In November 2003, at the end of a ten-year process, the EU passed legislation (Regulation (EC) No 2004/2003) on the granting of public subsidies to European political parties, thus laying down the conditions governing both their funding and their implicit recognition. The article explores in detail this normative framework and the political implications of the European party finance law. It is argued that the case for granting political parties EU public subsidies has been based on the same arguments as national party-funding legislation and that the European legislation contains provisions that resemble those applicable within member states, despite the fact that political parties perform substantially different functions at European and national level owing to the special features of the EU's institutional and political architecture. It is also argued that the granting of EU subsidies to political parties has very largely been cast within the debate on the "democratic deficit", but it is unlikely to contribute substantially to remedying that deficit and to fostering the development of a party system at EU level that can help to kickstart momentum towards integration. The article analyses the European party finance law by comparison with the national legislation of several member states, and presents a preliminary assessment of the impact of the new Regulation on the European political landscape during the first two years of application.