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.

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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.’

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