Joint Declaration on the State Financing of Political Foundations

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung have formulated their core values and determined their location. Their joint declaration serves as both a self-commitment and informational content for the public alike. It was intensively debated in the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftungs’ European meeting place in Cadenabbia during November 1998. It was unanimously adopted and signed by the board members. The Rose-Luxemburg-Stiftung endorsed this declaration in 2003.

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung are the political foundations affiliated with the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the Free Democratic Party, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria and the federal party Alliance 90/The Greens. They aim to help shape the future of our community by performing their duties set forth in the Articles of Association. Their socio-political and democratic educational work along with information and policy advice in Germany and abroad, which build on the principles of a free democratic system as well as being committed to the fundamentals of solidarity, subsidiarity and mutual tolerance, aim in particular at:

  • Stimulating citizens’ engagement with political issues while promoting and deepening their political commitment by providing a political education;
  • Developing the foundation of political action as well as consolidating dialogue and knowledge transfer between science, politics, state and the economy through the promotion of science, political research and consultancy;
  • Researching the historical development of parties as well as the political and social movements;
  • Promoting scientific education and training of talented young people with scholarships and extra-curricular programmes;
  • Cultivating art and culture through events, scholarships as well as the care and preservation of cultural works;
  • Supporting European unification efforts and contributing towards international understanding through information and international encounters;
  • Providing development aid with programmes and projects and contributing towards the establishment of democratic, liberal and constitutional structures, which are committed to human and civil rights.

It is a matter of course for political foundations to use their resources with the greatest possible benefit and to publicly account for them. Informing public about their activities and the use of their funds is a self-defined commitment of political foundations and strengthens public trust in their work. For this reason, too, political foundations agree to adopt recommendations given by the commission of independent experts appointed by the German President, without waiting for any legal regulation in this respect. In this joint declaration, they represent their core values particularly with regard to state funding for their work and public accountability.

First Section: Freedom, Political Education and State Funding

1. Political foundations are an important part of political culture in the Federal Republic of Germany. They perform useful work for the community (recommendations from the commission of independent experts appointed by the German President), and hence their state funding lies in the public interest and conforms to the constitution (Federal Constitutional Court 2 BvE 5/83). With this decision, the Federal Constitutional Court has validated the long-standing state practice of global funding for political foundations.

2. The liberal state has a constitutional mandate to promote political education. It is dependent upon a political culture, whose social and political roots elude violence. Political dialogue and political decisions require information along with ethical/political orientation. Political, goal-orientated education provided by non-governmental educational institutions, which also encompasses political research, information and consultancy as well as the promotion of young talent, is a prerequisite for developing political freedom and ensuring the continued existence of a liberal, pluralistic community.

3. The state does not violate against its constitutional duty of neutrality by funding political foundations’ educational work (Federal Constitutional Court BVerfG ibid). Rather, it fulfils its constitutional educational mandate more effectively with financial grants, than if acts through its own authorities. Flexibility and creativity are prerequisites for political and cultural life. State financial aid stimulates the decentralised fulfilment of the common good and triggers social forces to compete for ideas, concepts and attractive programmes It leads to a focus on performance, a variety of initiatives and to the capitalisation on private expertise at a broad level. Political education work is not about administration, it is a means of shaping the future; it needs to be organised with unbureaucratic structures and open procedures.

Second Section: Status of Political Foundations

1. Political foundations are organisations under private law. They render services, which – as shown – are in the public interest, but of which the state itself cannot avail itself. The work of political foundations is rooted in the constitution as far as their organisation under private law and activities are concerned, in Art 5, Art 9 (1) and Art 12 (1) of Basic Law GG.

The activities of political foundations are not subject to the party law regulations of Art 21 GG and the Political Parties Act. Political parties and foundations pursue different, clearly distinguishable goals. Their political education work aims at stimulating citizens’ involvement in political matters and providing a framework for discussion on political issues that is accessible to all citizens. This awakens an interest in actively contributing towards social and political life and provides the necessary tools in order to do this (Federal Constitutional Court 2 BvE 5/83).

2. In accordance with the jurisprudence of the Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG 2 BvE 5/83), it is a matter of course for political foundations to be de facto and de jure independent of parties and to perform their duties autonomously and with intellectual openness. In practice, they also maintain the necessary distance from the respective party. The political foundations fulfil these constitutional requirements (BVerfG 2 BvE 5/83). Constitutional guiding principle, the values and identity of political foundations correspond to actual practice.

3. Political foundations are responsible for staffing their supervisory and representative bodies including the position of managing director or director. They also take account of due distance to parties when staffing the executive positions as follows:

The chairperson of the Board of Directors, the Board spokesperson, the managing chairperson, the executive member of the Board of Directors and the treasurer of a political foundation do not perform a comparable function to that in the respective associated party.

The representative bodies of political foundations do not primarily consist of party members who are active in prominent positions. Prominent party positions are federal and regional chairpersons, members of the federal executive board, treasurers, Secretary-Generals and federal whips as well as comparable function holders in the parliamentary groups of the Bundestag and German state parliaments.

Third Section: State Funding and Duty of Neutrality

1. Funding socio-political and democratic educational work, information and policy advice by political foundations is the promotion of education in social pluralism.

According to rulings by the Federal Constitutional Court, the state complies with its constitutional duty of neutrality if it adequately takes account of the long-standing, major political currents in the Federal Republic of Germany (BVerfG 2 BVE 5/83). Only when state funding takes account of the plural structure of social and political forces, will it do justice to constitutional requirements, treating the same things equally and different things differently in line with their unique nature.

To this end, political foundations contend that the benchmark for the longevity and importance of a political current should be the balances of power, as reflected in the four federal elections; because only this can prove longevity and importance.

Parliament is responsible for deciding according to which criteria political foundations should receive global grants for the first time.

A suitable indicator used for measuring the longevity and importance of a political current in the Federal Republic of Germany, is likely to be that the political party related to the foundation must have been represented in the German Bundestag repeatedly, and at least once with enough seats to be officially recognised as a political party. In doing so, a distinction could also be made between its strength as a parliamentary party or group.

Upon first determining the level of funding, parliament could start from a basic amount and allow it to grow continuously during a certain number of electoral periods, up to a proportionate level of funding within the framework of the above-mentioned benchmark.

If a party exits the German Bundestag, the political foundation affiliated with them should still be eligible to receive global grants for the duration of at least one electoral period.

2. In addition to global grants, the political foundations obtain project-related funding from the federal budget. In the opinion of the political foundations, it is appropriate that these benchmarks be applied to the granting of project funds.

Fourth Section: State Basic Funding

In order to fulfil their tasks in the public interest, political foundations require human, material and financial resources, which facilitate professional work over the long-term. For that reason, political foundations receive institutional funding from the federal budget (global grants). This global financing is afforded special significance since it forms the basis without which ongoing material, human and financial planning would not be viable.

Having regard to recommendations from the commission of independent experts appointed by the German President, political foundations take the following view in light of granting and managing global grants:

1. According to current practice, global grants should continue to be defined in the budget law with an overall strategy and individual strategies. Political foundations act on a suggestion by the commission of independent experts appointed by the German President, and consider it reasonable that an increase in the overall appropriation of global grants should not in principle exceed the growth rate of the total budget.

2. In the framework laid down by budget law, the Federal Minister of the Interior, as the responsible grant authority, continues to approve global grants to political foundations so as to fulfil their statutory tasks based on the federal budget code and specific management principles, which are used as ancillary provisions in the grant approval. Funding can be provided for project expenses, personnel expenditure, material administrative costs and investment expenditure. Other non-profit organisations involved in political education work may be financially supported by political foundations within the scope of the purpose cited in sentence 1.

3. Political foundations use the global grants exclusively for fulfilling the purpose of funding. In line with their respective intellectual/political objectives, its economic governance strives towards professionalism, effectiveness and efficiency as well as a high standard of quality as well as observing the principle of economy and sound financial management.

4. The flexibility of political foundations should be retained (recommendations from the commission of independent experts appointed by the German President). Beyond their legal obligations, political foundations – with the annual call of global grants – submit to the Federal Minister of the Interior an economic plan as a general overview in addition to the overview on special management principles. The general overview lists all revenue anticipated for the budget year and expenditure expected to be incurred.

Justification is provided for the scheduled expenditure. This also applies to expenditure for personnel and administration including staffing structures.

5. In the future, too, political foundations will organise for their economic governance to be audited on an annual basis by an accountant (at their own expense). Furthermore, each year within eight months after the close of the financial year, they will provide the Federal Minister of the Interior with evidence of how they used global grants. The proof of use consists of a factual report, numerical evidence and an auditor’s report about the use of global grants. This applies accordingly for the use of funds from global grants, with which other non-profit organisations involved in political education work (see above Clause 2), were funded. Political foundations also submit to the Federal Minister of the Interior a financial statement audited by the accountant and intended for publication according to § 264 of the German Commercial Code (HGB) with balance sheet and revenue and expenditure account.

Fifth Section: Project Funding from the Federal Budget

In order to fulfil their statutory tasks, in addition to global grants, political foundations are also provided with project funding from the federal budget. As part of cost-cutting measures in the public budgets and for improving transparency of foundation funding, in autumn 1992 the political foundations themselves proposed that the German Bundestag’s budget committee limit project funding from the federal budget to the titles resulting from the Annex of this joint declaration. That has been the procedure since the budget year 1993.

The application, use and billing of project funding are determined – as with every other

grant recipient – by the federal budget code, the guidelines of the grant authorities and the General Ancillary Provisions for Project Funding (ANBest-P).

Sixth Section: Control and Public Accountability

1. Political foundations point out that the respective authorising federal authority has invariably controlled the proper, cost-conscious and economical use of global grants and public funding based on the submitted where used lists. In addition, the use of global grants is controlled on an ongoing basis by the Federal Ministry of the Interior as part of its monitoring of success on the basis of the General Auxiliary Provisions for Institutional Funding (ANBest-I). What is more, the budget and economic management of political foundations is controlled by the Federal Court of Auditors, whose right to audit arises from § 104 (1) of the federal budget code. The Federal Court of Auditors presents its audit reports to the respective authorising grant authority.

In addition, the regional authorities and state audit offices audit the use of federal state funds. Financial authorities audit compliance with non-profit provisions according to tax law.

2. As stated above, information for the public is an important basis for trust in the work carried out by political foundations. Their primary concern is to regularly and comprehensively inform the public about their work and to be accountable for their use of funds. Hence, in recent years they have already disclosed their use of funds without any obligations to publicly disclose. What is more, political foundations adopt recommendations from the commission of independent experts appointed by the German President, and publish their economic planning in the form of a general overview as per the template attached (Annex 2).

This equally applies to the financial statement audited by the accountant according to § 264 HGB in the form of a balance sheet and income/expenditure account. In addition, it includes the following data (template Annex 3):

  • Number of staff positions compared with the previous year;
  • Staffing of the statutory bodies of the legal entity and of the managing director or director as well as their deputy, with an indication which of these persons are members of the German Bundestag, the state parliaments, the Federal Government or federal state governments or the federal or state executive boards of the affiliated party in each case. The above details are published in the Federal Gazette and in the political foundations’ management reports. This applies accordingly to the economic planning and financial statements of other non-profit organisations involved in political education work, which fund a political foundation with global funds.

These measures that have already been practised or initiated, achieve a high level of transparency with respect to how political foundations are financed.

Political foundations will continue to align their actions according to the standards of this joint declaration in future.