14 December 2023

Dialogue in action: Highlights from EuroPhilantopics 2023

Over 100 philanthropy practitioners and representatives from the EU institutions convened in Brussels for EuroPhilantopics 2023 seeking to explore democracy, equality and climate, and how philanthropy and institutions can work in partnership on these themes. With the upcoming European elections in 2024 not far away, the event also saw the unveiling of the updated European Philanthropy Manifesto, which sets out four key recommendations to unlock the potential of philanthropy.

Angel Font, President, Philea, highlighted the crucial role of foundations in our society and within the social economy in his opening remarks. The Spanish Presidency of the EU, represented by Elena San José emphasised foundation’s pivotal role in addressing issues in society and highlighted the role of social economy, one of the Presidency’s key priorities.

Carola Carazzone, Vice-President, Philea, ushered in a high-level opening panel featuring Ruth Paserman, Director, DG EMPL, and Valentina Superti, Director, DG GROW, who delved into the strides made for philanthropy within the broader social economy agenda during the current legislative cycle. They shared insights into ongoing initiatives within the Commission, including the Council recommendation on social economy frameworks and the proposal for a European Cross-Border Association.

Delphine Moralis, CEO, Philea, alongside Ludwig Forrest, Head of Philanthropy, King Baudouin Foundation, and Co-Chair, Philea Legal Affairs Committee, unveiled the European Philanthropy Manifesto, which includes four key recommendations to establish a Single Market for Philanthropy.

The Manifesto and its recommendations served as the topic for an ensuing panel featuring Paul Nemitz, DG JUST, who spoke on the role of philanthropy in a “European Union of values”. Albert Raedler, DG TAXUD pointed to the ongoing work around the Council recommendation for social economy frameworks and relevant tax elements seeking to facilitate cross-border philanthropy. Veronika Mora, Ökotárs Foundation provided the perspective of a Hungarian civil society organisation, underlining the importance of international philanthropy and EU action in the context of closing civil society space. Silvia Manca, European Investment Fund closed the panel, extending a compelling invitation to join forces for co-financing activities under Invest-EU and beyond.

In the conclusion to the opening plenary, Hanna Staehle, Philea engaged in a provocative conversation with Peter Turchin, award-winning author of ‘The End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites And The Path Of Political Disintegration’ unveiling the dynamics of societal rise and fall. Turchin’s insights paint a compelling picture of inevitable political instability amidst elite-majority disparities. He stressed the urgency for unified action by philanthropy and policymakers to avert societal decline. This interview set the stage for the afternoon’s parallel sessions, on climate, democracy, and equality, bridging the nexus between philanthropy and EU institutions.

Highlights from the parallel sessions:

  • Philanthropy can contribute to future thinking and looking at a dystopian future scenario (but also already today), philanthropy can play a role in strengthening fundamental rights, rule of law and democratic approaches. We need to take collective action now by building trusted relationships and robust mechanisms to be ready for emergency
  • More dialogue is needed between public funders such as the EU, and philanthropic funders in various policy fields including climate, democracy, equality but also development partnerships, the Horizon Cities Missions, CERV and Global Gateway, as well as their future versions, offer new opportunities. We need to find “the third way” of collaboration.
  • Simplify EU financial regulations and find pragmatic solutions that enable more collaboration, co-investment and co-funding opportunities
  • We need to unpack the role of philanthropy from the perspective of foundations, being a catalyst and holding governments to account; as well as the role of philanthropy from the perspective of governments, having a long-term horizon convening and streamlining resources, making research accessible through communications, and decreasing administrative burden; and position Philea as the interlocutor between philanthropy and the European Commission, exploring the potential for complementarity
  • Facilitate philanthropy and remove existing barriers especially with regard to cross-border philanthropy
  • Foundations to continuously review own practice with regard to funding approaches including unrestricted versus restricted funding.
  • Foundations to also consider leaving their comfort zone of neutrality (philanthropy cannot be neutral) and be honest about capacity and impact.  

Isabelle Schwarz, European Cultural Foundation, moderated the closing session, skilfully weaving insights from the different breakout sessions. Her key takeway was “We need to be more creative, more imaginative, open to more than “dialogue and convening”, and invest in political and social innovation, as well as in institutional and philanthropic innovation.” Isabelle concluded by paraphrasing Rien van Gendt’s “Philanthropy back to the Drawing Board“, stating “Philanthropy needs to go back to the Drawing Board – but also EU institutions need to go back to the Drawing Board. And my hope is that we might look at the same Drawing Board and start imagining, drawing and building together. To conclude: Alone we are too small. Together we are stronger. United we could be!”


Hanna Hanses
Policy Manager