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After their seven-week recess, the European institutions – the Commission, Council & Parliament – resume their work. EFA’s public affairs columnist Patrick Gibbels explores what happened over the summer and what’s coming up next.
After their notoriously long 7 (!) week recess, the European institutions (the Commission, Council, and Parliament) have finally resumed their work, with the first European Parliament committee meetings in the first week of September.
Naturally, it has been relatively quiet during the summer months in terms of new developments on the Brussels policy side. Most news has been directly or indirectly related to COVID-19, and the measures taken by individual Member States. But the European Fundraising Association has not been sitting still and engaged on behalf of the sector with the European Commission on its action plan on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing. (More on that below.)
Whilst the European institutions open back up, some borders do not, which is causing fragmentation throughout the EU, making cross-border work more difficult. On 7 September, the Ambassadors of the 27 Member States met for a second time in the COREPER II formation to discuss plans by the European Commission to end fragmentation and to harmonise the way Member States approach COVID-19, at least in terms of border restrictions.
Whilst the Commission is proposing a common system for labelling epidemiological risks and travel restrictions, for the European Member States the issue is highly political and not all countries are willing to take the same degree of risk. A political decision on the matter is expected for the General Affairs Council (of EU ministers) on 22 September. However, for this to be possible, the Ambassadors first need to reach a technical agreement at COREPER II level, which we do not expect to happen before this date.
Paradoxically, France is pushing hard for the European Parliament’s monthly meetings in Strasbourg, also known as the “travelling circus”, to take place in person, which seems almost hypocritical as this would entail people traveling to France from all over the continent.
What did happen during the summer months, however, were calls by both the European Parliament and the philanthropy sector to ensure that anti money laundering policy does not unduly restrict the sector.
In a Parliamentary Resolution, the Parliament urged the European Commission to ”ensure that the implementation of AML/CTF provisions do not lead to national legislation imposing excessive barriers to the activities of civil society organisations” in the context of the European Commission’s Action Plan for a comprehensive Union policy on preventing money laundering and terrorism financing.
Moreover, EFA has taken part in formulating a coordinated response within a coalition of non-profit organisations, to the European Commission’s Action Plan, alongside Civil Society Europe, Dafne, the European Foundation Center, the European Center for Non-Profit Law, and the Human Security Collective. In this response, the partners express their support for the EU’s fight against Anti Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing, but warns against the unintended consequences of the Implementation of this policy has and can have on the sector, such as overly tight reporting requirements, barriers to cross-border philanthropy, banks not serving parts of the sector or unjustified freezing of bank accounts.
The coalition asks for clear guidance from the EU level to facilitate a more consistent implementation at national level, while employing a risk-based approach towards the NPO sector, without imposing general measures that may restrict or hamper the legitimate public benefit activities of organisations within the EU or beyond. By categorising NPOs as obliged entities, certain Member States have placed unnecessarily burdensome reporting requirements on them. Moreover, there is concern regarding how the reporting requirements on beneficial owners are applied to the NPO sector.
The coalition asks that any new policy proposals should be prepared in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including NPOs and the philanthropy sector. EFA will be monitoring any developments closely and take action when appropriate.
Related articles: View from Brussels
Follow Patrick @GPA_Brussels