MEPs force rethink on 'far-right' funding
15 March, 2012
By Andy Carling
There was outrage among MEPs across the political spectrum in February, when the Bureau of the European Parliament, (which administers the Parliament and comprises the presidents, and MEPs voted onto the body by their peers,) decided to allocate funds to two pan-European political 'parties' that comprise several of the continent’s most 'extreme' parties.
The 'party' up for funding was the Alliance of European Nationalist Movements (AEMN), which consists of the Belgian Front National, Hungary’s Jobbik, Italian Tricolour Flame, Portugal’s National Renovator Party, Spain’s Republican Social Movement, Sweden’s National Democrats, Ukraine’s Svoboda and the British National Party. Although Marine Le Pen left the group, Front National MEP Bruno Gollnisch (NI, FR) is the president of the Alliance, British MEP Nick Griffin (NI, UK) is vice president [how appropriate] and Jobbik’s MEP Béla Kovács is treasurer.
The objections from deputies arose from Article 3(c) of the requirements for meeting funding requirements, stating that a pan-European 'party' “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”.
Andrew Duff MEP (ALDE, UK) wrote to newly elected Parliament President, Martin Schulz: “I note that the AEMN has no website and does not self-evidently publish its programme, so I must ask how the secretary general and the Bureau came to the conclusion that these qualitative criteria are met.”
Several members of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group also wrote to complain and it is understood that some UK socialist deputies were pushing for all funding to pan-European 'parties' to be halted for 2012, even though it would heavily hit their own group and the [so-called] Party of European Socialists.
EPP MEP and secretary general of the 'party' Antonio López-Istúriz strongly criticised the decision at the latest EPP political assembly. It is known that he was infuriated by the decision from day one.
Many are also furious at Parliamentary officials whose report stated the new 'far right party' met the criteria, leaving Bureau members to believe they had no choice other than to approve the funding.
The decision was also seen as aligning the Bureau against the Parliament’s long record of opposing racism and xenophobia: "how can the Parliament be against racism, yet fund parties that spread it?" members asked [hypocritically].
Austrian Hannes Swoboda, Socialist group leader, raised the issue at the Conference of Presidents and was successful in asking for a full investigation into the 'far-right' Alliance’s commitment to the rights in Article 3(c).
This does not mean that the funding has been blocked, but few expect it to go ahead and there is a planned tightening of the rules for applications after 2012.