You represent a non-profit association active in areas such as:

  • literature, art, music
  • climate, environmental protection, animal rights
  • migration, refugees, social services
  • city partnerships, Europe, international exchange
  • child welfare, youth work
  • science and education
  • sports

and you are interested in your association being legally recognized throughout the EU and cooperate accross borders more easily? Maybe your association has already members from other EU countries or would like to recruit members from other EU countries more easily, set up branches there or acquire donations from citizens in other countries? Maybe your association addresses an issue that is important to all Europeans? Maybe you have already experienced specific problems in cross-border activities? Maybe promoting European integration is the very goal of your association? Or you simply want to join like-minded partners to make a statement in favour of a more unified Europe?

Then you and your association are cordially invited to join our EU-wide campaign “Yes, we are a European association – YEA!”. Here, you will find answers to the most important questions relating to the campaign. If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to contact us.

Across Europe, associations form the backbone of civil society. The aim of our campaign is to convince the EU, following years of debate on the subject, to create the possibility to set up European associations, that is associations that are not just recognised in one country – Belgium, Italy, Poland, Germany, etc. – but in the entire EU. In short, we are calling for a statute for European associations.

And if many associations across Europe lend their support to this demand, chances are that we will succeed.

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.

We are Europe! e.V., Düsseldorf, designed the campaign and will manage it within Germany. But, obviously, a campaign for a European association only makes sense if it is run in several EU countries. We are therefore looking for partner organisations in each EU country to take over the management of the YEA! campaign in their own country, i.e. above all to motivate associations to take part in the campaign. If you are interested in becoming a YEA! campaign partner in your country, we look forward to hearing from you: Jens Baganz, baganz@we-are-europe.org, Tel. +49 211 9284 1165.

Together the partners provide the campaign leadership. More details are given below, but let us emphasise straight away that our campaign is independent of political parties. Of course we will need the support of political parties to achieve our goal, but we have no party affiliations and are thus independent.

The official campaign start was on 12 February 2019 in Aachen.

The campaign will be terminated once our key demand, the European statue for associations, has been met; at the latest we will wind up the campaign before the 10thEP elections, which are expected to be held in May 2024.

Yes, any association established within the EU can participate.The only exception applies to associations that – judging by their statutes, activities or statements by their representatives – are opposed to the whole idea of a united Europe. The steering committee reserves the right to refuse admission on these grounds (see also section 9 below).

If your association decides to participate in the campaign, it means that the association:

  • publicly supports our joint appeal to the European institutions calling for EU legislation to be passed as soon as possible to permit European associations to operate,
  • lends its support to our campaign (on this see question 9)
  • declares a general interest in principle (non-binding) to consider registering as a European association once the legal basis has been established

This means that by participating in the campaign the current status of your association does not change and you are not obliged to convert into a European association if and when the necessary legal framework is established. The point is to send a strong signal to policymakers in the EU and its member states, no more but also no less. It should also be emphasised that your association can withdraw from the campaign at any time and without giving any reason for so doing.

Experience shows that political processes in the EU take time. The initial group of civil society organisations behind YEA have prepared themselves for a campaign lasting several years: it’s a marathon rather than a sprint.

The main lines of the campaign are as follows:

  • Steering committee: The YEA campaign shall be led by a steering committee consisting of representatives of its partner organisations each of which nominates committee members. The steering committee takes the decisions needed in the course of the campaign and is responsible for the budget. It reports regularly and in a transparent way on its activities. The steering committee is supported by an advisory committee whose members are drawn from the participating associations, selected by means of an online election process.
  • Internet presence: Since autumn 2018 the campaign will be present on the Internet (under say-yea.eu) and also in the social networks Twitter and Facebook.
  • Official start of the campaign: 12thJanuary 2019.
  • Campaign phases:It is not possible to plan in advance an entire campaign lasting several years. At the present juncture we envisage the campaign moving through the following phases:
    • “Election campaign”(start 2019 to the EP election in May 2019):the main goal in this phase is to inform candidates and political parties of our demand for a statute for European associations, enquire as to their position and, as concretely as possible, whether and if so in what ways they intend to promote its implementation during the coming five-year parliamentary term.
    • “Preparing the ground” (EP election 2019 to mid-2020):During this early phase with the newly composed European Parliament and Commission, two aspects are particularly important. Firstly, the campaign needs to perform the necessary legal-technical work needed to enable our demand to be transposed into legal practice; at the same time the campaign needs to generate, through various forms of action deployed as widely and as frequently as possible, sufficient political “noise” that policymakers realise that they can no longer side-line the issue.
    • „Raising the pressure“(mid-2020 to around end 2021): This is the decisive phase of the campaign. If opposition, particularly in national capitals, to establishing a legal framework for European associations stiffens during this period, those leading the campaign in the various countries will be called upon to intensify the pressure on “their” government.
    • The subsequent course of the campaign will depend on the results achieved in the above phases.
  • Building blocks of the campaign: The YEA! Campaign will deploy all the instruments that are conducive to lending weight to the appeal in the public and vis-à-vis policymakers:
    • social media activities
    • open letters to policymakers
    • demonstrations
    • press conference by the lead associations, interviews with and briefings for journalists, radio phone-ins etc.
    • individual discussions with political representatives and civil servants
    • preparing possible legal action, commissioning legal opinions
    • local events and conferences
    • flash-mob happenings
    • petitions, European citizens’ initiative
    • winning over public figures as supporters etc.

The campaign finances itself by charging a campaign fee and by seeking donations.

  • Each participating association makes a one-off minimum payment of €20.
  • In addition we will be seeking donations to the campaign.

The resources so generated will be used to meet the costs of designing the logo and having it registered with the European Intellectual property Office, Alicante/Spain, along with all the other costs of the campaign. All those involved in the campaign work on a voluntary basis, that is are unpaid. The steering committee will provide up-to-date information on revenues and expenditures related to the campaign on the YEA! website.

It is simple:

  • You register your association on the campaign website thus declaring your participation. After a short check by the steering committee your association will be listed as a supporter on the website.
  • You transfer the minimum contribution of €20 to the campaign (via the website using PayPal or a credit card) and, if possible, an additional donation.
  • After approval of your registration, you will receive authorisation to use the campaign logo.
  • Participating associations are expected to including the logo in a readily visible fashion on their homepage and social media presence[1].  In addition we would of course encourage you to make use of the logo on the premises of your association and during events, on printed material (posters, flyers, letter-headings) or on flags; we can provide advice and assistance on this.
  • Within the limits of your capacities you can participate in various campaign activities; information on opportunities to get involved will be provided in good time by the steering committee.
[1]E.g. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, Xing

We aim to roll out YEA! Campaign in at least six EU countries. We are very confident that associtions in other countries will join too. Our expectation is that hundreds or even thousands of associations will consider joining the campaign.

Yes! Many large international associations are also active outside of the EU. They may ask themselves whether they should lend their support to the campaign if they do not primarily identify as “European” but rather “global”. However, the EU is a very important test case, a very important first step to create a transnational civil society on a continental scale. The chances to create such the first transnational statute for associations are nowhere better than in the EU. The EU has the powers and instruments to do so and the coherence of the national legal systems is relatively high (compared to other regions in the world). Once enacted, a European Associations Statute (EAS) may later possibly even serve as a model for other regions in the world. Therefore, it is of great importance to support this initiative, irrespective of whether your association is also active beyond the EU.