22 September 2020

The EU Recovery Plan & MFF fit for the third sector and how to get there

By Hanna Hanses

Beyond Recovery and Towards Values

The Multi-annual Financial Framework reflects the priorities of EU institutions and delimits the entry points available to European philanthropy, ranging from foundations as co-granters, co-investors, re-granters or beneficiaries from EU funds. Whereas the current proposal by the Council focuses on the recovery from the looming social and economic consequences of the global pandemic through national government support, the European Parliament expressed the will to protect future-oriented EU projects in its resolution which does not accept the Council conclusions. An agreement between heads of states with national interests in mind, taking place behind closed doors, is not always a perfect fit for the future of Europe. Hence the important role the European Parliament plays as the democratically elected representants of the European citizens in the ongoing trialogues.

Philanthropy needs to stand alongside the European Parliament to:

  • Include civil society organisations as beneficiaries of the MFF and Recovery Plan;
  • protect the rule of law against illiberal ideas undermining democracy, as well as protect final beneficiaries in cases of breaches;
  • obtain commitments regarding new own resources to ensure the financing of the additional funds;
  • showcase the importance of the Values Fund to nourish civil society;
  • strengthen the pan-European areas such as research and innovation, and the digital and green transitions;
  • and ensure a robust InvestEU programme to accompany these future-oriented programmes.


European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. Source: Pool photo by Stephanie Lecocq via Getty Images


Standing Together Against All Odds

Standing Together Against All Odds

Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the European Union stands together once again and managed to forge a strong signal to the world that cooperation across Europe is possible, it is happening, and it will be impactful. The Council agreement has been prepared thoroughly ahead of the Summit and knows many mothers and fathers. Besides Charles Michel, also Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen have shouldered the efforts. Other key actors behind this deal are the so-called “frugal four”, consisting of The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Finland. Ahead of the meeting, fear was high that no common agreement could be reached because of their opposition.

Terrace Where It Happened

From the 17th to the 21st of July, the European Union heads of states gathered in-person for five days at a walking distance of the Philanthropy House, on European Council President Michel’s terrace. There, a ‘historic’ decision was made regarding the future of the European Union (or at least about the next seven years). The deal has received the label of being ‘historic’ mainly because of two reasons – besides the ongoing global pandemic and fears of a second wave across Europe. Firstly, the total agreed sum amounts to 1.8 trillion euros, the largest EU budget ever seen. Secondly, besides the MFF, leaders agreed to raise common debt on the capital markets for the first time, through a Recovery Fund named “Next Generation EU”.

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