Every living democracy needs a living civil society! Civil society engagement is indispensable for our democracies and must therefore be particularly protected and strengthened - in all Member States of the European Union. That is why, together with a cross-party majority of MEPs, I call for the creation of a European Associartion Law as well as minimum standards for the protection of civil society organisations. Join our campaign #EUnite4Democracy and help us to strengthen engagement and civil society in the EU!
The Lagodinsky report on European Associations
The idea of the European Association Law is not new. For almost 40 years, the European Parliament has repeatedly called for a law to strengthen EU civil society, or more precisely, the creation of a 'European Association' as a legal form of civil society engagement. Similar to many member states, such as France or Germany, citizens would then be able to engange in an association not only at the national level, but also at the European level. As a 'European Association', many administrative hurdles to non-profit cross-border activities would be removed - and they would be protected from discrimination by authoritarian national governments.
This idea gave rise to the so-called 'Lagodinsky Report' on the European Association Statute, which was adopted by a cross-party majority of MEPs on 17 February 2022. This report calls on the European Commission, which holds the right of initiative to propose new legislation in the EU, to present new legislation creating the European Association. Specifically, the report includes two elements: a proposal for a regulation for the new legal form of the 'European Association' - and secondly, a directive to create EU-wide minimum standards for civil society organisations.
The EU Right to Associate becomes Reality!
In response to the Lagodinsky Report, the EU Commission informed us in May 2022 that for the first time in the history of the EU it will present a legislative act on dealing with civil society organisations. This is a historic success, because until now, non-profit organisations and associations in the EU have had no legal protection that goes beyond the nation state. So in the future there could be uniform EU-wide protection standards for civil society organisations. This would be a great success for the EU's vibrant and strong civil society! Read my press release on the EU Commission's reaction to the Lagodinsky Report here.
With this, the EU Commission follows-up on one of the core concerns of the Lagodinsky Report. At the same time, we cannot yet foresee what exactly the Commission will include in the legislative proposal. That is why it is all the more important that civil society makes its concerns clear to the EU Commission - and that already now, in the preparatory phase of the law. In preparation for the so-called "Proposal for a legislative initiative on cross-border activities of associations", the Commission is calling on citizens, NGOs, associations and foundations - basically everyone who could be affected by this new law - to give their feedback. This "public consultation" in preparation for the new law on dealing with European associations will influence the emerging law. That is why I have also called on civil society to participate in this survey, because only together can we create a genuine European right to freedom of association.
Have Your Say!
Your feedback is important! Take part in the EU Commission's Public Consultation on the forthcoming EU Association Law until 28 October!
Updates on the EU Association Law
What happens next?
- August - 28 October 2022: EU Commission public consultation open for feedback
- December - March 2023: Preparation of the law in the responsible Commission DG
- approx. March/April 2023: Presentation of the legislative proposal
- approx. May - July 2023: Assignment of the legislative proposal to the relevant committees in the EU Parliament (and in the Council)
- aproxx. August - October 2023: Negotiations in the EU Parliament
How to get involved?
Raise awareness! Talk about the need for the EU to stand up for the protection of civil society. On social media, you can use the hashtag #EUnite4Democracy to highlight our joint campaign on the EU right to organise.
Share the campaign! For example, make associations and foundations in your area aware of the ongoing consultation on EU association law. Also feel free to share this website and our EU right to organise email list.
Contact the responsible politicians! In this preparatory phase of the EU right of association, it is particularly important to make your comments and wishes for strengthening European civil society clear to the EU Commission. You can do this by writing an email to the responsible Directorate General.
What are the specific demands of the Lagodionsky-Report?
Everyone agrees: the right to freedom of association is a fundamental right, a prerequisite for democratic engagement, culture, research and social commitment, and a fundamental component for the European internal market. However, the multitude of legal, political and economic conditions in the member states make it difficult for organisations to operate across Europe.
In the Lagodinsky Report, I specifically call for:
- the European Association as a legal form for pan-European civil society engagement
- freedom of movement for civil society organisations under national law
- the abolition of obstacles and restrictions, such as fees and cumbersome formalities
- a level playing field, also with regard to the receipt of public and private grants and in tax matters
Civil society engagement is defined by community work for the common good. In this context, activism and contributions to political debate are also existential for pluralistic, constitutional and democratic society.
In the Lagodinsky Report, I call for:
- Organisations must have the opportunity to advocate for their interests in the daily political debate.
- Civil society spaces must be preserved and expanded.
- Civil society must have access to both public and private funding.
- European funding opportunities in particular must be reviewed for the need to prevent unequal treatment and disadvantages for civil society.
The different legal traditions of the countries have led not only to different legal and official regulations on associations and non-profit organisations, but also to very different ideas and terminology, also and especially with regard to public benefit status. Nevertheless, there is an underlying common understanding of civil society engagement that must lead to common minimum standards. This is essential not least for the completion of the single market in Europe.
In the Lagodinsky Report I call for:
- the Europe-wide recognition of public benefit activity by non-profit organisations.
- the harmonisation of the rules for the recognition of public benefit status in the member states.
- the recognition of public benefit status from other EU member states on the basis of a common catalogue of activities that constitute a public benefit status.
- the introduction of a European legal form for a European Association.
- the harmonisation of minimum standards for non-profit organisations in the EU member states.
News on the EU Right to Associate