Europe and non-profit organisations, a study for the European Parliament

One of the topics of the meeting of 11 May of the Legal Affairs commission (JURI) of the European Parliament is the studyA statute for European cross-border associations and non-profit organisations – European added value assessment‘, prepared by Klaus Müller and Meenakshi Fernandes for the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS).

On 11 May a presentation on the study will be given by EAVA, the European Parliament’s European Added Value Unit that is supposed to provide:

European Added Value Assessments and Cost of Non-Europe Reports which analyze policy areas where common action at EU level is absent but could bring greater efficiency and a public good for European citizens.

The following introduction is given:

Associations and non-profit organisations (NPOs for short, as associations are a specific form of the broader category represented by non-profit organisations) have so far developed in the context of the EU Member States’ or other countries’ national regulatory frameworks. NPOs form the backbone of civil society, being a highly diverse ensemble of organisations that range from small local associations to large international NGOs like Greenpeace, and from social service providers and relief agencies to philanthropic foundations handling billions of euros. Civil society is an arena where citizens self-organise in order to have their interests heard and to exercise an influence. NPOs embody the capacity of society to self-organise and its potential for peaceful, though often contested, settlement of diverse private and public interests.
Most developed market economies have seen a general increase in the economic importance of NPOs as providers of diverse health, social, educational and cultural services. NPOs support public management approaches by building, maintaining and rebuilding social cohesion, by strengthening the nexus between the social capital of citizens and economic development, and by being a source of social innovation in addressing diverse public problems. In many ways, NPOs push against their stereotypical portrayal as charities, which dates back to the 19th century, and present a growing and diverse group of private organisations dedicated to a public purpose.
While they play an important domestic role within the EU Member States, NPO face legal and administrative barriers when it comes to operating across borders. As a result, their contribution to the European project is likely below their potential in a wide range of areas such as education, culture, health care, social services, research, development aid, humanitarian assistance and disaster preparedness. They are also below their potential for increasing social cohesion among European societies, especially in cross-border regions.
The main objective of this study is to assess if Parliamentary action at EU level could support the development of a European civil society, with a specific focus on the role of NPOs and their cross-border activities.
Section 2 (‘An overview of the status quo’) of the present study defines some key NPO-related concepts and presents an overview of the scale and scope of national and international NPOs currently present in the EU. Section 3 (‘Existing problems and their impacts’) highlights the key issues at present and the areas in which EU action is needed. Section 4 (‘EU action – Possible avenues and impacts’) defines the scope for EU action, identifies several policy options, including the proposed European statute of associations and non-profit organisations, and assesses them.

Policy neglect: the FATF example of inadequate AML/CFT legislation
It is an interesting study that also points out that a legacy of policy neglect and sometimes decades of regulatory passivity or inaction trouble the sector.

The authors criticize FATF:

At the same time, there is the legacy of policy neglect and sometimes decades of regulatory passivity if not inaction — not only among Member States but well beyond. [90] The clearest case of such policy neglect are the efforts of the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force to control international money laundering and financing of terrorism via “philanthropic” channels and NPO networks. Despite clarification that not all NPOs should be considered potentially high risk, the rules have effectively hindered or even cut off access by many organisations especially in the Global South to banking and other financial services, with significant consequences for internationally active NPOs. [91] Yet countries remained passive in correcting the negative consequences of anti- terrorist measures on NPO cross-border transactions and transfers.

[90] Helmut K. Anheier and Stefan Toepler. “Policy Neglect: The True Challenge to the Nonprofit Sector” Nonprofit Policy Forum 10 (4), 2019.

[91] Eckert, S., K. Guinane, and A. Hall. 2017. Financial Access for U.S. Nonprofits. Washington: Charity & Security Network. Daigle, D., S. Toepler, and S. Smock. 2016. Financial Access for Charities Survey 2016: Data Report to the Charity and Security Network Version 1.1. Arlington, VA: George Mason University.


It is to be hoped this study will lead to more awareness in Europe of the characteristics of the non-profit. It is very necessary for the policy makers of AML/CFT legislation.

Over Ellen Timmer

Weblog: ||| Microblog: ||| Motto: goede bedoelingen rechtvaardigen geen slechte regels
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