at private funding pro rata of European parties’ number of MEPs, the ECPM, the smallest party in terms of MEPs, is a clear outlier, far outpacing all others in the amount of donations and contributions raised per MEP (with over €93,000 raised per MEP between 2018 and 2021). Then come the EDP, EFA, and PEL, raising between €46,000 and €35,000 per MEP). The majority of European parties, including all the largest parties, oscillates between €25,000 and €30,000 per MEP, noticeably below smaller parties. With €11,000 per MEP, ID finds itself far behind all other European parties.
When looking at private funds pro rata of European parties’ reimbursable expenditure,4 differences are less pronounced, but the EDP and PEL stand ahead, with their private funding making up 16-18% of their reimbursable expenditure. The bulk of European parties oscillates around 12-13%. Neither pro rata views therefore show larger parties fairing better than smaller ones in raising private funds.
From our first visualisation, we also note that member party contributions form, in most cases, the vast majority of the private funding raised by European parties. A second visualisation looks at this point in more detail and shows the respective percentages of each type of funding. This view confirms the importance of member party contributions, which represent 100% of private income for four out of the ten European political parties, and over 95% for another three of them. The remaining three European parties form an heterogeneous group, with member party contributions reaching close to 80% for ALDE, just under 50% for the ECR, and just over 35% for the ECPM.
As a result of the weight of member party contributions, donations and individual contributions only play a very limited role in European parties’ financing. Donations are nonexistent for four in ten European parties, and remain under 5% for another three. They only form a non-negligible share for three European parties: 22% for ALDE, 42% for the ECR, and 64% for the ECPM. But, even in these last cases, the amounts in question are low: the ECPM’s 64% actually only amount to just over €240.000 over four years (an average of €60,000 a year). In all cases, minor donations remain marginal, only reaching just over 10% for the ECPM.
Likewise, individual contributions only play a fractional role. For only one party, the ECR, do they represent a non-negligible share, with 11%. Contributions by individual members account for less than 1% for ALDE, and, for the remaining three parties for which they are reported (ECPM, EPP, and PEL), the amounts are so low that they do not appear in the visualisation. Given the doubt over their proper reporting in previous years, we can choose to focus on the financial year 2021 alone, but results are largely similar — only showing an increase for ALDE and the ECR.
Evolution over time
In the previous visualisations, we looked at sum totals for the period 2018-2021 (or specific years) to compare the amounts of donations and contributions raised by the various European political parties. Let us now analyse this information with a time perspective, which provides two main conclusions.
The first observation is that there are no discernible trends in the evolution of donations and contributions raised by European parties. Between 2018 and 2021, we see ALDE, the EPP and the PES raising less money every year before rebounding, the ECPM, ID and PEL structurally decreasing, the ECR and EGP increasing their private income (but with a final decrease for the ECR), and the EDP and EFA being rather constant over time.
Not only is no overall trend, but the 2021 figures do not confirm previous trajectories for most of the parties where a trend could have started to form over the past three years: for the EPP and PES, 2021 marked a break with a continuous decrease in private funding, while for the ECR it marks a sharp decrease to pre-2019 levels after two years of promising growth.
Given the organisation of the 2019 elections and the occurrence of Brexit, recent years show notable year-on-year changes in European parties’ number of MEPs. However, even calculating European parties’ private funds pro rata of their number of MEPs for each year — in order to mitigate these fluctuations –, there remain major variations.7
Likewise, the evolution of European parties’ reimbursable expenditure does not seem to account for these variations. When analysing the evolution of private funding as a share of reimbursable expenditure, amounts are not stable over time and no trends can be identified.
The second observation seems to be, for most European parties, a rather stable share of donations, as a fraction of overall private funding raised. Parties that do not rely on donations to a significant extent tent to maintain a low or null share of donations. The picture is less clear for parties that do rely more on private donations: while the ECR has seen a significant decrease over time, the ECPM has had consistently high rates, and ALDE has stabilised since 2019. If confirmed, this would seem to indicate that European parties have rather stable fundraising practices — with some regularly relying on donations, and other continuously operating without them (whether or not this is their intention).
Yearly donations above €3,000
In November 2021, following the European Parliament’s adoption of an implementation report on Regulation 1141/2014, the European Commission published its own legislative proposals to reform the framework on European political parties. As part of these proposals, Article 23.5 (a new addition to the previous Article 20) would require European parties to carry out due diligence measures in order to properly identify their donors for donations above €3,000 and to transmit this information to the APPF upon its request.8 The text adopted by the European Parliament adopted clarified this provision but kept the same threshold.9 The partial general approach of the Council, however, proposed to bring this threshold down to €1,500.10 Trilogue discussions remain on-going.
While generally welcoming due diligence measures as a way to improve financial transparency regarding the funding of political parties, European Democracy Consulting decided to take a closer look at the effective impact of this proposed measures.
Before any analysis, we note that the European Commission’s proposal seemingly applies to single donations the value of which is above €3,000. Both the Parliament and Council propose to apply this threshold instead to cumulative annual donations from a single donor. The figures reported by the APPF are yearly aggregates, which means that values reported above €3,000 may actually comprise two or more donations under €3,000 — or could easily be donated as such in order to avoid scrutiny. This loophole is easily remedied to, should the final phrasing be in line with the Parliament’s or Council’s proposals.
Overall, the main observation is the limited reach of these due diligence measures when applied to a threshold of €3,000. On the one hand, donations above €3,000 may be considered relevant in terms of total amounts. Out of ten registered European parties, three have never reported donations (EDP, EPP and PES), and another three have never reported identified donations above €3,000 (EGP, ID and PEL). Yet, for the remaining four parties, donations above €3,000 do constitute a substantial share of all donations, around 70% for ALDE, the ECPM and the EFA, and over 95% for the ECR. Nevertheless, between 2018 and 2021, yearly donations above €3,000 only accounted for 4% of all donations and contributions, for a total sum of €260,000 per year for all European parties combined.
On the other hand, in terms of numbers of donors with yearly donations above €3,000 (which, once again, can easily be higher than the number of actual donations above €3,000, should the Commission phrasing be retained), these due diligence measures would concern very few donors: an exceptional 76% of the ECR’s combined yearly donors (41 unique donors), but only 4.9% for the ECPM (14 unique donors), 1.2% for ALDE (17 unique donors), and 0.8% for the EFA (1 unique donor).
Note: the difference between “donors” and “unique donors” is that a given donor may make yearly donations above €3,000 for several years, and therefore be recorded several times. Additionally, the names reported in APPF documents may differ from year to year, but closer analysis sometimes reveals that the actual entity is the same. This work is unfortunately not possible with minor donations, since the identity of the donor is not revealed.
But the sheer amount of these yearly donations or the number of donors are not all there is to this. The goal of due diligence measures is to identify the ultimate donor, in order to provide full transparency over who funds political groups. But it may be that the ultimate donor is already known. European Democracy Consulting therefore split donors with yearly donations of €3,000 or above into three groups.
The first group comprises individual donors. For donations above €3,000, individual donors are required to provide their identity. Due diligence measures are unlikely to provide any significant information about them and it may be impossible to ascertain whether the donation really came from the individual in question or whether it was made on behalf on someone else. Investigations may provide more information, but not simple due diligence measures.
The second group is made up of what we call “clearly identified actors”; these are legal persons which are well-established and easily recognisable. Falling into this category are companies (such as Microsoft, Uber or AT&T), non-EU member parties (including, but not limited to, former member parties from the United Kingdom), or well-known lobbies or foundations (such as the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Fooddrinkeurope, or the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association). These actors are clearly identifiable and already publicly provide ample information about themselves, making due diligence measures of limited added value.
Finally, the third category gathers all other legal entities, for which limited information may easily be available — this includes many smaller and little-known companies, foundations and interest groups.
While this categorisation may seem arbitrary, it is likely to match the risk-based decision-making process of the APPF before requesting due diligence information from European parties, as it is unlikely to request such information for clearly identified actors, and would instead focus on lesser-known entities.
Out of these three categories, due diligence measures are therefore likely to be truly beneficial only for this last category, further reducing these measures’ effective benefit. Out of all yearly donations above €3,000 indicated above (for the four European parties that have received them), the “other” category makes up under 53% of the number of unique donors, and just over 45% in total value. This means that, over the course of four years, these proposed due diligence measures may provide added transparency, at a maximum (that is, if these are indeed single contributions above €3,000 and if the APPF actually requests that information from European parties), for €468,500, and 38 unique donors — out of a total of over 2,500 total donors.11
Private v. Public funding
The main purpose of this review is to shed light on European political parties’ sources of private funding, including the amounts and shares of donations and contributions, and their breakdown into sub-categories.
It is also enlightening, however, to take a step back and compare European parties’ private funding to the public funding they receive, under Regulation 1141/2014, from the general budget of the European Union.12
As noted before, European public funding represents the vast majority of European political parties’ funding, making them both extremely reliant on public funding and very independent from private donations and contributions, beyond their need to reach the 10% co-financing rate established by Regulation 1141/2014. European political parties’ share of donations and contributions is consistent across the board.
While the focus of this report is the private funding raised by European political parties, we note that European parties’ actual share of public funding is much higher than these figures suggest. Indeed, we have seen that the majority of European parties’ private funding is made up of contributions by member parties, and member parties are themselves heavily funded by public money at the national level.
Note: since current figures provided by the European Parliament’s Political Structures Financing Unit for the financial year 2021 are very far from final figures, the amounts for that year are considered equal to the figures for the financial year 2020 — these figures are far more likely to fairly predict 2021 figures than either the maximum grants awarded to European political parties or the temporary data provided by the European Parliament.
Mapping donations and contributions
In addition to identity and value, which we have used to compute total amounts, shares, evolution and categories of donors, there is one additional piece of information provided by the APPF in its reporting: the country of origin of donations and contributions. It is therefore useful to map this geographical information in order to better understand the financial flows received by European parties.
The main limitation here is the lack of data. On the one hand, the APPF provides country information for donations from legal persons and for donations from individuals above €3,000 (and between €1,500 and €3,000, provided they have given their agreement — which none seem to have done). However, we know that these donations are limited in numbers and value.
On the other hand, the APPF provides country information for contributions from member parties, but without indicating the matching value of the contribution (only the sum total of contributions per European party), meaning we can know whether member party X from country Y gave a financial contribution, but not whether that contribution is €1 or €1 million. European political parties may provide that information separately, for instance on their website.
As a result, we have detailed information on a few donations, and only partial information on the much larger member contributions. Finally, no geographical information is provided for minor donations or contributions from individual members.
Despite this incomplete information, we are able to provide the following visualisations as a first step in the study of the origin of European political parties’ private funding.
The analysis of European political parties’ private funding highlights a number of shortcomings in the current legal framework of Regulation 1141/2014, both with regards to the scale of this funding and to the transparency of financial data. In order to strengthen European parties’ private funding, in particular small donations from citizens, as well as the transparency of this funding, European Democracy Consulting makes the following recommendations.
Strengthening private funding
- Increase European parties’ co-financing rate. European parties’ co-financing rate (the share of their budget which must come from private funding) has periodically decreased from 25% to 10%; the Commission now proposes to bring it down to 5%, and to 0% in elections years. Despite European parties’ difficulties in raising private funds, this funding is essential in pushing European parties to reach out to citizens and receive their funding. We have seen that, contrary to the Commission’s argument, smaller European parties actually raise more private funding pro rata of their number of MEPs than larger ones. By continuing to decrease this rate, we are therefore not supporting smaller parties, but instead entrenching the disconnect between European parties and citizens. Instead, this rate should return to higher levels, as an incentive for European parties to talk to citizens.
- Reward the raising of donations. Currently, the maximum amount of public funding that European parties can receive is, in its vast majority, based on European parties’ number of member MEPs. This means that, beyond retaining their MEPs, European parties have no direct incentive to raise more donations. By contrast, part of the EU’s public funding should be attributed to European parties using a matching fund, whereby every euro raised from private donations (which excludes member party contributions) would be matched with a fixed amount of public funding — for instance, €0.50. Brackets could be used to make this system regressive — for instance, €0.50 per euro for the first €500,000 raised, and €0.30 after that. Since most European parties do not receive any donations to speak of, an even more highly regressive system, strongly rewarding the first tranches, can help kick-start this private fundraising process. Finally, a ceiling can be set to avoid unexpectedly high costs — for instance, only the first €1 million of private funding would be matched with public funding.
- Limit member party contributions. As we have seen, the vast majority of private funding is actually made up of member party contributions, and is therefore not the result of direct fundraising from the general population by European parties. In order to prevent the capture of European parties by national parties, Regulation 1141/2014 already states that these contributions should not exceed 40% of a European party’s budget. Given European parties’ extreme dependence on public funding, no European party has ever come close to that threshold. However, in order to incentivise European parties to directly raise funds from citizens, a provision should request that member parties’ contribution should not exceed a given share of the total amount of private funds raised — this share could start at 90% (mostly affecting European parties which currently do not receive any donations) and progressively decrease to 50%. This would force European parties to obtain a larger part of their private funding from donations or contributions by individual members.
- Provide separate deadlines for financial reporting by European parties. Currently, Regulation 1141/2014 requires European parties to provide “the list of donors and contributors and their corresponding donations or contributions” alongside their annual financial statements and external audit reports at the latest six months following the end of the financial year (30 June). However, preparing financial statements and having an audit carried out takes much longer than the mere compilation of donors and contributors. There is therefore no objective reason to provide a single deadline and, as a result, to wait so long for the information on donations and contributions to be made available to the APPF and, later, to the general public. Regulation 1141/2014 should therefore include a separate and shorter deadline for the transmission of financial data on donations and contributions by European parties to the APPF. This would allow the APPF to stagger its work and start its review of donations and contributions earlier on. For instance, European parties could be given one month to share the information with the APPF and, if necessary, an additional two weeks for rectifications.
- Set up deadlines for the publication of donations and contributions and other financial information by the APPF and the European Parliament. While European parties are requested to share their financial information under a fixed deadline, Regulation 1141/2014 does not impose any time limits on the APPF for the publication of financial information. As a result, the APPF has regularly taken seven to eight months to check donations and contributions — for instance, information for the year 2021 was not made fully available until February 2023. This is all the more disconcerting given the limited number of donations and contributions made to European parties. Mindful of the important checks carried out by the APPF, Regulation 1141/2014 should contain a time frame for the release of this information by the APPF — for instance, a maximum of three months. This provision should go hand-in-hand with the previous recommendation, whereby the APPF would be able to start verifying donations and contributions before receiving European parties full financial statements and audit reports. Likewise, the European Parliament has no deadline for the publication of the information it is responsible for under Regulation 1141/2014. As a result, European parties’ financial statements (provided within six months of the end of the financial year) are published far too late for proper transparency; as of March 2023, the most recent financial statements published dated back to 2021 and final figures for public funding date back to the financial year 2020. Finally, European parties’ applications for European public funding, which contain useful financial information and are currently not published at all, should be made public as soon as they are submitted.
- Publish financial information in open, machine-readable data format, including data for previous years. As we have noted, the APPF has started publishing information in machine-readable format. This is a welcome step forward, but does not yet apply to previous years. While our dataset provides this information for all, we believe it should be provided by European institutions themselves. This should also apply to information published by the European Parliament.
- Publish the value of financial contributions made by member parties. European parties are already required to provide the APPF with a list of the contributions they have received, along with the name of the contributors. However, the APPF only publishes the sum total of these contributions, along with the names of the member parties contributing. The value of single contributions made by member parties should be detailed. Additionally, more details should be provided on contributions by individual members, in line with requirements on donations.
- Review the notions of contributions and donations. Contributions are, by and large, financial contributions made by members, be they member parties or individual members; donations are, by and large, financial contributions made by non-members. However, contributions made by individual members fall into a loophole and are not mentioned in the information to be reported under Article 23 (although they seem to appear in European parties’ financial statements). In order to avoid such loopholes, contributions should be redefined as membership-related mandatory financial contributions, while donations should be any voluntary financial contribution — regardless of whether they were made by members (in addition to their mandatory membership fee) or non-members.
- Ensure the publication of single donations. Regulation 1141/2014 requests the APPF to publish “the names of donors and their corresponding donations […] with the exception of donations from natural persons the value of which does not exceed EUR 1500 per year and per donor, which shall be reported as ‘minor donations'” (and donations with a yearly value between €1,500 and €3,000 require the consent of the donor for publication). However, while the threshold for reporting is the amount of donations per year, this language does not make clear whether reported amounts should be aggregated per year or not. This provision should therefore be amended to clearly state that the value of single contributions (when their yearly total meets a given threshold) should be published.
- Lower the ceiling of anonymous donations. As we have seen, donations under €1,500 per year are not reported separately, but instead grouped as “minor donations”, while yearly donations between €1,500 and €3,000 require the consent of the donor for the publication of their name. Since there are a number of minor donations reported (under €1,500) as well as donations over €3,000 made by individuals, it seems unlikely that no donations between €1,500 and €3,000 would have ever been made. And yet, no such donations have even been reported by the APPF. There is therefore a strong suspicion that no individual has ever voluntarily agreed to disclose their identity when this choice is given, which would render the idea of a low €1,500 threshold moot. In order to simplify the donation process and increase transparency, we therefore propose to remove the question of consent and to lower the ceiling for anonymous donations to €500: all donations above would made public, and all donations below would be anonymous and grouped as “minor donations” (unless a single donor makes several such donations for a total of over €500).
- Clarify that due diligence thresholds apply to yearly donations. As detailed above, the European Commission is proposing that European parties carry out due diligence measures for donations above €3,000. This proposal should be amended to specify that this threshold applies to donations per year, and not to single donations. Additionally, in line with the recommendation above, this threshold could be lowered — for instance, to €1,000.
- Automatically publish due diligence information for all donations by legal persons. The Commission’s proposal request European parties to carry out due diligence measures for donations above €3,000; however, this information should only be reported upon the APPF’s request. Since European parties are required an extra effort to properly identify donors, this information should in all cases be reported by European parties to the APPF and published by the APPF alongside donations, in line with their respective reporting modalities.13
- Provide contextual and visual information on financial data. Finally, this entire analysis exercise by European Democracy Consulting aims at palliating the absence of visibility and readability for the information published by the APPF. While publishing this information in open data format will be useful for scrutiny by the press and researchers, it will not do anything for citizens visiting the APPF’s website. We therefore reiterate that, in order to provide actual transparency on the financing of European political parties, the APPF should be required to provide contextual and visual information, including tables, charts and other visualisation tools, to make this financial information clearly understandable to citizens. We are mindful of the work required for this goal and continue to advocate for an increase of the APPF’s staff and financial resources in order to properly carry out an extended mandate.
Overall, transparency measures under Regulation 1141/2014 have constituted an improvement and the modalities of their implementation continue to evolve. However, the continued difficulty to access this financial information and to properly makes sense of it underlines many of this Regulation’s shortcomings, eight years after its adoption and despite amendments in 2018 and 2019. Likewise, the current framework on the funding of European political parties has shown to make European parties overly dependent on public funding and to drastically limit their need for outreach to citizens. This year’s analysis confirms our previous findings and the circumscribed role played by small donations.
Unfortunately, the European Commission’s choice to rely on the recast method to amend Regulation 1141/2014 has dramatically circumscribed the possibility to improve funding and transparency provisions. As discussions continue in trilogue, we encourage the Parliament and Council to be bold in their agreement and to maximise gains on transparency before a much-needed overhaul of the framework on European political parties.
European Party Flashcards
- The APPF already publishes information on donations above €12,000 for the financial year 2022, as these must be reported more often. These donations are not included in this analysis.
– APPF webpage dedicated to donations and contributions: http://www.appf.europa.eu/appf/en/donations-and-contributions.html.
– Amounts of public funding for European parties provided by the European Parliament: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/contracts-and-grants/files/political-parties-and-foundations/european-political-parties/en-funding-amounts-parties-2023.pdf
- We are mindful that the financial data in question covers the period 2018-2021 and that each European party’s number of MEPs changes noticeably from year to year — pre-2019 elections, post-2019 elections but pre-Brexit, and post-Brexit. For the calculation of values pro rata of each European party’s number of MEPs, we therefore use the number of MEPs for the year in question. For each year, the data on MEPs stems from figures used by the European Parliament to distribute public funding, and obtained by European Democracy Consulting by a request of access to documents.
- Data for European parties’ amount of reimbursable expenditure stems from figures provided by the European Parliament in European parties’ closure of accounts, and obtained by European Democracy Consulting by a request of access to documents. Since figures for 2021 are not yet available, they were considered constant with comparison to 2020.
- Or donations from natural persons between €1,500 and €3,000 for which the donor has consented to their identification.
- Donations from natural persons under €1,500 or between €1,500 and €3,000 for which the donor has not consented to their identification.
- Of course, since European elections take place in May, a party may be able to receive substantial donations in the first half of the year and yet see its number of MEPs crumble following the elections: this lower number of MEPs for the year (calculated at the end of the year) would then lead to a high amount per MEP for the year in question. This may explain the strong divergences experienced by the ECPM, which lost half of its MEPs following the 2019 elections (down from 6 to 3).
- “For all donations the value of which exceeds EUR 3000, European political parties and European political foundations shall request donors to provide the necessary information for their proper identification. European political parties and European political foundations shall transmit the information received to the Authority upon its request.”
- “In respect of all donations from a single donor with a cumulative annual value of more than EUR 3 000, European political parties and European political foundations shall request that such donors provide the necessary information so that they can be properly identified. European political parties and European political foundations shall transmit the information received to the Authority upon its request.”
- For all donations the value of which exceeds EUR 1500 per year and per donor, European political parties and European political foundations shall request donors to provide the necessary information for their proper identification. European political parties and European political foundations shall transmit the information received to the Authority upon its request.
- But not unique donors.
- In this review, “private funding” is understood as the sum of private contributions and donations received by a European party. However, these may not be the sole sources of private funding received by European parties. As a result, it is possible that the indicated share of “private funding” falls below the co-financing rate of Regulation 1141/2014.
- Donations above €12,000 and donations made within six months of European elections are reported and published on an expedited basis.