European Commission announces plans to strengthen the rule of law in line with proposals made by Philanthropy Advocacy

European Commission announces plans to strengthen the rule of law in line with proposals made by Philanthropy Advocacy

The Commission has decided on a series of measures to further strengthen the rule of law in Europe following a consultation to which Philanthropy Advocacy (DAFNE and EFC) contributed. The announcement came on 17 July.

The European Union relies on respect for the rule of law, which is a prerequisite for citizens to enjoy their rights under EU law. The EU is based on a set of shared values, including fundamental rights, democracy, and the rule of law. This implies independent courts guaranteeing the protection of fundamental rights and civil liberties, and an active civil society and free media ensuring pluralism. Realising that over the past five years, the European Commission has had to deal with a series of challenges to the rule of law in the EU, the strengthening of the rule of law is very much welcomed by Philanthropy Advocacy (a joint initiative of DAFNE and EFC).

The Commission agreed to work on three pillars, all of which reflect points brought up by the Philanthropy Advocacy contribution:

  1. Promotion of a common rule of law culture across Europe, including: A dedicated annual event for dialogue with civil society; use of funding possibilities to empower stakeholders, including civil society, to promote the rule of law; and the setting up of a dedicated communication strategy on the rule of law. The Commission will strengthen cooperation with the Council of Europe and other international organisations, as well as with judicial networks and national parliaments, and calls on the European Parliament, the Council and Member States to engage in this process.
  2. Prevention of the emergence of rule of law problems: Setting up a “Rule of Law Review Cycle”, including an annual “Rule of Law Report”covering all EU Member States. The Commission will also further develop the EU Justice Scoreboard and strengthen the dialogue with other EU institutions, Member States, European political parties and stakeholders.
  3. Effective common response to rule of law breaches: The Commission will continue to make full use of its enforcement powers, if early detection and prevention measures are not effective. A strategic approach to infringement proceedings is suggested as is bringing cases to the Court of Justice of the EU as necessary. In light of the time sensitivity of such cases, the Commission will request interim measures and expedited procedures when needed. In addition, the Commission calls on the European Parliament and the Council to reflect on a collective approach to managing Article 7 TEU cases with clear procedural rules.

Being the guardian of the Treaties, the European Commission acknowledges its unique role in defending the rule of law, but it also stresses that all EU institutions and Member States are responsible for guaranteeing the respect of the rule of law as a fundamental value of the EU. It also clearly recognises that an effective response requires the support of civil society. As we have argued in our contribution, civil society and philanthropy needs an enabling environment to do this. Philanthropy Advocacy (a joint initiative by DAFNE and EFC) contributed to the EC online consultation on the rule of law. Please find the link to the press release for the Communication on the Rule of Law Debate:

The European Commission at the same time is publishing results of a Eurobarometer public opinion survey that shows that citizens support respect for the rule of law:

The Eurobarometer also shows strong support for the role of media and civil society in holding those in power to account, with more than 8 in 10 citizens considering it important that media and civil society can operate freely and criticise the government without risk of intimidation.


More information  

17 July Rule of Law Communication

Rule of law Eurobarometer including report, country factsheets and infographic

Contributions to the rule of law debate

3 April Rule of Law Communication

DAFNE-EFC Philanthropy Advocacy

Massimo Lapucci represented the EFC at the UN ”Philanthropy & the SDGs” event in New York

EFC Chair, Massimo Lapucci spoke on behalf of the EFC at the UN event ”Philanthropy & the SDGs” in New York, taking place during the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development under the auspices of the ECOSOC.

The event sought to create a dedicated space to discuss the current models of philanthropic engagement to implement the 2030 Agenda, and to identify opportunities to scale up philanthropic leadership and transformational action to further accelerate SDG implementation.

Massimo took part in the opening dialogue, setting the scene for further discussions alongside Tsitsi Masiyiwa, Higherlife Foundation, Neera Mundy, Dasra and Heather Grady, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Other EFC members were present at the event, including Jesper Nygård, Realdania who spoke in a later session on how to effectively scale up philanthropic engagement.

The session was recorded and can be viewed in full below.

Visit here for more information on the ”Philanthropy & the SDGs” event.

EFFIO Spring meeting strikes a balance between narrow investment topics and wider discussions

The Spring 2019 meeting of the European Foundation Financial and Investment Officers (EFFIO) group took place in London on 11-12 April, hosted by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

EFFIO, a membership-based network of financial and investment officers of large independent European foundations, aims to advance the knowledge on the investment environment and practice of foundations across Europe and further the professionalism of its members. EFFIO meetings strike a balance between narrow investment topics and integrated discussions taking on broader macro issues, in a safe and trusted environment under Chatham House rules.

The spring programme featured:

On the sides of the programme, participants had the chance to have an exclusive tour of the Francis Crick Institute, one of the most significant biomedical research centres in London, and have informal discussions with a group of scientists conducting pioneering research.


Researchers and practitioners explore ways to ease cross-border philanthropy in Europe

At a pre-conference event ahead of the 9th International Research Conference of the European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP) a group of researchers and practitioners came together to discuss the legal barriers to cross-border philanthropy in Europe and potential solutions to them. The event was held on 3 July 2019 at the University of Basel.

Participants discussed how the lack of non-profit oriented European regulatory measures and the existence of complex national (tax) laws − and sometimes even foreign funding restrictions − inhibit cross-border philanthropy. The event explored past attempts at solutions along with new ideas, including more distant views from researchers across the Atlantic (see the blog post reflecting on the discussion).

This pre-conference event was jointly organised by Prof. Oonagh Breen from the University College Dublin, Prof. Lloyd Mayer from the University of Notre Dame (US), and Hanna Surmatz from the European Foundation Centre in Brussels. The University of Notre Dame provided financial support for the event.

Participants were invited to three consecutive afternoon sessions on:

Prospects for European regulatory measures with a focus on European company law,

Tax laws barriers and the application of the non-discrimination principle established by the European Court of Justice and the related concept of comparability

Emerging issues including both European and country-specific measures and sector ideas to improve the situation.

Participants discussed legal developments at the national level that are leading to new barriers to cross-border philanthropic transactions, and the (in)ability of European law to respond effectively. Analysing the difficulty of past initiatives related to European company law to remedy these kinds of developments, experts on the European Association, European Foundation Statute, and European Mutual Society were invited to share their views on potential ways forward for European company law. Facilitation of for-profit entities’ cross-border work is a given within the EU – should there not be similar support for philanthropic organisations on a cross-border basis (around issues relating to merger, move of seat etc)? Following the withdrawal of the European Foundation Statute, what could we do differently if embarking on this journey again? Participants agreed that to reopen conversations around supranational legal forms, a legal basis other than the Statute would have to be identified.

The work of the EFC and DAFNE to better understand the European landscape for philanthropy with a view to seeking mechanisms to protect and enlarge the philanthropic space was presented in this context starting from the 2018 Report on Enlarging the Space for European Philanthropy by Oonagh Breen. The sector has since developed a European Philanthropy Manifesto in March 2019, which got some key institutional backing with the recent European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Opinion on the Untapped Potential for Philanthropy based on a request by the Romanian Presidency of European Council and published in May 2019.

Tax-effective cross-border philanthropy still does not work in practice. The importance of the ECJ decisions that have applied the non-discrimination principle to both foundations and donors when it comes to tax exemption and other tax benefits has been implemented at the national level in different ways. EFC and TGE research was presented with solutions to overcome remaining barriers. The sector within its Philanthropy Advocacy initiative guided by DAFNE and EFC will set up a task force to move these suggestions forward.

New laws discouraging cross-border philanthropy are part of a wider discourse around the “closing space” for civil society organisations, and are increasingly also introduced inside the European Union. In Europe however there appear to be viable legal channels for challenging laws where they are in conflict with European law or fundamental rights, including through the ECJ and the European Court of Human Rights. Additionally, various actors, including the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL), are key defenders of the space for wider civil society in Europe.

There is growing support for philanthropy in Europe as demonstrated by the European Philanthropy Manifesto and the ESSC’s opinion on the untapped potential of European philanthropy. The sector is ready to move and is grateful for creative academics to explore how best to do this.

EFC members and UK government launch The Catalyst to tackle social and environmental issues

EFC members the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, City Bridge Trust, the National Lottery Community Foundation, Comic Relief, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and UK government have launched The Catalyst, a collaborative platform which aims to revolutionise social and environmental issues are tackled in the UK.

The platform aims to reshape organisations to be more responsive to the communities they serve, be more resilient, and more collaborative in the creation and scaling of solutions.

The Catalyst is a coalition of major foundations, digital design agencies, civil society bodies and the UK government, seeking to massively accelerate the use of digital in the UK’s voluntary and charity sector.

Visit The Catalyst website

EFC Chair Massimo Lapucci and other members to speak at the UN event ”Philanthropy & the SDGs”

The EFC’s Chair, Massimo Lapucci, will be speaking at the UN event ”Philanthropy & the SDGs” special event taking place in New York on the 16 July, alongside representatives from EFC member Realdania.

The event will create a dedicated space to discuss current models of philanthropic engagement to implement the 2030 Agenda and identify opportunities to scale up philanthropic leadership and transformational action to further accelerate SDG implementation.

Massimo Lapucci, Secretary General, Fondazione CRT, will be representing the EFC at the event, which is being supported by the EFC in collaboration with the SDG Philanthropy Platform (through the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors), Synergos and the United Nations Foundation.

Other speakers at the event include Jesper Nygård, the CEO of Realdania, EFC members from Denmark and one of the original funders of Philanthropy House.

Joan Weinstein to be new director of the Getty Foundation

Joan Weinstein has been announced as the new director of the Getty Foundation, moving on from her previous position as deputy director, and acting director.

Weinstein succeeds Deborah Marrow, who retired in December 2018 after more than three decades of leading the Getty’s grantmaking program, following a long process led by the J. Paul Getty Trust.

The President and CEO of J. Paul Getty Trust, Jim Cuno stated “The Getty Foundation is committed to serving the fields of art history, conservation, and museums, and there are few people who understand the professional needs in these areas more than Joan Weinstein.”

The role of director is the latest position Weinstein has performed for the Getty Foundation, having performed many roles for the organisation from programme officer to associate director.

For more information visit here.

EFC and European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP) sign Memorandum of Understanding

The European Foundation Centre and the European Research Network on Philanthropy hereby mutually express the following.

EFC and ERNOP share the vision that coordinated European academic research on philanthropy is important to produce knowledge on a growing phenomenon in Europe.

Philanthropy in Europe accounts for at least 87.5 billion euros annually. EFC and ERNOP share the vision that European philanthropy has its own distinguishable characteristics and should be treated accordingly.

EFC believes that academic research on European philanthropy can further help profile and professionalise the European philanthropy sector, increase its impact, and enhance its legitimacy. As independent institutions, academic research can provide explanations, descriptions and predictions on philanthropy that are both valued by the philanthropy sector and the public sector.

ERNOP acknowledges the need that academic output should pay attention to its practical implications. Researchers should design research projects that are rigorous and relevant for philanthropy practitioners, without losing academic quality.

EFC acknowledges that academic research on European philanthropy may take a critical stand against philanthropic practices and organisations.

ERNOP and EFC agree that philanthropy needs research to be taken seriously by governments, to build smarter regulations of the sector, and to enhance its impact.

EFC and ERNOP believe that a mature philanthropic sector should take academic research seriously and engage with scholars in a proactive manner.

ERNOP and EFC consider better data on philanthropy in Europe important, and better collection of data and its coordination should be stimulated.


Brussels, 21 June 2019

Wellcome Trust launches new £75 million five-year programme on data for science and health

Artificial intelligence (AI) and data technologies are transforming research and healthcare. To ensure everyone can benefit from health data innovation, Wellcome is investing £75 million in a five-year programme on data for science and health.

Over the last six months, the Trust has talked to hundreds of leading researchers across 30 countries about the opportunities AI can bring to health data – from helping to detect and diagnose disease more effectively, to speeding up drug discovery, and delivering better care.

Read the full story on the Wellcome website

Working on the SDGs? We want to hear from you!

Are you an EFC member working on the SDGs? The EFC is looking to hear from its members about some of their best practices, initiatives and projects, that are currently working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The aim is to get a clearer picture of the work that EFC members are doing in this area, and simultaneously open up a dialogue on potential ways for the EFC to help support the reaching of these goals.

A new section of the new EFC website, Good Practices, serves as a repository of these (and other) case studies, showcasing the diversity of work undertaken by EFC members.

To get involved, contact Lucia Patuzzi about your organisation’s best practices with the SDGs.

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