5 October 2022

2022 speech on the State of the Union: What’s the role of philanthropy for a new Europe?

During her third State of the Union address, President of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen delivered to the European Parliament an overview of what is at stake in light of the current challenges the EU is facing.

As she walked into the plenary session wearing the Ukrainian flag’s colours, President Von der Leyen made it clear from the very beginning that the main theme of her speech would be ‘’the war raging on European soil’’ and the clash between democratic values and autocratic regimes. “This is a war on our energy, a war on our economy, a war on our values and a war on our future”.

During her address, she stressed the capacity of the EU to immediately react to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and welcome the refugees within European borders. ‘’Europeans found the courage to do the right thing’’, she remarked, referring also to the joint decision to enforce ‘’unprecedented economic sanctions’’ on Russia.

Turning to the energy crisis, she unveiled a proposal to apply a cap on revenues of electric energy producers. The measure is expected to raise more than 140 billion euros to be shared among the Member States, in a bid to mitigate the economic downturn predicted for the coming winter.

Philea identified the following key entry points for our sector:

  • The rule of law had a central role throughout the entire speech. President Von Der Leyen defined the protection of the rule of law as a ‘’Commission noble role’’, and pledged to safeguard judicial independence and the EU’s budget through the conditionality mechanism. Philea recognises that shrinking space for civil society is often an indicator of rule of law deterioration, and stressed the paramount importance of defending civil society from authoritarian tendencies. However, she asked to ensure access to EU funds for civil society in case the conditionality mechanism should be triggered
  • President Von der Leyen once again stated the Commission’s willingness “to mobilise the full power of our Single Market to help accelerate growth and create opportunities.” Philea often emphasises that philanthropy cannot yet fully access the Single Market. In our manifesto, we call on European policymakers to work towards it by promoting better recognition of philanthropy in EU legislation as well as at the national level; encouraging cross-border philanthropy; and eliminating current barriers to philanthropy in order to maximise the impact of private resources for public good.
  • Recalling the importance of the recent Conference on the Future of Europe, President Von Der Leyn quoted David Sassoli, former President of the European Parliament: “Democracy has not gone out of fashion, but it must update itself in order to keep improving people’s lives.” She announced that Citizens’ Panels will become a regular feature of our democratic life, and confirmed that the outcomes of the Conference informed her Letter of Intent (see below). She also hinted towards a European Convention as called for by the Parliament. Philea continually stresses the importance of civil society organisations and pushes for the implementation of article 11 on civil dialogue during these democracy revisions.

On the morning of the speech, President von der Leyen sent a Letter of Intent outlining the Commission’s plans for 2023 through legislation and other initiatives to Prime Minister Petr Fiala, on behalf of the Czech Presidency, and President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola.

We believe that a series of initiatives presented in this letter might be positive opportunities to further push for an enabling environment for philanthropy and to see improvements in policy related to philanthropy’s public-benefit missions:

A Europe fit for the digital age

  • Proposal for European Year of Skills: An Economy that Works for People
  • Mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027
  • Legislative proposal on Business in Europe: a framework for income taxation ‘BEFIT’

European Democracy

  • Defence of democracy package, including an initiative on the protection of the EU democratic sphere from covert foreign influence


Hanna Surmatz
Head of Policy