Increasingly, the topics addressed by non-profit-oriented associations are cross-border in nature. Whether animal welfare, support for refugees or development, music and the arts, scientific cooperation, environmental protection, city partnerships, social projects and much more – working across borders is often necessary … and is very rewarding for everyone involved.
However, unlike in the commercial area where EU-wide legal frameworks have long been available in the form of the European Company (SE) and the European Cooperative – there is still no legal statute for European associations. This is despite the fact that the European Parliament has called for such a statute since as long ago as 1984, and politicians are fond of peppering their speeches with references to the importance of European civil society for the future of the EU.
Having a statute for European associations would mean:
- The association is a recognised legal entity not just in one country but throughout the EU. So it would not be a problem any longer to establish branches in different countries, open accounts, sign rental agreements, organise events, register demonstrations etc.
- The emotional hurdle of joining a “foreign” association will be removed for members from other countries.
- It will be possible to claim tax advantages (e.g. for donations) in all EU countries.
- Topics with a cross-border element could be addressed more effectively.
- Having a common European platform at our disposal, Europe’s citizens, could make our collective voice heard much more effectively in a common public sphere.
The existing statuses for national associations would, of course, be maintained, just as national and European companies operate alongside one another. No association will be forced to “Europeanise”.
A primer on the debate about European associations and related legal questions can be found here.