Czech EU Presidency, the War in Ukraine, and the role of philanthropy
From 1 July to 31 December, the Council of the European Union is being chaired by the Czech Republic. While the French presidency was marked by a clear commitment toward the Social Economy Action Plan and its connections to philanthropy, the incoming Czech presidency had to shift its priority towards tackling the potential spillover effects of the war in Ukraine. As the voice of European philanthropy, we firmly believe that our sector can be at the forefront in providing support to Ukraine, sheltering its civil society, and defending European values. To do so, Philea is working side by side with the European Institutions to create a better enabling environment for our sector and unleash philanthropy’s potential.
In this regard, the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union has published its five main priorities, which we believe could be closely intertwined with our Single Market for Philanthropy Manifesto and other input we have provided so far into EU policy:
- Managing the refugee crisis and Ukraine’s post-war recovery
- Energy security
- Strengthening Europe’s defense capabilities and cyberspace security
- Strategic resilience of the European economy
- Resilience of democratic institutions
In particular, while we recognise the relevance of strengthening Europe’s defense capabilities and cyberspace security and European energy self-sufficiency, we noticed an alignment with the following priorities set by the Czech Presidency:
Managing the refugee crisis and Ukraine’s post-war recovery
Among the key points on which the Council of the European Union will work for the next six months, the Czech Presidency highlighted its willingness to cooperate with the European Commission to create ‘’flexible transfers of funds and necessary structures to assist the most affected Member States, organisations and the civil sector.”
This proposal fits perfectly with our recommendation for a directive to overcome barriers to cross-border philanthropy and non-profit organisations. During a panel on the role of philanthropy in Ukraine hosted by Philea, the Vice President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas also stressed the necessity to fully integrate philanthropic cross-border operations into the Single Market.
The need to simplify cross-border operations is the essence of the second pillar of our Manifesto. We will work alongside the Czech presidency to achieve the following recommendations:
- In line with EU fundamental rights and values, and Treaty Freedoms, clear the way for borderless philanthropy
- Eliminate administrative barriers
- Facilitate tax-effective cross-border philanthropy
Strategic resilience of the European economy
Philanthropy, as part of the wider civil society, provides a significant economic contribution to the European Economy. With more than 147,000 philanthropic organisations in Europe and an accumulated annual giving of nearly €60 billion, the combined assets of European public-benefit foundations amount to over €511 billion. Moreover, many of our members are deeply rooted in their country’s social economy, and we are also involved in this area as we provided input into the consultation regarding the European Commission’s Social Economy Action Plan. As The Czech presidency committed to strengthen the resilience of the European Economy, these are the key recommendations we propose to tap into philanthropic resources:
- A definition of a Minimum Standard for Foundations to ensure an enabling environment for NPOs, including philanthropy, by correct application of the freedom of association, freedom of expression and free flow of capital
- A complete application of the non-discrimination principles in cross-border operations and tax
- A common legal form for foundations
- Working on the co-investment platform InvestEU
Resilience of democratic institutions
Democratic institutions are based on a healthy civic space, where civil society can thrive and flourish. As advocates for the protection of civic and democratic institutions, we are pleased to see that the next presidency will set as a priority the reinforcement of the democratic institutions.
Philanthropic organisations are part of the broader civil society, and, as Philea and through our members, we engage with policymakers and international organisations to protect and nurture civil society in Europe and beyond. In March, Philea moderated the opening session at the Civil Society Days and on 21 June, we co-signed a letter to President Ursula Von Der Leyen calling on the European Commission to include a strategy for Civil Society in the 2023 Commission work plan. We also contributed to the annual rule of law report consultation, calling for a dedicated pillar for civil society.
This essential bond between civil society and healthy democracies resonates with the first pillar of our Manifesto and what emerged after the Conference for the Future of Europe. During this conference, we recommended policy makers to recognise and engage with philanthropy, both through the treaties and through public advocacy. Entering into the new Council Presidency, this is how the Czech Republic presidency can reinforce our democracies by strengthening the resilience of civil society:
- Pushing forward the implementation of a civil society strategy
- Protecting civil society from authoritarian governments and preventing the civic space from shrinking