BRUSSELS: The EU will introduce reforms to curb abuses in party financing for European Parliament elections as it tries to bolster trust in the bloc's democracy, a senior official said Friday.
The European Commission, the EU executive, announced the plans as part of a drive to increase public support for the European Union following a populist wave of dissatisfaction that led to the shock British vote last year to exit the 28-nation bloc.
“We need a more democratic European Union with policies and spending that better reflect the wishes of our citizens," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said at a press conference in Brussels.
Timmermans said the commission hopes the measures win approval from member states and the European Parliament in time for European elections in 2019.
The changes aim to stop cases where one person or different members of a single national party sponsor more than one European political party, creating a situation where many parties represent the same group of people.
“Some appear to be little more than fronts to extract money from the European taxpayer," Timmermans said. “This abuse must end and quickly.
“We therefore propose to allow only political parties and no longer individuals to sponsor the registration of a European political party."
In a bid for greater transparency, the reforms will require national parties' websites to show the political programme, logo and gender balance of the European party they are affiliated with.
The new rules, he said, would also aim to ensure that funding for European political parties better reflect the true share of each party's vote in elections to the European Parliament, the EU's only elected body.
Until now, 15 percent of the total budget is distributed evenly to all parties, however large or small their vote share.
The commission now proposes to allocate 95 percent of the total budget on the basis of voter share in European elections.
He refused to cite specific cases of abuse pending the outcome of investigations.
Timmermans also proposed reforming the European Citizens' Initiative where the EU is required to respond to a petition on proposal when it is signed by one million citizens from at least one-fourth of the member states.
The reforms calls for simplifying the rules for participation and lowering the eligible age for participation to 16 from 18.