The Socialists and Democrats call for clear minimum standards and rules, including a ban on foreign donations for political activities, to be implemented in all EU member states. This is necessary to reduce dark money inflows, increase transparency, and prevent foreign actors like Russia interfering in elections and referendum campaigns in Europe.
The S&Ds welcome the working document on covert funding of political activities by foreign donors, which was presented today in the special committee on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation (INGE).
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Andreas Schieder, S&D MEP and negotiator in the special INGE committee, said:
“In the last years, we have seen many attempts by foreign actors, most often from Russia, to destabilise our democratic processes by direct or indirect financing of political parties. No matter if it concerns the FPÖ in Austria, the Rassemblement National in France, the Brexit Campaign or the Lega in Italy - Russia always follows the same strategy. They deliberately seek out far-right extremist parties to recruit players within the European Union to help them strengthen their own position within Europe. In return, the far-right in Europe can count on very generous credit lines, or campaign contributions from Russia.
“This is possible because Russia and other actors benefit from the fact that electoral laws are not harmonised in the EU. They exploit many loopholes for covert foreign money, like funding through intermediaries, foundations, shell companies or funding on-line political ads or media outlets. We must close these loopholes. It is necessary to establish minimum standards of transparency to all parties over Europe and to limit foreign donations to them, or ultimately forbid it. Particularly, as rightly suggested in the INGE working document, we should prohibit shell companies from engaging in party financing, given that they hide the geographical source and origin of funding. Finally, we also have to limit the expenditures for political campaigns to reduce the influence through large donations.”
Pierfrancesco Majorino, S&D coordinator in the special INGE committee, added:
“There is an opaque, I would say almost occult level of use of funds and resources that we must unmask at all levels. I am convinced of the fact that the political world and the institutions have been badly prepared in recent years for interference from outside the European Union, and particularly from Russia. This is why we set up the special INGE committee, and it is essential that we continue our work to come up with concrete recommendations.
“We should harmonise the various national legislations. The fact that each country acts differently, or has different rules on political financing, leaves room for those from outside who want to interfere and want to promote their interests, and weaken European unity.
“The S&D Group is very determined to work to defend our European democracy from any external manipulation attempts. Because democracy is the will of the people and not the will of dark foreign money.”
Note to editors:
According to findings shared by experts with the INGE committee, over the past decade, Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes have funnelled more than $300 million in 33 countries to interfere in the democratic processes more than 100 times.