Foundations chief: Common EU statute could save €100 million

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A common European statute for public-interest foundations could help these organisations tackle cross-border problems and save up to €100 million, says Gerry Salole from the European Foundation Centre.

Gerry Salole is the chief executive of the European Foundation Centre, an association of foundations that has had in important role in shaping in the EU's proposal for a European Foundation Statue. He spoke with the Fondation EurActiv's secretary-general, Julian Oliver.

It took over 20 years to get the European Company Statute approved, relatively few companies have taken advantage of the ECS facility: Why will a EFS have a bigger impact?

I think comparing the Company Statute to the Foundation Statute is like comparing apples to oranges - they are totally different instruments with very distinct objectives.

For the European Foundation Statute, it's a question of having the right instrument for foundations, namely one that will make it easier for them to work across borders by reducing the number of barriers while at the same time increasing their legal recognition.

This recognition is of vital importance as more and more foundations are working in more than one EU Member State.  In addition, the EFS will have a bigger impact because it is both needed and wanted by the sector.

What makes the EFC confident that EFS will enable foundations to raise more money than they do already?

Foundations are not about raising money, rather, they are autonomous, non-profit organisations with their own resources. The statute will undoubtedly allow foundations to channel more of their own independent resources – we estimate that €100 million per year is wasted on the aforementioned barriers – into important and worthwhile citizen causes.

Moreover, a European Foundation Statute would bring with it a European label and image, which will make European Foundations more recognisable and trustworthy.  Promoting their transparency and accountability, it would serve as a hallmark for European Foundations, encouraging their cross-border operations as well as cross-border donations.

If EFS will allow bigger foundations easier access to donors in other EU countries will this not result in the scarce resources being vacuumed-up by the bigger, better organised trans-European foundations to the detriment of more local and provincial domestic foundations, thus encouraging national governments to oppose rather than support EFS? How would EFC respond to national authorities concerned about this aspect?

The primary objective of the Statute is to make it easier for foundations to support public benefit causes across Europe – so the European dimension is the core element here. It is certainly not there to replace local or national foundations that already do a great job and have strong ties to their constituencies and supporters in their respective communities.

After all, the sector's strength lies in the diversity of foundations in terms of their size, mandate and so on.

How do you react to the European Movement International's criticisms for not including provisions for European associations and mutual societies?

As a Member of the European Alliance for the Statute of the European Association (EASEA) EMI had already been campaigning for European Statutes for Associations, Foundations and Mutual Societies in 2011, together with a range of partners including the EFC.

In order to ensure that the European dimension of Civil Society Organisations is truly taken seriously, Associations and Mutual Societies should indeed also be awarded European legal forms.

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