796th meeting – 22 May 2002
Financial transparency of political parties and their democratic functioning at regional level
Draft reply to Recommendation 86 (2000) of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
(CLRAE Rec 86 (2000), CM/Del/Dec(2000)719/12.1 and CM/Del/Dec(2002)781/10.2 and 795/10.2)
The Deputies adopted the following reply to Recommendation 86 (2000) of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe on the financial transparency of political parties and their democratic functioning at regional level:
“The Committee of Ministers has considered with attention CLRAE Recommendation 86 (2000) on the financial transparency of political parties and their democratic functioning at regional level and welcomes its adoption by the Congress, as a valuable contribution to the current debate on the issue of the funding of political parties.
Indeed, this recommendation touches upon a highly topical subject which is of the utmost importance for the credibility and stability of democratic institutions. The funding of political parties’ activities should undoubtedly be subject to clear rules and effective controls. This would avoid party donations being a concealed or disguised form of undue advantage linked to the performance of public functions. It should be mentioned in this context that transparency is a key element for the prevention of corruption and more generally for the setting-up of sound systems of funding for political parties.
As regards paragraph 8 of the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers would recall that Guiding Principle No. 15 (hereafter “GPC 15”) contained in Resolution (97) 24 on the twenty Guiding Principles for the fight against corruption, adopted by the Committee of Ministers in November 1997, already encouraged “the adoption, by elected representatives, of codes of conduct” and the promotion of “rules for the financing of political parties and election campaigns which deter corruption”. This issue is mentioned in the Questionnaire of the GRECO for the first evaluation round to review the manner in which its members are applying GPC 15. In view of its relevance for the anti-corruption effort, GRECO may examine this subject within the framework of its work programme.
As regards paragraph 9 of the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers would underline that the Multidisciplinary Group on Corruption (GMC) has produced a valuable comparative study of Council of Europe member and non-member states’ legislation on the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns. This text has served, inter alia, as a basis for identifying some key elements which could be usefully included in common rules or standards to be adopted in this area.
It should also be recalled that the conclusions adopted at the Third European Conference of Specialised Services in the Fight against Corruption (Madrid, 28-30 October 1998) stressed the need to prepare common standards with a view to the setting up of transparent systems for the funding of political parties so as to prevent corruption. Considerable work has been undertaken subsequently by the GMC with a view to preparing common standards for the prevention of corruption in the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns. Discussions on the subject are continuing within the Committee of Ministers. Understanding transparency as the fundamental principle to be applied to the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns is of particular importance.
The European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) also has devoted considerable attention to this subject. It has concentrated on constitutional and institutional aspects of the problem, with the aim of laying down a number of principles for building an institutional framework for financing parties both from public and private sources. Attention was paid also to the question of how to promote transparency of financing without endangering fundamental freedoms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, such as freedom of association, political activity, equality of treatment of various parties (big/small parties, parliamentary/non-parliamentary parties). This work has resulted in the adoption, in March 2001, of “Guidelines on the funding of political parties.”
In addition, the Venice Commission was asked to prepare a number of opinions on national laws on political parties and, on several occasions, such requests concerned regulations on party financing.
As regards paragraph 10 of the recommendation, the Committee of Ministers wishes to recall that the Steering Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR) started in 2001 an activity on “Public ethics at local level” which also covers aspects related to the funding of electoral campaigns and political action at local level. The Steering Committee should consider in the course of 2002 a suggested package of model initiatives which could be used and implemented by public authorities and bodies, elected representatives, local authorities’ staff etc. at the central state and local government levels, with a view to promoting and enforcing ethical behaviour by elected representatives and staff of local authorities. The Congress is invited to take part in the meetings of the group of specialists entrusted with this work. Once approved by the CDLR and the Committee of Ministers, the package of model initiatives will be widely disseminated among local authorities.”