Challenging EU governments to establish a more enabling environment for philanthropy, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has published its first opinion on the topic, saying that a more philanthropic environment could make for a more resilient EU society.
The opinion, which was commissioned by the current Romanian presidency of the EU and published in May, identifies that philanthropic and citizen action currently raise close to EUR 90 billion for good causes per year. It recommends that facilitating cross-border philanthropy should be a priority for both the EU and member states.
Commenting on the opinion, EFA president Gosse Bosma said:
“This is a hugely important step in bringing greater recognition of the vital role of philanthropy in creating a stronger and better Europe. Philanthropic action across the EU already benefits so many areas but as this opinion by EESC highlights, it also faces many challenges. Only with greater support from governments and the creation of a more enabling environment can its impact increase.”
In its paper, the EESC highlights the diverse nature of philanthropy and the public causes it benefits in Europe and establishes that, despite its value, philanthropic organisations in the EU face a number of limitations that are making it increasingly difficult for them to operate.
These limitations include the introduction by some governments of tighter rules and restrictions on their work, as well as foreign funding restrictions, and an uneven application of tax non-discrimination principles by Member States to philanthropic organisations trying to operate across borders.
In the EESC’s view, such limitations not only reduce the operating space for philanthropic organisations but may also lead to increased public distrust of the role civil society plays in promoting society’s development as a whole. Foreign funding restrictions, it also points out, hinder cross-border philanthropic investments, yet unlike commercial companies, philanthropic foundations and private donors are unable to enjoy the benefits of the single market, which already makes it difficult for them to extend their charitable actions across borders.
However, while the opinion urges EU governments to better support philanthropic action it also warns that philanthropy cannot be a substitute for a welfare state and that strong social protection systems based on tax justice and effective employment policies are also needed. These, it states, must be strengthened and further developed to help improve the capability of philanthropic organisations to fill in the gaps and complement funding where public support is lacking.