6 September 2023

Civil society organisations now have their place in the single market

We welcome the European Commission proposal to facilitate cross-border activities of non-profit associations in the EU through the creation of a new legal form of a “European Cross-Border Association”. In line with our longstanding and continuous commitment, we will keep engaging with national stakeholders and EU institutions and later provide further comments on this Directive proposal and its implementation.

The proposal – which responds to the European Parliament’s own legislative resolution, as well as calls from civil society organisations – complements the Commission proposal for a Council recommendation on developing social economy framework conditions; the suggested EC Guidance on relevant taxation frameworks for social economy entities; and EC Guidance clarifying existing rules on the tax treatment of cross-border public-benefit donations affecting foundations and associations.

Non-profit associations and public-benefit foundations create societal and economic value as providers of services in social, health, care, culture, employment, education, sports, environment, international cooperation and humanitarian support, among others, leaving no one behind. They also serve as the space where citizens come together to play an active and democratic role in responding to challenges, providing innovative solutions and advocating for change. They play an important role in the single market.

Yet, a number of obstacles have prevented them from fulfilling their missions whenever their activities cross borders, and this includes online activities. Key barriers include the lack of recognition of their legal personality in countries other than those where they are registered; being able to move the seat across borders without creating a new legal entity; obstacles to employment or the involvement of volunteers; access to financial services; fiscal issues; and the possibility of receiving donations or collecting funding.

We believe that by creating a new legal form of non-profit association that can be recognised by all Member States, we can further unlock the potential and support the essential contribution of civil society organisations of all sizes to our society. It can be a crucial tool that can mobilise citizens’ collective engagement, notably through associations and foundations to do more public-benefit work and collaborate in all different societal areas. In addition, associations and foundations in cross-border regions will be able to further cooperate, building an ever deeper sense of European spirit and citizenship in these unique areas.

This initiative will contribute to the recognition of the role of associations of general interest in Europe and may represent a reference point for future initiatives involving other types of entities, such as foundations.

For further info: 

Civil Society Europe: Carlotta Besozzi, Director

Philea – Philanthropy Europe Association: Hanna Surmatz, Head of Policy

European Council of Associations of General Interest (CEDAG): Mathieu de Poorter, President