If pets can move freely across EU borders, why can’t philanthropy?


Magazine article

For over ten years pet owners have enjoyed more freedom and rights across Europe than philanthropic donors and charitable foundations do, and this year these rights have been further enhanced[1]. Commending the “New Pets Regulation” a British Member of the European Parliament, hailed the measure as an example of an EU law that made life better for people, stating that: "The misery of quarantine restrictions for both pets and their owners has come to an end. This is the EU creating opportunities and adding value to the experience of people and their pets in a way that no single country could do alone."   

As a philanthropic organisation representative, I would be dismayed if Member States can see eye to eye on a “pet passport” −  which was clearly needed and is a very good thing −  but  could not soon agree on a European passport for foundations, namely the European Foundation Statute that our sector has repeatedly called for over the past decade.  

Foundations, and their donors and beneficiaries, are now closer than ever to having a European legal form to facilitate cross-border charitable activities to meet common challenges across the EU. The European Foundation Statute would enable the creation of a charitable foundation under European law, a “European Foundation”. Why is the European Foundation Statute important and what will it mean for philanthropy across the EU? Where are we in the legislative process and what needs to be done to make the Statute a reality?

Philanthropy is increasingly international. People and money are more mobile than ever, not least within Europe’s Single Market. Philanthropists have international assets and international interests and the charitable foundations they are donating to and founding are increasingly working to address issues that do not stop at national borders.

Whether undertaking joint initiatives, implementing multi-country projects, pooling resources, seeking to reach more beneficiaries, or raising funds from a wider pool of donors or from diaspora communities, large numbers of charitable foundations want and need to be active transnationally to effectively pursue their mission.

However, even within the EU, cross-border philanthropic activity of all kinds brings challenges, in particular when it comes to legal and administrative aspects. Public-benefit organisations in Europe are governed by a web of complex and diverse national and regional laws. All too often, a seemingly straightforward cross-border activity quickly becomes complex and costly, and in recent years a number of pan-European initiatives have stalled or been abandoned altogether for practical rather than programmatic reasons.

In February 2012 the European Commission took a major step towards the creation of a European playing field for philanthropy, issuing a proposal for a European Foundation Statute, which will be an optional legal instrument alongside existing national-level legal structures. European Foundations (FEs) will have full legal capacity and recognition in all Member States; they will be exclusively for public-benefit purposes and have activities in at least two Member States; and they will adhere to high standards of transparency and accountability, following uniform reporting, auditing and disclosure requirements across the EU.

Donors and beneficiaries of European Foundations will also reap the benefits of this form. A European label will greatly ease the process of getting cross-border donations to FEs recognised by national authorities, while the high standards of governance and transparency and accountability to which FEs will adhere will provide an international benchmark of good practice and assure beneficiaries of FEs that they are being supported by trustworthy organisations.

So, where are we now? The legislative process towards making the proposed Statute a reality is well underway. The European Parliament has given its assent, with MEPs voting by a large majority in support of a resolution for a European Foundation Statute in July this year. There is also clear endorsement from key EU advisory bodies, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

To pass into law, the EFS must be approved by all EU Member States through the Council of Ministers. Discussions among the Member States in the Council of Ministers are on-going. The Member States still have to find compromises on elements of the proposal before unanimous approval can be reached.

It is vital that the national governments in whose hands the decision now rests understand what a powerful tool the EFS would be, and how it would benefit the societies they govern. And the responsibility to make the case lies with all those engaged in philanthropic activities.

What can I do?

Foundations, private client and philanthropy advisers can underline the strong interest of the sector in the EFS and ask national governments to take action for its rapid adoption.

1) Share your story and views

Share your experience with the EFC about difficulties you have experienced when undertaking or trying to undertake philanthropic work across borders, how you would like to use a European Foundation Statute, and how it would facilitate your work and bring opportunities for new initiatives. Visit http://efscases.efc.be/ for some 80 real-life examples to help build your case.


2) Inform your political representatives

Help us raise awareness and support for the Statute among national and European decision-makers. Bring the issue to the attention of the competent ministries in your country (the EFC is at your disposal to assist in identifying who in your country is handling the Statute) and the persons responsible for internal market affairs and company law at the permanent representation to the EU of your country in Brussels. .


For more information, or to express your interest in or support for the European Foundation Statute do not hesitate to contact Philanthropy Impact, editor@philanthropy-impact.org or the EFC (eu@efc.be).


[1] In 2000 the EC issued a proposal for a Regulation to facilitate the free movement of pets ( for non-commercial purposes in the EU) ,  the agreement reached in 2003  was shortly followed by a pet passport, and a new  Regulation was adopted again  in June 2013 http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/agricul...



This article is tagged under:

  • International giving