Despite the concerts reggaeton, salsa or merengue and the pseudo-mass on behalf of the televangelist Yadira Maestre, the act that the PP celebrated coinciding with the Ibero-American Summit to capture the Hispanic vote had all the components of an electoral act. There were the candidates, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, Isabel Díaz Ayuso and José Luis Martínez Almeida; he merchandising and the support of the Hispanic community was claimed in the next elections. The problem? That it was an act paid for with funds that the European Parliament makes available to the groups so that they can carry out their political activity with a very clear red line: they cannot be used to “finance in any way European, national, regional or local electoral campaigns” .
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“I promise to be the president of all Hispanics in Spain. I will work for all Hispanicity in my country. I commit myself from the first moment and I assure you that I will not disappoint you”, said Feijóo, dressed in the candidate’s attire, to an audience of about a thousand people who a while before had given themselves over to the songs of Henry Méndez. The mayor of the capital was even more explicit: “We don’t want to argue; we want to work, sing, dance, laugh, enjoy [dijo Almeida emulando una suerte de latin way of life] and above all celebrate what unites us (…). And that happens because in 63 days we go to the polls and give a clear and loud message: that Hispanics are with the PP, with Feijóo, with Ayuso and that they are betting that Madrid is the capital of Latin America in Europe. We count on you”.
“I will not disappoint you”, 63 days before the elections
In a much more ideological tone, Ayuso also launched himself for the Hispanic vote. In Spain, more than one and a half million Latin Americans have the right to vote in the general elections, of which a third are in the Community of Madrid. The number is multiplied in the case of municipal ones. “On May 28, Spain will be filled with the desire for change, hope and the future. We are going to leave together these disastrous years of alliances with infamous drug dictatorships in Latin America. Those who expel them for lack of opportunities there and intend to do the same with all of us here, ”said the Madrid president in a speech in which she referred to the Executive as“ a government of liberticides ”. “Our project is ‘popular’, an integration project. With all of you and with Feijóo at the head, the PP is going to have to fix this disaster ”, settled the conservative leader.
Despite the calls to support the PP in the next elections, in the Spanish delegation in Brussels they maintain that it was not an electoral act because the campaign has not formally begun and they assure that the rules were complied with because three MEPs participated -also included the logo of the PPE, which is another of the requirements of the European Parliament for the acts that are financed with what is known as ‘Item 400’, the money that is made available to the groups to carry out their functions–.
But what do the rules of the European Parliament say? Beyond establishing the exhaustive prohibition of using that money to finance campaigns, it leaves a wide margin for interpretation. “The electoral nature of an activity or action is determined by the general context of that activity. This means that, although expressions such as ‘candidate’, ‘list’, ‘parties’ or ‘vote’, are not used directly, the electoral character emerges from the direct or indirect purpose and the general context”, establish the norms, which ensure that an activity that is “partially considered electoral in nature will be rejected in its entirety.”
In addition, it provides a “non-exhaustive” list (ie, there may be more cases) of prohibited assumptions: the use of the word candidate; the mention to the lists; any recommendation or request to vote for a list, candidate of a political tendency or the use of the word vote in that context; any activity related to the preparation of the campaign; or the presence of supporting material of the name or photo of candidates who are not members of the European Parliament at that time, among others.
No “ad hoc” investigation or complaint from other groups
In the act held under the name ‘Europe is Hispanic’, in addition to expressly requesting support for the PP, the attendees carried signs with the slogan “Hipanos con Feijóo” or “Hispanos with Almeida”.
However, the European Parliament, which establishes an external audit of the accounts of these funds, remains in profile and does not intend to initiate any “ad hoc” investigation into the rally financed with European funds, according to the sources consulted by elDiario.es. The only way in which the European Parliament could take action is in the annual approval of the accounts, but the cases in which the alarms have gone off are very rare. It has never done so with the Spanish delegations.
Despite the fact that members of other groups do denounce the financing of the PP act with funds from the European Parliament in private, none have expressed it publicly or filed any formal complaint, which would set a precedent.
relaxation of controls
That of ‘Item 400’ is not the only gap with which the enormous machinery of the European Parliament runs into. As announced by El Confidencial in October, the Bureau (the Table) eliminated controls on the allocations of 4,342 euros per month that each parliamentarian receives for the so-called general expenses (GEA). These diets were already in the spotlight because they were not monitored and, despite calls to tighten control, the leadership of the European Parliament, with the representative of the greens voting against, decided to make that custom official.
However, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) does carry out some investigations, such as the one that led to the request to lift the immunity of two MEPs by the Prosecutor’s Office – including former Vice President Eva Kaili, in imprisonment for the Qatargate scandal – on suspicions “of fraud to the detriment of the EU budget, in relation to the management of parliamentary allocation and, in particular, with regard to the remuneration of parliamentary assistants”.
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