ChristenUnie in Europe sought contact with hate groups and Putinists

European party ECPM financed radical right wing lobby group

Speech van partijleider Mirjam Bikker op het 50e congres van de ChristenUnie | ANP / Dirk Hol


ECPM collaborated with hate groups, KKK affiliates and Putinists

The European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), a European political party founded by the Dutch coalition party ChristianUnion, collaborated with hate groups, Putinists and KKK-affiliates. A never-before publicised trove of thousands of leaked e-mails spanning 2013-2019, belonging to the extreme-right Christian lobby network ‘Agenda Europe’, shows the Europarty’s involvement in bringing together right-wing fringe figures from Europe, Russia and the US. Agenda Europe organised annual summits with financial support from the ECPM, effectively using European subsidies to platform hate groups. The ECPM and ChristianUnion ‘regret this’, they say in a joint statement.

Agenda Europe was active between 2013 and 2019, organising annual strategic summits as well as administering a closed email group for discussing news, exchanging legal advice and strategic plans, but also offering events invitations and job openings. Multiple ECPM members, among which the European Affairs director, general director and the head of its think tank, were active members of mail group alongside representatives of various homophobic and racist hate groups.

The roughly 400 members were unified in their common struggle against Christian-conservative trinity of moral decay: gay marriage, euthanasia and abortion. The group’s strategy is outlined in a 140-page manifesto, first distributed in 2014 and repeatedly circulated in the following years, called ‘Restoring the Natural Order’. Its core strategies are: present Christians as victims of discrimination, claim subsidies wherever you can and adopt the language of the enemy. The latter means avoiding religious arguments and using apparently progressive arguments for conservative-christian policies.

Blijf op de hoogte van onze onderzoeken. Meld je aan voor de nieuwsbrief

Investico worked with a team of international journalists to investigate the thousands of leaked emails. The mail group is rife with xenophobia, homophobia and racism, and a warm home for explicit Russian disinformation. A central role is reserved for the ECPM, ‘the only European political party explicitly promoting Christian values in politics’, which co-financed multiple strategic summits. Leo van Doesburg, the Europarty’s main lobbyist, is also described as ‘the driving force’ behind Agenda Europe and appears to be one of the mail group’s administrators.

Pieter de Wilde, professor of European Politics and Society at the University of Groningen, is critical of the use of European subsidies to finance Agenda Europe summits. ‘This is not what that grant is for. How does it contribute to representing European citizens in parliament?’

The email group also serves as a platform for explicit pro-Russian propaganda and disinformation, for example in relation to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine. In one of such discussions Leo van Doesburg intervenes, asking participants to please stick to the common themes like abortion and gay rights.

‘This is such a clear example of Russian soft-power. Russia can’t present a very convincing narrative in terms of human rights or economic progress, which is something they know themselves. The Orthodox faith and the conservative values that go with it are a super effective means of generating sympathy for Russia abroad, or at least bringing people on board for collaborations. It’s really a well-thought-out strategy’.

In a joint statement, the ECPM and its Dutch founding member party ChristianUnion both distance themselves from the racist, homophobic and xenophobic statements in the Agenda Europe group. The Europarty confirms that they have financed Agenda Europe activities in the past: ‘The ECPM regrets this’. They add that, in roughly its first ten years in the European Parliament, the ECPM functioned ‘much more like a lobby party’ than a political party. ‘We now only focus on European politics, and something like Agenda Europe does not fit into that.’


Investico is radicaal transparant. In verantwoordingsdocumenten maken wij onze onderzoeksmethodes en resultaten openbaar zodat publiek en andere onderzoekers ons werk kunnen controleren en erop kunnen voortbouwen. In de longread van het onderzoek hieronder verwijzen noten naar het bronmateriaal. Wilt u meer weten over onze missie en methode? Lees meer

Onderzoek met bronnen

European party ECPM financed radical right wing lobby group

Speech van partijleider Mirjam Bikker op het 50e congres van de ChristenUnie | ANP / Dirk Hol

For years a private mailing list of lobby group Agenda Europe served as a save haven for radical right wing hate groups to strategise against abortion rights and LGBTQ emancipation, funded by ECPM.

It's a Saturday morning in March and the shutters slowly close in the event centre in Apeldoorn. The quiet Dutch town hosts the 50th party conference of the ChristianUnion, a minor political party that took part in the last two governing coalitions.1 'Psalm 118: sing together', the projection screen reads as the last bit of natural daylight disappears.2 A piano starts playing next to the stage; the psalm lines appear on screen. It's the first congress since the party suffered an election defeat last November.3

'Friends, let me be clear,' party leader Mirjam Bikker tells several hundred members present in the room. 'An awful lot has happened since our last conference.'4 The party has lost two of their five seats in parliament. Almost one in five of their own members voted for right-wing parties like NSC, SGP, or even Geert Wilders' populist PVV.5

But on this Saturday morning Bikker is not just doing penance for her electoral loss. She's looking ahead, at the upcoming European elections in June. The congress programme is littered with policy information sessions, candidate introductions and a crash course in the ChristianUnion's secret weapon. A few metres behind Bikker, at the edge of the otherwise mostly empty stage, a white and blue banner reads the letters 'ECPM'.

The acronym won't ring a bell with most people - ChristianUnion's card carrying members included. At the lunch break, as most attendees file past cheese sandwiches and jugs of buttermilk, most appear to be clueless. 'No idea', one man answers when asked about it. An older woman, further down the queue, points at the print-out with the day's programme on it. 'There's a pubquiz on ECPM. I want to have a look.' She adds: 'I wonder what it is they do.'

Word nu Vriend van Investico en versterk de onderzoeksjournalistiek in Nederland

Steun ons

It's striking to say the least, given that the ChristianUnion and the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM) have been intertwined for 20 years.6 The European political party is co-financing the congress in Apeldoorn and will present its election programme today. 'We promote Christian values in the European Parliament,' says Valeriu Ghileţchi, the Moldovan-Romanian president of ECPM,7 at the pubquiz. 'The Bible is our politics.'8

The ChristianUnion plays a remarkable role in the balkanised Dutch political landscape. Despite its small size, it has managed to manoeuvre itself into the two last governing coalitions. In order to do so, it increasingly profiled itself as a moderately progressive party within a right-of-centre coalition, touting policies like poverty reduction programmes, affordable housing and serious climate measures. Importantly, the progressive shift even included sexual rights: 'As a political organisation, we give lgbti-individuals people full space to participate in all levels of our party'9 .

In Europe however, the ChristianUnion has shown a markedly different face. The European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), founded by the ChristianUnion10, has persistently used its place in Brussels to fight against European legislation on abortion rights, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.11

Investico gained unique access to ECPM's behind-the-scenes activities via a leaked trove of emails belonging to Agenda Europe12, an ultraconservative Christian lobbying network with some 400 members from 30 different countries. The leaks shows that several high-ranking ECPM employees participated in the Agenda Europe network. Alongside journalists from Britain's OpenDemocracy, Sweden's Dagens ETC, Croatia's Novosti, and Poland's Onet, platform Investico investigated the leak in the Netherlands for the weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer.

The never before publicised leak contains almost four thousand emails spanning the years between 2013 and 2019. The e-mails vary in subject matter, ranging from strategic discussions13 and event-invitations14 to legal advice.15 They demonstrate how, in the Agenda Europe group, alliances were sought out with whoever shares the anti-LGBT agenda. We found a colourful ensemble of participants16 among which multiple hate-groups. The mailing list is rife with xenophobia, homophobia and racism, and a warm home for explicit Russian disinformation.

A key role in the group is reserved for the ChristianUnion's Europarty. The ECPM turns out to not only be one of the group's financiers, but also emerges as a driving force behind the network.

The ECPM, and this story, begins with the man responsible for the party's emergence and survival: Leo van Doesburg. The Dutchman is a household name among conservative Christians from Poland to the Azores, from Brussels to Moldova. He manages to appear at most conservative Christian events17: either in the small print of conference reports18, on group photos of the who's-who of ultraconservative lobbyists19 or in the hallways of the European Parliament.20 But Van Doesburg's fame is limited to his own political circles—-his name mentioned only a handful of times outside of the pages of Dutch reformed dailies.

The ECPM was officially founded in 2005 by the ChristianUnion and a now-defunct Estonian party21. Historically it's been the smallest party22 and the only one without its own political group in the European Parliament. In its early years ECPM was merely a political organisation, not yet an official party. Van Doesburg knew that, in order to qualify as an independent party in the European Parliament, the ECPM had to find and recruit political movements with parliamentary representation in at least a quarter of the European member states.23

With this goal in mind, Van Doesburg travelled from the Balkans, across the Carpathians, to the Baltic sea. In eleven countries he gathered thirteen parties24 that were willing to join ECPM as an official member. Remarkably, some of these were not emphatically Christian parties at all, but so-called 'ethnic parties'. The 'Bulgarian Union of Romania'25, for example, can by default claim a reserved seat in the national parliament.26

In 2010 the ECPM had sufficient signatures to become an official European political party. Crucially, this provided access to European subsidies27. In the first year, ECPM received €210,00028, whereas in 2022 (the latest publicly available figures29 ) the sum of subsidies had grown to more than €1.2 million annually30. Subsidies explicitly meant for political activities. Throughout the years, the ChristianUnion and its subsidiary institutions also contributed nearly €100.000 to their Europarty in Brussels, according to ECPM's annual audit reports.31

In the early years, Leo van Doesburg also solicited alliances outside of the European Union. Leaked emails from Kyrylo Frolov, then-spokesperson for the Russian Union for Orthodox Citizens, show how the Dutchman reached out for support to the Russian religious elite32. One of the documents is an email the Russian human rights lawyer Ekaterina Smyslova wrote to Frolov on behalf of Van Doesburg in 2011, requesting33 a possible collaboration between the ECPM and the Orthodox socio-political forces of Russia. Frolov responds enthusiastically: 'Great, I'll send it to the DECR [The Russian Orthodox Church, ed.], Metropolitan Hilarion [bishop and leadership figure within the church, ed.]'.34 A year later, Van Doesburg travelled to Moscow for an ECPM-sponsored conference in a collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Church35 .

Investico interviewed lawyer Smyslova three years ago as part of a previous investigation. 'I was very excited about my meeting with Leo van Doesburg. Such a big man,' the Russian said cheerfully from her modest flat in Moscow. She met him in Moldova, where he was preparing young Christians to enter politics. 'It was through the ChristianUnion,' Smyslova explained, 'that I discovered that people in the Netherlands decided to wake up Western Europe about Christian values.' 36

Two years after his first documented email sent to Moscow, Van Doesburgs efforts bore fruit. The ECPM was named as a Russian bridgehead in Brussels by Konstantin Malofeev, nicknamed "the Orthodox oligarch"37 and founder of the extreme right pro-Kremlin media group Tsargrad TV. In a leaked document most likely written in the spring of 201338, Malofeev lists his active soft power projects aimed at Europe. Point three on the list, an 'interparliamentary forum' between Russia and Europe, names the ECPM as 'the most important partner'. Van Doesburg is described as 'the leader'. A year later, in 2014, Malofeev is sanctioned by the US for funding armed insurgents in Ukraine's Donetsk region.39

But what exactly does Van Doesburgs Europarty do? The leaked Agenda Europe emails provide an invaluable insight. The 'big' Dutchman is omnipresent throughout the thousands of messages, acting as an administrator and moderator, actively participating in discussions.

Agenda Europe, however, is more than just a closed communications network: the group also organised annual multi-day strategic summits.40 In 2014, for example, it took place in a castle just outside of Munich. At that gathering - the first official summit - the organisers distributed a 140-page manifesto called 'Restoring the Natural Order'.41 Its core strategies can be summed up as follows: present Christians as victims of discrimination, claim subsidies wherever you can and adopt the language of the enemy. The latter means avoiding religious arguments and using apparently progressive arguments for conservative-christian policies.

'This should be key for each one's national strategic planning' Gudrun Kugler, an Austrian politician and one of the group's administrators, emphasised two years later in 2016, in an email reflecting on that year's summit42. Secret recordings of that same 2016 summit also reveal where the ECPM's party finances flow: Van Doesburg is explicitly thanked as one of the 'generous sponsors' of the summit.43

The members of the closed email group are a colourful ensemble. Christians of all denominations are represented, from Catholics and Protestants to evangelicals and Russian Orthodox. But also within the conservative christian ideology, the fringes are well-represented. Take, for instance, Austin Ruse, one of the group's most active members and president of C-Fam, an ultraconservative NGO that grew significantly under Trump.4445

In 2014, Ruse called for left-wing academics to 'all be taken out and shot'.46 The Southern Poverty Law Center labelled C-Fam an LGBT hate group.47 Ruse also writes for the extreme right disinformation platform Breitbart News.48 In the email exchanges, Ruse starts conversations about 'homo-homophobia' in the 'ugly and dangerous' world called 'Gay World', among other things. 49

One of the most notable figures in Agenda Europe is Bogdan Stanciu. At the turn of the century he ran the Romanian branch of Altermedia, a network of websites founded by David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.50 For several years, Stanciu also headed Noua Dreapta ('New Right'), a neo-Nazi51 group organising the 'March for Normality' in Bucharest as a protest against Gay Pride.525354 Stanciu's anti-abortion platform Pro Vita co-founded Sallux, ECPM's thinktank, in 2011.55 The Romanian activist's name also features on a list of supposed Russian assets, drawn up by Putin's ideologue Aleksander Dugin, published by Bellingcat's Christo Grozev.56

The Agenda Europe group also includes many active politicians. One well-known Dutch name that appears is Don Ceder, a sitting MP for the ChristianUnion. Althought he never sent any emails himself, he is mentioned in a list of Agenda Europe members' social media accounts in 201457. Three years ago, Investico already showed that Ceder also appears on a 2016 Agenda Europe list of members.58

The group includes more Dutch nationals: Auke Minnema, former director of ECPM59, Michiel Hemminga of the Spanish ultra-conservative anti-LGBT platform CitizenGo6061 , Hepke Deelstra, then ECPM's youth movement62, Frans Veerman of OpenDoors, which, among other things, publishes the methodologically dubious 'World Watch List' on Christian persecution63 , Henk Jan van Schothorst of the lobby group Christian Council International64 and Johannes de Jong of Sallux, ECPM's think tank65 .

Occasionally, the private Google Group seems like an outlet for both celebration and frustration. If there is bad news to report about a shared enemy, it rarely takes long before it's circulated within the group. 'First transgender with breast cancer' is the title of a brief , early Wednesday morning message from Auke Minnema of the ECPM66. 'Sperm donor for 36 children found to have mental disorders',67 Sharon Slater, president of a world-wide anti-lgbt organisation, emails a few weeks earlier.6869 'This is a good example to use,' she adds, referring to the group's shared stance on sperm donation.

The members of the group also support each other in their (future) discussions with outsiders. For example, a Swedish lobbyist emails about the youth movement of the Swedish liberals, who proposed to decriminalise incest.70 'This kind of hair raising madness is very helpful with Africans and Asians',71 Stefano Gennarini, the UN representative of the hate group C-Fam, replies. A month later someone shares a video on gay emancipation,72 starting a lively discussion. 'I guess that the lesson to learn is that we have to MOCK them', an Italian lawyer writes.73

Marie Smith, an anti-abortion lobbyist,74 messages the group to promote her essay 'Girls Just Want to be Born', warning the world about 'gendercide' against unborn girls . Two days after the terrorist attack in Brussels in 2016, a Slovak in the group states: 'Killing of unborn babies, or killing of old, ill people is the same evil as killing people by bombs via terror attacks.'75

The Agenda Europe mail group also reveals how the network sees language as an important tool to shape public discourse in their favour. In a lengthy email, Leo van Doesburg explains why using words like 'homosexualism' and 'sodomism' does not work in the debate on LGBT rights;76 that it only provokes resistance and 'is seen as framing'. Using the term 'gender ideology' is therefore much more effective, for example: 'There is a gender ideology that try [sic] to impose their dogmatic ideology on others.' And: 'The people need to influence [sic] are not the ideologic leaders of the gender movement but the people who are influenced by the media or the people who do not think about these topics.'

At times, the group's strategic unity is put to the test. In 2016 the Dutch government, pressured by right-wing groups, organised a referendum on the so-called 'EU association agreement' with Ukraine, intended to promote business relations with the country. The referendum effectively blocked the proposed agreement.77 A day later, an email pops up in the group titled 'Good news from the Netherlands?' It celebrates the news, as the agreement 'would have imposed the juggernaut of "LGBT rights" on this already war-torn country. From the point of view of our values, this seems to be small news, but good news.' Within an hour, an intense discussion erupts.

'LGBT rights or not, we simply should not be doing Putin's work in re-building the Soviet Union', writes a member of the group. A lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights replies: 'Wait a minute… Now I feel really confused. I thought that "Agenda Europe" was supposed to be about life, family and religious freedom, not for squabbling over Putin or no Putin?'. What follows is a heated email exchange about Russia's first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. The Spaniard Alvaro Zulueta, director of CitizenGO78 , which publicly condemned the raid, intervenes: 'I know about the hostile anti-values Europe. And because I care about our values and not about keeping a decadent anti-democratic and bureaucrat-machinery obsessed in destroying the natural Family…. viva Russia!' He then goes on to share Russian disinformation about Ukraine being 'completely divided', with the the eastern part of the country having voted 'democratically' to stay 'close to Russia' rather than Europe.79

The group's value shows in modest but significant strategic accomplishments: 'Small but important success in Austria' is the subject of an email sent by Austrian politician Gudrun Kugler in 2016. She enthusiastically reports new legislation in Austria that allows for the entry of unborn or deceased foetuses weighing more than 500 grams into the civil registry. 'This is meaningful for the parents, and it is meaningful for our debate about life', Kugler writes.

'Now we need to use this new law wisely as an argument for the protection of life: in one room they issue death certificates, in the other room they kill and throw away a baby of the same size,' the Austrian lawmaker insists. She urges all members of the group to explore the possibility of similar legislation in their countries.

In 2018, two years later, exactly such a bill is passed in Dutch parliament80. It originates in a petition allowing for still-borns to be registered, signed by 82.000 people. Vera Bergkamp, then MP for the liberal democrats, proposed new legislation to accommodate the demands outlined in the petition.

Two months after the bill was introduced, ChristianUnion-lawmaker Don Ceder helped a woman enter her aborted foetus in the civil registry81. His party had amended the original legislation, allowing a foetus of any age to be registered - including pregnancies ended through abortion82 .

A legal paradox arose: for the Dutch legal provision which allows for abortion, a stillborn foetus has not existed. Under the new law, however, its legal existence is explicity confirmed. This contradictory interpretation of the legal status of a foetus is exactly what the Christian parties had bet on when dealing with and amending this law, they revealed in response to Investico's earlier investigation three years ago83. Don Ceder contests the idea that the Dutch law originated in the Agenda Europe group, calling it 'suggestive'. 'First of all, it suggests a lawyer had an 'idea', even though what I did was a legal analysis based on a request. My client filed the application [for civil registration] herself, successfully.'

The importance of ECPM to Agenda Europe seems to be mutual when Leo van Doesburg writes to the group in 2018. His party appears to be in trouble. Brussels is tightening the rules around minimum qualifications for Europarties, and soon the ECPM will no longer be represented in enough European member states.84 If nothing changes, the party will lose its official status - and with it, its access to European funding.85 Precisely that funding turns out to be crucial.

Leo van Doesburg asks the Agenda Europe group to help him look for new member parties across Europe. He writes that his party's survival is important to Agenda Europe, stressing that 'the ECPM (and its think tank Sallux) have received funds to be able to cooperate in several events in Europe (like also some AE events)'. A few months later his call seems to have paid off. The People's Monarchist Party, with two seats in the regional council of the tiny Portuguese island group of the Azores, signs up as an official member party, ensuring ECPM's survival.8687

'I thought I knew all the political parties in the European Parliament, but apparently that's not the case,' says Pieter de Wilde, professor of European politics at the University of Groningen. De Wilde has never heard of the ECPM. 'They do have a website, but it's all very minimal and seemingly under the radar', he adds.

'While the ECPM is a European political party, it does not have a political group in the European Parliament. This makes them unique. The other nine European political parties do have their own political group in the European Parliament.' The ECPM's five MEPs are spread across different groups, rather than forming one together, meaning they also campaign separately.

Investico werkt altijd samen met andere media. Zo versterken we de onderzoeksjournalistiek in Nederland.

Lees meer over ons

De Wilde is critical about how ECPM uses its European funding to co-finance Agenda Europe summits. 'This is not what that grant is for. How does it contribute to representing European citizens in parliament?' That question becomes even more relevant, he says, when considering the fact that ECPM isn't a noticeable presence the European Parliament.88

The ECPM mostly 'serves as an EU-funded extremist ATM', head researcher Neil Datta of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights concludes.89 The party 'barely meets the minimum criteria to qualify as a European political party and does not behave as any other political party'. Instead, it 'uses its EU funding to advance anti-gender positions inside EU institutions by partnering with religious extremists.'

'Fuck off,' C-Fam director Austin Ruse replies within minutes when we ask him to respond to our findings. The next day he sends another email: 'Like I said, fuck you'. Former ECPM director Auke Minnema, however, partly confirms our findings. He writes that the Agenda Europe group became increasingly 'extreme', which is why he says he left the group around 2018 or 2019. 'In hindsight I should have done that earlier', Minnema states. Other Agenda Europe members that we reached out to generally emphasised that they distance themselves from any racist, homophobic and pro-Russian opinions and discussions circulated in the group.

ChristianUnion and ECPM state the same. They point out that any engagement with Agenda Europe by ECPM-members has been 'in a personal capacity', they write in a joint email statement.

The ECPM confirms that they have financed Agenda Europe events in the past, adding that 'the ECPM regrets it'. Commenting on the decision of Leo van Doesburg to do so, they add that 'it was not OK and was wrong'.

They write that until 2019 - even though they had been a political party for almost 10 years by then - the ECPM operated 'much more as a lobbying party'. After 2019, the ECPM started to realise that things had to change. 'We now only focus on European politics, and something like Agenda Europe does not fit into that.'

The ECPM denies cooperation with Russian parties: 'Lobbying on all kinds of non-European issues is not OK and not allowed. In short, what Mr Malofeev said in 2013 is not true and can't be true. Perhaps he was given the impression that there was some form of cooperation and perhaps Mr Van Doesburg did not explain this clearly enough'.

Leo van Doesburg, who left ECPM in 2022, says he finds it 'ethically incorrect' for Investico to confront him 'after so many years with matters discussed in a closed group.'

On the links between ECPM and Russia, he says the political context with Russia was different back then. He says he never entered into any cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church, 'and I therefore dissociate myself from any form that is related to Russian politics.'

Don Ceder states that an e-mail address of his 'at some point ended up on a mailing list'. He adds that this is because he graduated on the subject of legal protection of unborn life and 'spoke to various organisations' in that context. He does not comment any further on the content of the emails or our questions about particular members of the group.

'The real, but quiet, success of these kinds of groups that manage to stay under the radar, is that they shift public discourse to the right,' says Professor De Wilde. With the predicted sharp right turn the upcoming European elections90, it's likely that the sub-surface success of groups like Agenda Europe only grows91. The leaked emails provide a unique insight into how strategies for engineering public discourse are devised and shared. Perhaps most striking is the group's ability to reconcile seemingly incompatible fringe groups, all because it serves one common goal. Anyone can be a trusted ally in the fight against moral decay.

In that respect, Van Doesburg's work is quite extraordinary, according to De Wilde: 'For years, the right wasn't that good at organising. Nationalism, for example, already made it difficult to unite groups in a European context. That's really changed in the last 15 years.' In the Agenda Europe group, members overcome not just the issue of varying nationalist ideologies, but also religious denominations and clashing political views. They simply work together, patiently and diligently, to build a stronger christian-conservative European right. That precisely such a network seeks out allies in Russia and keeps ties to Kremlin-affiliates is not surprising according to Niels Drost. He works at the Clingendael Institute, a foreign affairs think tank based in the Hague. 'This is such a clear example of Russian soft-power. Russia can't present a very convincing narrative in terms of human rights or economic progress, which is something they know themselves. The Orthodox faith and the conservative values that go with it are a super effective means of generating sympathy for Russia abroad, or at least bringing people on board for collaborations. It's really a well-thought-out strategy'. 92

The question, Drost adds, is whether the other group members are adequately aware of their company. 'Is this naivety, or are you simply putting blinders on: do you know very well who you are dealing with, but prioritise those shared values?' De Wilde, political scientist at the University of Groningen, is surprised about ChristianUnion's part in ECPM, especially in connection to Agenda Europe. 'I don't think it really suits the ChristianUnion as they aren't known as a standard conservative party.'

The obvious disparity between ChristianUnion its public, national profile and the ECPM its European ambitions is confirmed by Leon Meijer. He manages the international affairs for ChristianUnion, and at the party congress he briefly mentions the ideological friction between the two parties. 'We see that parties that join the ECPM, especially those from Eastern Europe, are often more right-wing and conservative', Meijer said. 'We have to watch how that affects ECPM's course, use our own influence within the organisation, but also consider whether we still fit in with that political group'. 93

In 2019, after researcher Neil Datta published a report on Agenda Europe and its manifesto Restoring the Natural Order, the group disbanded94. The administrators wrote that they'll continue under a different name: Vision Network95. Access to the group requires a recommendation from a sitting member. Both ECPM and ChristianUnion state that they are not involved in Vision Network.

At the party congress in Apeldoorn, ECPM president Valeriu Ghileţchi is still on stage. He has just reached the end of the four minutes allocated for his speech: it's time for him to leave the stage. With boths hands he grabs the microphone to say one last thing. 'God bless the ChristianUnion, the Netherlands and Europe.' The audience applauds, Ghileţchi smiles. 'And we will see each other after 9 June, in the European Parliament!'96

With a contribution by Klementyna Suchanow

This investigation was made possible by the Fonds Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten

  1. The Christian Union hosted their 50th party conference on 16 March 2024, in Apeldoorn. 

  2. A recording of the party conference can be viewed here

  3. The Christian Union lost 2 seats in the parliamentary elections on 22 November 2023, dropping from 5 to 3. 

  4. Mirjam Bikker’s speech can be read here 

  5. Trouw, 15 March 2024: ‘The ChristenUnie is in a political slump and that is precisely why it is not changing course’ 

  6. The ECPM, according to its deed of incorporation, was established on 15 September 2005 

  7. Mention of Ghileţchi’s Moldovan-Romanian origins and his ECPM-presidency can be seen in the livestream at 1:55:00 

  8. See the video recording of the party conference at 1:56:00 

  9. See website of the ChristianUnion website. 

  10. The ECPM its deed of incorporation, dated 15 September 2005, names two founding members: The ChristianUnion and the Estonian Eesti Kristlik Rahvapartei. 

  11. See for example this page on their website 

  12. According to statements by an member of the Agenda Europe group interviewed by Investico. 

  13. For example, the 15 March 2017 email from Sophia Kuby: ‘Important information and preparatory questions for our Agenda Europe meeting in Vienna’, asking for ideas for (medium-)long-term strategies for Agenda Europe. 

  14. For example, the email dated 13 May 2016, from Henk-Jan van Schothorst: Invitation: Transatlantic Christian Council Conference - 8 June Evening - Nieuwspoort - The Hague - NL 

  15. For example, Robert Clarke’s email about his case at the International Court of Justice, 17 September 2018. 

  16. There are several representatives of organisations labelled as hate groups: for example, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and C-Fam have been labelled as lgbt-hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, and CitizenGO’s actions have also been labelled as hate speech, as well as people affiliated with neo-Nazi movements such as Noua Dreapta (‘New Right’) and the Ku Klux Klan. 

  17. E.g. the annual summit of Agenda Europe, at the European Advocacy Academy, at events of ECPM, Dignitatis Humanae Institute, Alliance Defending Freedom, European Diginity Watch, Ordo Iuris etc. 

  18. For example, in this report from a conference in Thessaloniki on ‘Orthodoxy and the Media’ 

  19. For example here, front left, in a group photo with several Agenda Europe members, such as Ignacio Arsuaga of CitizenGO and Auke Minnema of ECPM. 

  20. See this photo on Van Doesburg’s Twitter account. 

  21. The ECPM its deed of incorporation, dated 15 September 2005, names two founding members: The ChristianUnion and the Estonian Eesti Kristlik Rahvapartei. 

  22. With 5 out of 705 seats in the European Parliament, ECPM is the smallest party. ECPM does not have its own political group, but divides its seats between the EPP and the ECR, and one independent MEP. See also here, ‘ECPM, the smallest party in terms of MEPs‘ 

  23. See funding rules for Europarties 

  24. See membership list on page 7 of ECPM’s 2010 annual financial report

  25. See membership list on page 7 of ECPM's 2010 annual financial report

  26. See Ethnic Minorities and Politics in Post-Socialist Southeastern Europe from 2016, page 61: ‘Under the Romanian Constitution and the electoral law, each ethnic minority’s party or cultural association has a reserved seat in the Chamber of Deputies’ 

  27. Evidenced by the ECPM’s 2010 annual financial report

  28. Evidenced by the ECPM’s 2010 annual financial report

  29. See here for a list of all published annual reports. 

  30. Evidenced by the 2022 annual financial report of the ECPM and their scientific foundation Sallux

  31. The total amount to the ECPM is €97,179. This comes from the Christian Union and its subsidiary institutions such as its think tank and foundation for international development projects(FICDD). The exact amounts per donor, per year can be found here and here

  32. Read more about Kyrylo Frolov’s leaked emails here

  33. Evidenced by documents from the so-called Frolov Leaks, accessed by Investico. Smyslova wrote on 12 July 2010, among other things: ‘Dear Kirill! I am sending you brief information about the European Christian-political movement and its reasons for seeking cooperation with Russia’s Orthodox socio-political forces.’ 

  34. Evidenced by documents from the so-called Frolov Leaks, accessed by Investico. Frolov writes: ‘Great, I’ll send it to the DECR, Metropolitan Hilarion.’ 

  35. Evidenced by this 2011 ECPM annual report and by an email from Russian lawyer Ekaterina Smyslova dated 5 April 2011 to Sergey Zvonariov (of the Russian Orthodox Church), this information is contained in a leak of emails from Kiril Frolov accessed by Investico through OCCRP. 

  36. Interview with Ekatarina Smyslova on 14 December 2020 

  37. See OCCRP 

  38. That document can be found here 

  39. See this page on Malofeev from the database OpenSanctions and this press statement 

  40. 2013: London, 2014: Munich, 2015: Dublin, 2016: Warsaw, 2017: Vienna, 2018: Croatia. 

  41. Restoring the Natural Order can be accessed here 

  42. Email on 28 October 2016 from Gudrun Kugler, entitled ‘Warsaw Follow Up - personal thoughts’:

    ‘Let me remind you of our short-mid-long-term goals strategic plan we discussed at the Summit in Munich (2014): “Restoring the Natural Order - An Agenda for Europe”. I attach it for you as a pdf. This should be key for each one’s national strategic planning.’ 

  43. This is evident from recordings seen by Investico, on which we also previously published. Recordings of lectures, dinner speeches and documentation of mail group members and participant lists were obtained in 2016 through an undercover action by a Polish journalist. This documentation was provided to Investico in December 2020. 

  44. The Guardian, 16-05-2019, ‘Revealed: the fringe rightwing group changing the UN agenda on abortion rights‘ 

  45. Southern Poverty Law Centre, 19 March 2014, ‘Could Austin Ruse’s Violent Rhetoric Endanger C-Fam's Status with the UN?‘ 

  46. Huffington Post, 14 March 2014, ‘Catholic Group Leader Calls For Liberal Academics To Be ‘Taken Out And Shot” 

  47. See the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center 

  48. See Breitbart’s website 

  49. Mail from Austin Ruse, 10 March 2017, titled Some thoughts on messaging…. 

  50. See Deutsche Welle, 14/09/2017: ‘Five questions on banned ‘Altermedia” 

  51. See Deutsche Welle: ‘Romania: right wing extremists target German mayor’ 

  52. See Southern Poverty Law Centre their article mentioning Stanciu 

  53. Also, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung writes mentioning Stanciu 

  54. See Romania-Insider: 'Bucharest Pride organisers proud of 10,000 participants

  55. See Pro Vita's website 

  56. See the full list here, and this Department of State report for additional information 

  57. File created on 12 November 2014 by Paloma Cantero Gómez of European Dignity Watch 

  58. Recordings of lectures, dinner speeches and documentation of mail and participant lists were obtained in 2016 through an undercover action by a Polish journalist. This documentation was provided to Investico in December 2020 

  59. Minnema become managing director of ECPM on 21 December 2017

  60. OpenDemocracy, 9 August 2017, 'They are coming for your children: The Rise of CitizenGO' 

  61. Hemminga has been working for CitizenGO since 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile

  62. Hepke Deelstra was ECPYouth's general secretary until Sept 2017, as evidenced by the 2017 yearbook

  63. Nederlands Dagblad, 13 January 2023, 'Criticism of Ranking Christian Persecution: 'The world is complex'' 

  64. See Christian Council International website: Henk Jan van Schothorst is President of the Board. 

  65. See the Sallux website 

  66. Mail dated 11 May 2016 

  67. Mail dated 11 April 2016 

  68. Slater is the president of Family Watch International 

  69. See, for example, an article by the Southern Poverty Law Center on Slater's organisation. 

  70. Mail dated 23 February 2016. See the attached Swedish article

  71. Mail dated 23 February 2016. 

  72. See video

  73. Mail dated 5 April 2016. 

  74. See her organisation 

  75. Mail dated 24 March 2016. 

  76. Mail dated 19 september 2017 

  77. See information on the Dutch government's web page on the subject 

  78. See Zulueta's LinkedIn profile 

  79. He writes: And about Ukraine: the country is completely divided: West side, with majority of pro-Europe population and the East side pro-Russian population. Read this explainer from the BBC or this interview in The New Yorker with historian Serhii Ploky about this, for example 

  80. Plenary debate in the House of Representatives on the 'BRP'-bill amendment passed, 4 October 2018 

  81. EO documentary NieuwLicht, 22 April 2019 

  82. Plenary debate where Stieneke van der Graaf (ChristianUnion) highlights how there should be no lower limit to registering a stillborn child, 4 October 2018. Stieneke van der Graaf (ChristenUnie) from 0:16:23 

  83. Interview with Nicole Withuis on 12 January 2021 and Interviews with Lisette ten Haaf on 03 December 2020 and 02 February 2021 

  84. Leo van Doesburg wrote on 7 March 2018: 'This means that not the number of Members of (European) Parliament is needed to maintain the status of being a European party, but the number of national or regional member parties from different EU countries'. 

  85. See funding rules for Europarties 

  86. See ECPM website 

  87. See official documentation from 2019 and 2022 showing that the Portuguese Popular Monarchist Party registered as a core member in order to meet the minimum criteria 

  88. Interview with Pieter de Wilde on 14 March 2024 

  89. See this 2019 report by Neil Datta and this website

  90. See the European Council on Foreign Relations their article, 23 of January 2024 

  91. Interview with Pieter de Wilde on 14 March 2024 

  92. Interview with Niels Drost on 15 March 2024 

  93. Interview with Leon Meijer at the ChristenUnie party congress on 16 March 2024 

  94. Emailed from on 21 June 2019: ACTION NEEDED - Agenda Europe will be closed TODAY, sign up to Vision Network. The email is forwarded by Sophia Kuby with an explanation underneath: At the last summit, we've gathered many great ideas for a new name among you. The name that made it is Vision Network. Congratulations to Petra Plonner from Austria who will get free participation to the next Summit for having found the name

  95. On 23 April 2021, Sophia Kuby e-mails from: a registration link for the next meeting for Vision Meeting of Vision Network Europe. . 

  96. The recording of the party conference can be viewed here, Ghileţchi's speech starts at 1h56m 

Wilt u onafhankelijke onderzoeksjournalistiek ondersteunen? Word Vriend van Investico

U las de longread van dit onderzoek. Heeft u naar aanleiding hiervan een tip? Neem contact met ons op

Onafhankelijke onderzoeksjournalistiek is onmisbaar in een democratie. Word nu Vriend van Investico en versterk de onderzoeksjournalistiek in Nederland.

Word vriend