Federal Constitutional Court: Karlsruhe examines funding for the AfD Foundation

How to deal with the AfD? The other parties do not believe that the right-wing populists are loyal to the constitution.

Federal Constitutional Court: Karlsruhe examines funding for the AfD Foundation

How to deal with the AfD? The other parties do not believe that the right-wing populists are loyal to the constitution. The AfD speaks of discrimination and exclusion - and likes to refer to the Basic Law. One point of contention is the promotion of political education work: the Desiderius Erasmus Foundation (DES), which is close to the AfD, is the only one that does not receive any money from the state. As so often in recent times, the AfD has therefore gone before the Federal Constitutional Court. Negotiations are under way in Karlsruhe.

What kind of money is it?

The non-profit political foundations are mainly financed from public funds. So-called global grants are planned for this in the budget of the Federal Ministry of the Interior - for 2022 a total of 148 million euros. For certain tasks, the foundations can also get money from the budgets of other ministries and from the Bundestag. The amount of the funds is determined in the negotiations on the federal budget.

Why are the foundations funded?

They make an important contribution to political education. The prerequisite is that the offers are open to everyone. The foundations must therefore be economically and organizationally independent of the parties to which they are ideally related.

Which foundations receive global grants?

At the moment these are the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (CDU), the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (SPD), the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FDP), the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (left), the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Greens) and the Hanns Seidel Foundation (CSU). The Erasmus Foundation, which was officially recognized by the AfD in 2018 as a party-affiliated foundation, does not receive any money. The chairperson is the former CDU politician Erika Steinbach, who now belongs to the AfD.

What are the criteria for foundation funding?

In fact, there is no law that regulates this. A ruling by the Constitutional Court from 1986 serves as a guideline. It states that it must be ensured "that such funding adequately takes into account all permanent, important political trends in the Federal Republic of Germany". This is justified with the points of contact between the foundations and parties.

When is a political trend permanent?

The foundations themselves made a proposal for this in 1998. In a joint statement, it is said that a suitable point of reference should be "repeated representation" of the relevant party in the German Bundestag, at least once in the size of the parliamentary group. That's what politics has been based on ever since.

What is going on in court now?

The AfD, which has been in the Bundestag since 2017, sees its right to equal opportunities violated. "We can't keep up with the around 12,000 annual educational events organized by the other foundations, nor are we able to award scholarships or set up a party archive. Not to mention the foreign contacts that are required," criticizes Steinbach. The party wants to establish that the exclusion from funding violates constitutional law. Your organ lawsuit is directed against the Bundestag, the Budget Committee, the Federal Government, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Finance.

What is the starting position?

The AfD is of the opinion that the foundation has been entitled to funding since 2018 because of its broad representation in the state parliaments. The constitutional court rejected two urgent requests for payment in 2020 and 2022. The foundation itself had previously tried to file a constitutional complaint, but was initially referred to the specialized courts. In the meantime, the administrative court in Cologne has decided that the DES was rightly refused funding until 2021 - the criterion of entering the Bundestag twice is not objectionable. This judgment is not yet final.

But in 2021 was the AfD re-elected to the Bundestag?

Nevertheless, no money is earmarked for DES in the 2022 federal budget. There is now a new passage in the budget law. According to this, the grants are only granted to political foundations which, according to their statutes and their overall activities, offer the guarantee at all times that they are committed to the free democratic basic order in the sense of the Basic Law and stand up for its preservation". They should not be granted "if there are reasonable doubts about the loyalty of organs or employees to the constitution".

What to expect in Karlsruhe

The structure of the hearing shows that the judges of the Second Senate also want to deal with the criterion of loyalty to the constitution. In addition, it should be a question of whether foundation funding needs a legal basis. The verdict will be announced in a few months at the earliest.