Since 2003, the European Parliament has paid for pan-European political parties. There are currently 13, and each is funded in proportion to the number of MEPs who support it. The little ones might get a couple of hundred thousand euros a year. The behemoths – the Party of European Socialists and the European People’s Party – qualify for several millions….Europe’s various fascist movements recently buried their mutual loathing for long enough to set up such a party, which means that they qualify for, by my reckoning, a little under €300,000 a year. Most MEPs have reacted with drooling horror. But, under the current system, there is no question that the BNP, Jobbik and the rest are eligible for their share. The best legal brains in the European Parliament examined the matter, but could find no loophole…
When the law doesn’t serve their purpose, Euro-integrationists are quick to discard it. They are currently amending the rules so that a party can be deprived of funds if it fails to uphold ‘European values’. Who will determine whether it meets the criteria? In the last analysis, a plenary vote of the European Parliament. In other words, the question of whether a party qualifies will be in the hands of its political opponents, who will have a direct financial interest in barring it since, if it is dissolved, its share of the funding will be divided among the other parties.
If that doesn’t alarm you, it should. The de-registration of opposition movements is the favoured tactic of dictators the world over. Most autocracies now hold regular elections: Iran, China, Zimbabwe. But participation in those elections is restricted to approved parties. A Polish MEP, shocked by the current proposal, told me: ‘This is exactly what the Communists did. They didn’t ban elections. They just banned the people they didn’t like from contesting the elections’.
Depriving a party of funds is not the same as preventing it from fielding candidates, of course. But the principle has now been established that some parties, in effect, get to sit in judgment on others.
It’s ironic that there are some in Poland’s political class who want to take their country deeper into this swamp.
And should any party (regardless of ideology) be subsidized by the taxpayer? No, but that’s a different question.
Incidentally, that phrase ‘European values’ seems to be coming up rather a lot recently. As the Daily Telegraph reported the other day (and I posted here), a “high level” EU panel recently concluded it was time that the press was brought to heel:
“The national media councils should follow a set of European-wide standards and be monitored by the Commission to ensure that they comply with European values,” the [panel’s] report said.
I think that it’s becoming pretty clear what those ‘European values’ really are.