Much has been achieved in the last twenty years to regulate and control who funds political parties and election campaigns, transparency has increased and accountability was strengthened.
Of the recommendations issued by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of Council of Europe in the area of political party finance, around 70% have been declared as fully or partially implemented. Many countries have moved the oversight responsibility and refined the regulations on political finance, creating complex models combining public and private funding. In fact, the regulations on political finance in Eastern European countries are now among the most detailed in the world.
However, these regulations are far from being proven always effective, and much more work remains to be done. Each country faces unique challenges, but there are similarities and lessons to be learned from neighbouring countries and from other regions on how to address key challenges, including abuses of state resources, financial obstacles to inclusiveness and gender equality in political participation, and shady links between the political sector and organised criminality.
In order to discuss the lasting challenges, to formulate recommendations for further improvements and to share experiences and best practices in European political finance, the Regional Conference 2017 “ Money in Politics” was held in Tbilisi, Georgia on 19-20 June 2017. The event, following the successful 2016 conference, was jointly organised by the Council of Europe, the International IDEA, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the State Audit Office of Georgia, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and Transparency International Georgia and gathered 120 practitioners, civil society as well as party activists and political finance experts from more than twenty mainly eastern European countries. Purpose of the conference was to reflect on lessons learned regarding the effective enforcement and monitoring of political finance legal frameworks and mechanisms for improving existing regulations, with particular focus on regulatory and practical developments in East European countries during the last year. Respective country reports for Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova were prepared and presented during the event.
To use the opportunities of new technologies for increasing accountability and transparency, to reduce financial burdens for the participation of women and traditionally marginalised groups in politics and to consider targeted events for public oversight institutions and political parties were some of the 11 recommendations formulated by the participants for the Summary Report.
The creation of a regional network of public institutions with a mandate to oversee compliance with political finance regulations was already at the conference 2016 considered a valuable tool to share experiences from different countries, including best practices and potential obstacles. To this end, the negotiations started at the conference 2017 between representatives of oversight institutions from 7 countries in Eastern Europe, and the creation of an online portal as a first step for regular communication was agreed on.