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The European Commission’s 2021 work programme sets us on a path towards a greener, stronger and fairer Europe, with a focus on creating the building blocks to support continued digital growth. Our public affairs columnist Patrick Gibbels explores what this new programme means for civil society.
This year has been extremely tough for nonprofits and fragmentation in the way different European Member States approached the pandemic certainly won’t have made life any easier. So, the announcement of a more coordinated approach for the future is welcome, as set out in the European Commission’s annual work programme for 2021, announced on 19 October. Aiming to ensure Intra-EU cross-border activities in future scenarios, the European Commission set out six clear headline areas for action:
Within those headlines, there are at least a couple of areas that are likely to have an influence on philanthropy and fundraising. Under Europe fit for the Digital Age, the European Commission will expand on its push towards free-flowing data and data aspects of Artificial Intelligence (AI), while working to protect the right to privacy. The Commission will propose a new European Digital Identity giving people more access to services across Europe but also more control over the data they share and how it is used.
For civil society organisations, this can work both ways. On the one hand, you will be able to enjoy easier access to data and AI, which could lead to better identification of potential donors and an overall more targeted approach. On the other hand, it can lead to more administrative and regulatory burden. It is important that nonprofits are included in any relevant consultation procedure at EU level or make their voices heard in alternative ways, so as to educate the EU Institutions about the needs of the sector and warn them about any potential pitfalls in planned legislation.
An economy that works for people, through the European Pillar of Social Rights will include an action plan towards socio-economic recovery and resilience in the medium and long term, focusing on improving social fairness of the digital and green transitions. Civil society has an important part to play in this. Nonprofits and other organisations are encouraged to make their voices heard via a consultation that closes at the end of this month (30 November 2020). The action plan for a social economy aims to enhance social investment and support social economy actors.
In light of further harmonisation, the Commission wishes to deepen the Economic and Monetary Union, which includes measures to boost cross-border investment in the EU. It must be made clear to the Commission that philanthropy is very much a part of the capital market and tax incentives should be utilised in order to facilitate cross-border investments in this part of the economy as well.
Anti-money laundering and tax evasion are still high on the European Commission’s agenda with a legislative package planned for the former during the first quarter of 2021. The latter is due to be finalised this coming year. It is vital that the Commission considers proportionality when tackling these issues so that these do not result in unnecessary administrative and regulatory burdens on the philanthropy and fundraising sector.
NextGenerationEU, the Commission’s ambitious funding tool is geared towards recovery from the current crisis, as well as improving the future frameworks through sustainable investment and reforms. A part of the budget is earmarked for preparing, monitoring and implementing national recovery and resilience plans. Civil society should be given access to EU budgets to use their expertise and tools contribute to these plans.
In addition to the European Commission’s Work Programme, the European Parliament has recently established a special subcommittee on tax matters. It comprises 30 members who deal with money laundering, tax evasion, and other relevant maters. The Committee has officially started its activities.
We will monitor any developments in the European Commission and Parliament and will keep you informed.
Patrick Gibbels, director of Gibbels Public Affairs