BRUSSELS | Will European foundations ever be able to work across national borders? At this moment this is not possible. But a new resolution for European foundation statute is presently running through the European Parliament that may change that situation. If the resolution passes, European foundations will be able to engage in transnational initiatives from country to country (just as U.S. foundations are able to work from state to state).
The problem right now is that efforts by European foundations are hampered by a European legal and operating environment that does not afford them the advantages of a single market. Many European initiatives are delayed or abandoned due to such barriers as high legal and administration costs, difficulties with the recognition of foreign legal personalities, and legal uncertainties over the recognition of the “public interest” nature of resident foundations’ cross-border work and public-benefit status.
On July 2, 2013, members of the European Parliament have voted by a large majority to support a resolution for a European foundation statute, the implementation of which will make it easier for foundations to support cross-border initiatives on the continent.
In a statement after the vote, Evelyn Regner, vice chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, called on the European Council, which sets the general political direction of the European Union, to move the statute forward. “It would be very welcome if an agreement could be reached during the current legislature,” said Regner.
Over the past decade, the European foundation sector has called for the creation of a legal framework that would give foundations on the continent the ability to work across borders in much the same way American foundations and nonprofits can work on campaigns across state lines or nationally. Significant regulatory barriers to such a framework exist, however, including the lack of a single market, administrative costs, and differences in the legal definition of terms such as “public benefit.” In 2011, a significant number of European Parliament members signed a written declaration asking the European Commission to establish a statute for foundations, “mutual societies” (membership groups), and associations.
The estimated 110,000 public-benefit foundations in Europe collectively spend or award a total of more than €100 billion annually, employ one million people, and engage the services of two million volunteers.
“The positive vote on the statute sends a crystal clear signal to the council that Europe’s citizens want and need this piece of legislation,” said Gerry Salole, CEO of the European Foundation Centre. “This is a critical step in the final stretch of what has been a long process to give European citizens the tools they need to fulfill their philanthropic impulses and to fully benefit from the philanthropy of others. The fate of the statute is now in the hands of the council.” –rg