The Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE) is an alliance of political parties from a number of European countries, based on MEPs who are also members of our EFDD Group www.efddgroup.eu/, but also national and regional parliamentarians from other countries where we have no MEP representation. It enables us to access significant funding from the European parliament to use in various ways to promote our values.
Some in our Party have reservations about using EU money in this way. So it is worth stressing that if we did not exist, our budget would not be returned to member-states, or still less to the tax-payer. It would simply be redistributed to pro-EU groups in the parliament, who already get the lions’ share of the funding. I personally have no qualms about getting a little of our own money back, and using it to promote freedom and democracy.
ADDE has already done some excellent work in the UK and across Europe. We maintain the web-site, and a presence in social media @ADDEurope. We publish papers on relevant political topics. We have undertaken polling on voter attitudes and opinions in many countries (of which more below). We distilled the results of our polling into a manifesto, the Stockholm Declaration. This declaration was signed on behalf of our member parties at an event in the Grand Hotel on the Stockholm harbour Front – the hotel where for many decades the Nobel Prize ceremonies used to take place.
That evening, at a dinner organised by our associated Foundation, the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE) @IDDEurope, we awarded our first Annual European Freedom Award to Vaclav Klaus, former Prime Minister and former President of the Czech Republic, who has been a lifetime champion of freedom and democracy in Europe. (He remarked that he had never before received an award from a Brussels-based organisation!) The two events, which attracted attendees from across Europe and also from the USA (including Becky Norton Dunlop of the Heritage Foundation and Joel Anand Samy and Natasha Srdoc of the International leaders’ Summit) attracted considerable press coverage for the Declaration.
However we have recently run into trouble with the parliament administration over our 2015 ADDE audit. We knew ADDE expenditure would be subject to intense scrutiny, so we leant over backwards to ensure compliance.
We hired not one but two long-serving compliance officers who had experience of working for years with other groups in the parliament. They were astonished at the parliament’s rejection of our activity – which is no different from that of other groups. But pro-EU groups are not similarly challenged.
Much of our expenditure was on polling (as is that of other groups). We published the results of our polling. It was available to all political parties and media outlets, in the UK and overseas, and it cannot therefore be seen as “indirect campaigning” for any particular party. Much of this activity was in the UK, which in view of the up-coming Brexit vote was of great interest to politicians of all persuasions across Europe, and formed the basis of our Stockholm Declaration, which was launched a few weeks ago.
We were subjected to hostile and aggressive interrogation by the parliament administration, who asked the same questions repeatedly, and ignored the answers and the large body of supporting evidence. I must particularly credit the resilience and determination of our ADDE Director Yasmine Dehaene, who showed exemplary patience and courtesy in the face of sustained provocation.
It is clear that this was a long-planned and determined effort by the parliament with a view to closing us down. It also appeared to have the parallel objectives of intimidating our staff and wasting their time.
What they have done is to widen the definition of “indirect support for a party” to include just about any activity which might be remotely interesting to ADDE members.
We submitted a long lawyer’s letter just before yesterday’s Bureau meeting, rebutting in detail, with supporting evidence where relevant, all the points they had made. They failed even to acknowledge it, and their final document includes many of the errors of fact which we had pointed out. Moreover their detailed verdict was delivered to us during the Bureau meeting – clear evidence that it was prepared in advance, and that the Bureau’s deliberations were a fraud.
The parliament administration is judge, jury and executioner in its own cause. It is now demanding the return of around €170,000 and will withhold a further €300,000. It is important to remember that the demand is against ADDE, not UKIP. We believe we will be able to meet these conditions, though it will mean a rather smaller budget next year.
We are now looking closely at our legal remedies, despite the time and cost implications, because we fear that failure to challenge these outrageous actions will be wrongly interpreted in some quarters as an admission of guilt.