Will the European Parliament please stand up ?

The European Parliament is supposedly tasked with scrutiny of EU activities and at last it seems like some MEPs have started demanding answers on the expenditure and the paid promotion of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Over 20 parliamentarians led by Swedish MEP Charlie Weimers (ECR) have asked the Commission to come clean on the expenditure of the Conference. Together they write:

Last year the European Parliament offered funding opportunities for activities linked to the Conference on the Future of Europe(1)(2). Social media campaigns indicate that taxpayers’ money is being used to generate youth and civil society engagement as well as media coverage of the conference(3).

A majority of Parliament voted to reject a ‘commitment to full transparency’ relating to the funding of the conference(4). EU institutions use separate budgets to finance the conference, and no information pertaining to the financing or grants awarded in connection with the conference is available on the official conference website.

Considering that transparency and openness of decision-making procedures are foundational values of the EU and essential to a system under the rule of law:

1. Can the Commission account for the total budgetary impact of the conference, and what is the breakdown of the expenditure per type of activity funded?

2. Can the Commission provide a list of all calls for proposals and tenders, and all grants awarded in relation to the conference?

3. Will it show its commitment to transparency by ensuring relevant financial information is easily accessible, for example on the ‘about’ page of the official conference website?

Four German MEPs from the ID group have asked the Commission about the official conference platform.

On 19 April 2021, the multilingual digital platform for the Conference on the Future of Europe was launched. Could the Commission please answer the following questions on this platform:

1. How much is the Commission planning to spend on visibility and communication campaigns to promote this digital platform to EU citizens?

2. Given the low initial participation rates, is there a minimum number of participants required to validate this digital platform as being a fair representation of the views of all EU citizens?

3. Online democracy platforms face a significant risk of manipulation through fake accounts and bots, which have the potential to distort the popularity of the ideas and initiatives proposed on this platform. What measures are in place to ensure that the reliability of this platform is not affected by malicious users?

Let’s hope the Commission decides to live up to all the talk of transparency and sunshine and comes clean with regard to the financing of the Conference. In the meantime we await the 30th of June publication by the European Parliament of the 2020 grant recipients.

Follow the Money – Part one: The European Parliament

MILLIONS of taxpayers money will be spent by the EU parliament (EP) in order to generate engagement for the “Conference on the Future of Europe”.

This blog can EXCLUSIVELY report on two “calls for proposals” that were made by the EP last Summer. The “calls for proposals” are an invitation for those desiring to get some EP cash to then generate engagement for “CoFoE”.

Are you interested in receiving some EP money? Sorry, too late. The deadline has already passed.

AMAZINGLY, the calls were not published on the website of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” itself. They were only published in some dark corner of the European Parliament’s website, which is possibly even more of an impenetrable maze than the European Parliament’s buildings.

This raises very serious questions.

Who was able to get their hands on the money? Were they tipped off that money would be available?

Social media activity indicates that only EU-fanatic pressure groups are engaging with this event. Were they the only ones receiving EP cash to generate engagement?

Screenshot of call for proposal published by the European Parliament

Only by the 30th of June, we’ll be able to discover who has won these EP grants. That’s two full months after the Conference platform to engage has opened up to the public. That’s if the European Parliament, which is not known to be overly respectful of these kind of deadlines, complies with the rules;

IF IT APPEARS that only EU-funded groups that incessantly promote more power for the EU were the ones able to get their hands on the EP cash, that would mean that the “Conference on the Future of Europe” would have been compromised as FUNDAMENTALLY BIASED from its very start.

How much EU-funding all kinds of EU groups receive to generate engagement and participation is something which should be disclosed in the spirit of full transparency.

Perhaps, it is no wonder that MEPs have voted AGAINST financial transparency for the Conference, as we also disclosed.

On top of all this, taxpayers will also need to pay for what the EU Commission and the EU Council plan to spend to promote the Conference. This is still unclear as well. A qualified guess would be that it would amount to 1 or 2 times the amount the European Parliament spends. One EU insider thinks the Conference could in the end cost Europeans “an estimated €200m”.

It is bad enough that hard pressed European taxpayers need to pay for this, but it would be even more scandalous if the money would be diverted to groups promoting ever more power for the EU.

Call for proposals COMM/SUBV/2020/M for the co-financing of media actions under the multi-annual work programme for grants in the area of communication 2020-2021

Call for proposals COMM/SUBV/2020/E for the co-financing of citizens’ engagement actions under the multi-annual work programme for grants in the area of communication 2020-2021

MEPs just voted AGAINST financial transparency for the Conference on the Future of Europe

Last week, the European Parliament voted on whether there should be “clarifications on financing of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” when it comes to “the conditions for financing this conference and the consequences for the [European Parliament]’s budget”.

The amendment also asked MEPs to support “a commitment to full transparency on the expenditure of this conference, including the keeping of separate accounts and an audit report by the European Court of Auditors for each year of functioning”

Guess how MEPs voted on this?

You’d think it’s a no-brainer for all MEPs to support this. Even proponents of the “future of Europe” talking shop shouldn’t have any problem with full transparency, right?

Think again.

The whole thing was voted down with 329 MEPs voting in favour, 360 against, and 10 abstaining.

Here’s a breakdown (SOURCE):

Almost everyone in EPP, ECR and ID supported transparency, with some notable dissent from the group line.

The great proponents of CoFoE, the “pro-European” “Renew” group and the greens, unanimously rejected transparency. Also the socialists and the far left mostly voted against, but at least a few among them still supported the idea.

With so few votes making the difference it is hard to understand how MEPs from transparency-minded Nordic and Western European Member States could vote to reject transparency in such a blatant manner. Did they think people wouldn’t notice?

Noteworthy is that the co-chair of the Executive Board of the Conference, Guy Verhofstadt (Renew, BE) voted against transparency. The EPP representative on the Board voted in favor while the socialist voted against. Of the observers on the Executive Board only Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR, PL) voted for transparency. Daniel Freund (Greens/EFA, DE) and Helmut Scholz (The Left, DE) voted against. In a bizarre twist Gerolf Annemans (ID, BE) abstained. He is observer for the same ID group that tabled the amendment.

Just when you thought the “Conference on the Future of Europe” was a rather extreme example of Brussels navel-gazing, there’s the European Parliament – an institution supposed to scrutinize EU policy making – to take it one step further and publicly reject financial transparency.