France’s National Front political party head Marine Le Pen, Dutch PVV leader Geert Wilders during a joint news conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, June 16, 2015. | Photo by EPA
The European Parliament has agreed to divert funding from its various political groups to finance Marine Le Pen’s new Euroskeptic bloc.
The “Europe of Nations and Freedom” group, launched by Le Pen last month, will get €3 million per year from EU funds. By securing enough members from enough different countries to achieve party group status, the ENF won access to money for its activities.
The funding is generally allocated depending on the number of MEPs who make up the group, so the the addition of the new ENF bloc required other groups to give up some of their cash.
According to a memo obtained by POLITICO, several other party groups will lose more than €200,000 each: the European People’s Party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats and the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group felt the biggest pinch from this redistribution of funds.
On Tuesday, the Parliament’s decision to approve the funding stirred unease among some MEPs, who feared that Le Pen’s National Front party would misuse the official funds or finance its political campaigns, including the 2017 presidential election in France.
Under European Parliament rules, a political group is not entitled to fund any national campaign. In March, European Parliament President Martin Schulz asked the European anti-fraud office, OLAF, to open an investigation into the National Front’s European parliamentary assistants. They were suspected of being paid by the European Parliament while working for the national party in France.
“We are worried about Le Pen’s true willingness to use this money to make her group function,” said Philippe Juvin, a French MEP from the European People’s Party. “She wants to destroy Europe but at the same time, her party benefits from it.”
Nearly €900,000 of the funding for Le Pen’s group will be re-allocated from a fund for non-affiliated MEPs, a list that formerly included several of her bloc’s new members. The Greens-European Free Alliance will also give up €60,000 from its budget and the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE) will lose €62,000.
These figures represent funding for just half of the year, giving Le Pen’s group €1.54 million retroactively effective July 1. The funding will allow the group to hire more staff and enhance its communication strategy.
Le Pen launched her new group last month after she managed to get enough MEPs from enough nationalities. The new group has 37 members; 36 were previously non-attached and one belonged to the EFDD.
The fund transfer was approved by the Bureau of the European Parliament, which is made up of the assembly’s president, its 14 vice presidents, and a committee of MEPs who oversee administrative matters.