28 September 2021

Overcoming barriers to cross-border philanthropy and civil society: Philanthropy Advocacy addresses public EESC hearing

Philanthropy Advocacy (Dafne & EFC) was invited to speak at an important public hearing, organised by the EESC on 10 September 2021, titled “European Civil Society: Time for a European Statute for Associations”.

The first panel was moderated by Petru Dandea, no one less than the Rapporteur on the EESC opinion “European Philanthropy: an untapped potential” issued in 2019. During this session, Hanna Surmatz, Philanthropy Advocacy co-lead, shared some of the findings of the Philanthropy Advocacy legal country profiles, to which 40 country experts across Europe have contributed. From the research, she highlighted that the barriers for cross-border philanthropy and CSO work remain. It became clear that there is no level paying field for the non-profit sector compared to how business operates across borders.

Some of the barriers for philanthropic organisations relate to the following aspects:

  1. Recognition of foreign foundations/CSOs
  2. Cross-border merger
  3. Transfer of seat
  4. Foreign funding restrictions
  5. Overtight reporting requirements
  6. Bank de-risking
  7. Discrimination of cross-border philanthropy and complex procedures

Many of the day-to-day barriers to cross-border philanthropy are caused by complex procedures and tax legislation dealing with the comparability test. Whereas Philanthropy Advocacy supports the idea of a European Association Statute, we highlight that the non-discrimination principle needs to be implemented to benefit the entire philanthropy and CSO sector.

Hanna Surmatz’ intervention followed MEP Sergey Lagodinsky’s call and proposal for a European Statute for Associations. In his address, MEP Sergey Lagodinsky made the case for the Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee’s motion for a resolution on a Statute for European cross-border associations and non-profit organisations. Referring to the Committee draft report, he stresses that the civil society interests should be treated on an equal footing with commercial undertakings, for which legal forms at Union level have long been established. Furthermore, he made a strong call on the Commission to recognise and promote the public benefit activities of associations and NPOs by developing a common public benefit status across the EU.

The second panel was moderated by Jean-Marc Roirant, who is currently working on an EESC opinion on the matter of a European Statute as discussed during the public hearing. In this panel, academic Oonagh Breen pointed to the past difficulties with European Statutes, in particular the European Foundation Statute. She noted that unanimity among all Member States is required to follow the legal basis that has been suggested by the JURI Committee. As an alternative, she points towards the possibility to make use of the enhanced cooperation mechanism. The second panel closed with the call for the need to enable civil dialogue by Alexandrina Najmowicz from the European Civic Forum.


By Hanna Hanses, Philanthropy Advocacy

Hanna Hanses is Junior Manager at Dafne (Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe) in Brussels. Since joining Dafne in 2019, she has been part of the Legal Team of Philanthropy Advocacy, a joint initiative of Dafne and the EFC (European Foundation Centre). She holds an LLM International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex, UK, focusing her thesis on climate-induced displacement. She received her LLB Bachelor in Law from Ghent University, Belgium. Hanna brings with her a multi-cultural experience, having lived in inter alia the Democratic Republic of Congo, Switzerland and Belgium.