european parliment

The European Parliament is demanding that financial subsidies to far right parties be audited. (Image: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0)

EU to review party subsidies in bid to halt money flow to fascists

Publicerad 2016-05-12

Following revelations by Expo that millions of euros in EU subsidies have been granted to fascist and nazi party organizations, the subsidies are now being reviewed by the European Parliament's constitutional committee, as demanded by 280 lawmakers. 

"After Expo reported on the financing I pushed the alarm button, and this matter has moved at record speed by EU standards," Marita Ulvskog, MEP for the Swedish Social Democrats tells Expo.

Expo has revealed that the European Parliament has granted millions of euros to the far right European-level parties Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF) and Alliance of European National Movements (AENM). In total the subsidies amount to some 3 million euros. 

The news landed in the European Parliament like a bombshell. The fallout includes lawmakers and party group leaders sending letters in protest to the speaker of the parliament, Martin Schulz, and demanding that the party subsidies be investigated. Several vice presidents of the Parliament's bureau have also protested.

Now 280 MEPs from four different parliamentary party groups, spanning the political spectrum from left to right, have signed a petition invoking the so-called "rule 225" procedure. Put simply, this means the decision enabling the EU subsidies will be have to be reviewed. 

The petition has been submitted to Martin Schulz, along with demands that the payouts to the far right party associations be scrutinized once more, including examining whether their party programs and activities clash with the fundamental values of the EU. 

"What happened after I discovered this matter via Expo is that I pushed the alarm button. We want to review how this situation could arise. The committee will also look into whether these europarties are in violation of the EU statute on democracy and human rights," says Marita Ulvskog of the Swedish Social Democrats. 

"The petition has been to the speaker and it has already been processed, it will go on to the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and there the issue will be expedited. By EU standards, this has moved at record speed. We must make sure not to finance the activities of fascists," Ulvskog continues.

If they are found to be in violation of the EU's fundamental values, will the money be halted?

"I presume so. That is the whole purpose, but we must wait and see, so far the process has been very swift."

The MEP Fredrick Federley of Sweden's Centre Party has also been critical of the EU's granting of financial support to party associations which, in his view, are violating the EU's democracy requirement. He confirms that his parliamentary group, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, took up the petition on Wednesday.

"This started moving after Expo made us aware of this, the petition came to our group yesterday and our group leader has been very involved in this. I have signed the petition," Fredrick Federley says. 

In 2014, a similar petition made the rounds through the European Parliament. Back then, the issue was halting financial support for the far right EU association Alliance of European National Movements which had been granted hundreds of thousands of euros. The petition was approved and the rules and regulations for party subsidies were tightened.

But, as Expo's investigation has shown, the rules change did not amount to anything. The new, stricter regulations will not be implemented until 2017. This was something the lawmakers of the Parliament had apparently failed to note. 

The AENM has also been granted EU subsidies even after the attempt was made to stop such grants – something which has outraged lawyers in the prosecution against the Golden Dawn organization in Greece, among others. Both the APF and the AENM include representatives of Golden Dawn, a party which has seen all its domestic funding frozen by the Greek government which accuses it of being a criminal organization. 

The EU subsidies are thereby indirectly financing Golden Dawn, according to Greek lawyers that Expo has spoken to. Both Marita Ulvskog and Fredrick Federley are convinced that the same thing cannot happen again, however.

"We are using procedural rule 225, which means the payouts shall be stopped, period. Then it is over," Federley says.

"Earlier it was a budgetary issue, as I understand it. Now it is an issue for the constitutional committee. Those who do not live up to the statutes on democracy should not get any money," Marita Ulvskog says. 

Expo has tried to reach several Swedish MEPs to ask whether they have signed the petition, but they have not yet responded.

Translation: Morgan Finnsiö
Anna-Sofia Quensel, Daniel Vergara

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