Strong cross-party alliance in European Parliament for easing philanthropy’s work for public good across Europe

Members of the European Parliament, representatives of the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee and relevant stakeholders from philanthropy, civil society and social economy discussed ways to create a truly European space for donors and encourage cross-border generosity, solidarity and civil actions.

“While it is easy to make money in the EU, it is very hard to give money for public good across borders.”
Felix Oldenburg
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“There is so much untapped potential when it comes to foundations and civil society organisations – let us unlock it all together” said the European Parliament’s Vice-President Nicola Beer, opening the debate on the “Single Market for Philanthropy ‒ Helping unlock the potential for public good across Europe” on 1 October in the European Parliament. “While it is easy to make money in the EU, it is very hard to give money for public good across borders” stated Felix Oldenburg, Secretary General of the Association of German Foundations.

A strong cross-party alliance emerged at the debate. “There is at present a new impetus for an EU social economy, philanthropy and civic engagement initiative advancing EU values, democracy and an inclusive and sustainable prosperity” underlined European Commission’s Kerstin Jorna, Deputy Director General in DG ECFIN. She acknowledged that philanthropy can support European values and that the sector can partner with key stakeholders to tackle rising inequality, provide space for innovation, help overcome social and political divisions, and connect with people and their real needs.

In this light politicians at this debate agreed that the time is politically right for re-launching ideas on a single market for philanthropy, as stated by European Commission’s Paul Nemitz, Principle Adviser at DG Justice. MEPs Sven Giegold and Sergey Lagodinsky discussed the potential for a new proposal for a 29th regime of a “European public benefit statute” with the aim to create a truly European space for donors. This is currently undermined by several regulatory and tax barriers that affect cross-border philanthropy within the EU.

Stefania Coni from Fondazione CRT (Italy) and Ludwig Forrest from the King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium) as well as Laurent Thieule from FC Kraainem made clear that European philanthropy is both diverse and increasingly European. Philanthropic activity implies expertise, time, networks and resources, working in the service of society and the people in Europe. There are 147,000 public-benefit organisations across Europe, with annual giving of € 60bn. With long and diverse tradition in Europe, they are also diverse in the ways in which they contribute resources (e.g. through public, corporate, family and individual donors) and the fields in which they are involved: education, health, inclusion, gender equality, environment or international development, to name but a few.

Portuguese MEP Maria Da Graca Carvalho stated “the role of foundations for our society is essential, as they focus on areas often neglected by the for-profit sector and forgotten by the public sector. Their involvement is therefore perfectly complementary to EU funds, activities and expertise”. Philanthropy is focused on long-term results and is independent from political and market cycles. Many of its activities are innovative and system-focused, addressing the root causes of problems. The importance of maximising collaboration between the philanthropic sector and the public sector, including the EU, was also highlighted by Felix Fernández-Shaw from DG DEVCO.

At the event it became clear that in the European Parliament a strong cross-party alliance exits between Greens, Renew, EPP and S&D. An EESC opinion on Philanthropy, mandated by the Romanian Council presidency, was issued on 15 May 2019 calling for measures and initiatives at EU and national level to promote organised philanthropy. It asks for EU actions to eliminate barriers within the internal market that are hindering the realisation of philanthropy's full potential. This builds on the European Philanthropy Manifesto released in March 2019. The recognition of legal personality and supporting the free flow of philanthropic capital and civic activity within the EU is central to its propositions.

“The EESC is ready to collaborate with the European Parliament and the European Commission with future joint events on philanthropy and protecting European values, including in the context of the future European Democracy Action Plan and the two-year Conference on the Future of Europe,” said Ionut Sibian, Romanian Member of the EESC.

The philanthropic sector is ready to contribute to the initiative and more broadly achieving the ambitions of the InvestEU, Sustainable Europe Investment Plan and to deliver an economy that works for people.

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