14 September 2023

State of the Union – Democracy and Rule of Law high on the agenda but where is our contribution to this?

The third and last State of the Union (SOTEU) address by President Ursula von der Leyen of this legislative term, took place on 13 September under the heading “Answering the call of history”. The President took stock of what has been achieved and where the focus will be in the next few months leading up to the European elections in June 2024.

Whereas President von der Leyen noted the importance to complete the Union’s “vibrant democracies”, no reference was made to the important role of civil society, including philanthropy, in protecting fundamental rights, and upholding the rule of law.

Philea welcomes the importance given in the SOTEU to the annual rule of law reports, which now include a strand on enabling frameworks for civil society including philanthropy. However, more can be done to increase the engagement of civil society organisations, including public benefit foundations, in the dialogues leading up to, and following up to the annual reports. We applaud her announcement to open up the rule of law reports to the accession countries, hence placing them on equal footing with Member States. Indeed, the topic of enlargement featured high across this year’s SOTEU.

The rule of law annual report and role philanthropy plays will form the focus of discussion in an event with ECNL on 29 September, and another event with Ariadne on 5 October will present public benefit foundations the opportunity to discuss their engagement in the annual process.

What became clear in today’s SOTEU speech: There is potential for our sector to engage around the key policy agendas and to use this as a hook to present our joint calls for a strong Social Economy agenda, and a European Civil Society strategy, alongside our own European Philanthropy Manifesto asks.

Find out more on our joint work with civil society partners on the State of the Union.