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The group welcomes the Commission’s analysis. It generally supports the proposals for action and hopes
that they will be of help to Member States in their efforts to overcome the problems. In particular the
group believes that the following aspects should be the subject of detailed consideration:
— the benefit structure and the relationship of benefits to one another;
— the targetting of benefits to those in greatest need;
— helping long-term recipients to equip themselves for employment;
— the interface between tax and benefits for the lower paid with better incentives to accept employment;
— encouraging individual responsibility;
— a gradual move towards long-term funding of at least a portion of retirements benefits;
— an increasing partnership between public and private provision.

Finally the group applauds the efforts which the Commission is making to remove remaining obstacles
to free movement in the field of social protection.’



Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on ‘Cooperation with charitable associations
as economic and social partners in the field of social welfare’

(98/C 73/23)

On 20 March 1997 the Economic and Social Committee decided, in pursuance of Rule 23(3)
of the Rules of Procedure, to draw up an Opinion on: ‘Cooperation with charitable associations
as economic and social partners in the field of social welfare’.

The Section for Social, Family, Educational and Cultural Affairs, which was instructed to
prepare the Committee’s work on this matter, adopted its opinion on 17 October 1997. The
rapporteur was Mrs zu Eulenburg.

At its 350th plenary session (meeting of 10 December 1997) the Economic and Social Committee
adopted the opinion set out below by 75 votes to six, with seven abstentions.

COOPERATION WITH CHARITABLE ASSOCI- founded social services and social establishments. In
ATIONS AS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL PARTNERS many European countries, the state stood aside, taking
action only at a very late stage and in accordance with
the different ways in which the social security systems
Preamble developed in the various states.

Charitable associations do not only provide social

Charitable associations have helped to shape the welfare services and facilities; they also motivate people to work
state in the EU. The wide variety of services and facilities voluntarily for the common good and they see themselves
which they provide have historical roots. Economic as advocates of the needy. They are thus promoters of
progress went hand-in-hand with trends entailing social social justice.
inequality and impoverishment. In the 19th century
industrialization led to profound changes in people’s Charitable associations form part of the ‘third sector’,
everyday lives. The churches, and their religious com- which is highly important to European economies and
munities, affluent citizens and aristocrats and a great constitutes an extremely multi-faceted phenomenon for
variety of social organizations, such as workers’ associ- which there is no clear and definitive definition. Differing
ations were active in the social welfare field. They national mindsets, differences as regards the levels at
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which action is taken and, above all, the involvement of also make it possible to take account of the great variety
disparate interest groups (such as charitable work by of legal forms under which social work is carried out.
members of the public and the churches and self-help
establishments set up by workers’ movements) all help
to make the ‘third sector’ into a really multifarious 1. Introduction
phenomenon. This very variety does, however, make it
typically European. The European welfare state owes 1.1. Charitable associations are to be found in all the
its special character to the existence of the ‘third sector’. EU Member States. They generally see their role in all
states as that of key players in the field of social
protection, notably as
— defenders of social rights;
The ‘third sector’ is also the area of the economy in
which the general public is involved directly, i.e. not as — advocates of the disadvantaged and victims of social
part of earning a living or through state intervention. exclusion;
‘Partnerships’, which individuals may join on a free and
voluntary basis and which do not involve making capital — bodies which give enhanced effect to voluntary social
investments or private profit, have, generally speaking, commitment;
been established in all EU Member States. These — forums for the achievement of social progress;
partnerships are of three types: cooperatives, insurance
associations and other associations. Persons joining the — sources of innovation in the development of social
first two types of partnership are entitled to receive assistance;
services and benefits. This is not systematically the case
with regard to ‘other associations’, which may also help — members of representative, democratically-
non-members. constituted associations or organizations having
similar legal forms;
— non profit-orientated providers of social services
working for the good of society.
In principle, charitable associations focus on the general
public. The beneficiaries of services provided by these 1.2. The needs for which charitable associations cater
associations are people who suffer from particular social (providing help in cases of social and health problems,
disadvantages or who need social help on an occasional isolation, social exclusion, disabilities, etc.) are increas-
or long-term basis. Services are provided on a non-profit ing steadily and becoming ever more complex. By virtue
basis, i.e. there is no selection on the basis of market of the measures they take, charitable associations bring
criteria. The challenge currently facing charitable associ- an influence to bear on the quality of help provided
ations lies in the systematic commercialization of the in the public welfare sector and help to make the
meeting of social needs. If charitable associations were profit-orientated sector extend its selection of benefi-
fully exposed to unregulated competition from profit- ciaries to include a broader range of society. Here too,
oriented providers, the latter would by their very nature, charitable associations are champions of solidarity and
operate only in the areas where they can make a profit. responsibility in society.
Charitable associations would then have great difficulty
in carrying out the task of providing general social care, 1.3. The employment of volunteers is an intrinsic
particularly in view of the cost of providing a full range feature of charitable associations. They provide a
of services. back-up for paid workers, rather than a replacement;
paid staff provide a guarantee of continuity and exper-
tise. Voluntary unpaid work is never a substitute for
paid staff; it represents participation by members of the
Charitable associations do not, however, merely provide public in the shaping of the community. Volunteers
social services. The contribution of volunteer helpers — tailor their work according to their own perceptions.
who are an essential feature of charitable associations This type of work is one of the ways of linking freedom
— demonstrates how these associations form part of and responsibility in democratic societies.
the ‘civil dialogue’. The voluntary social commitment
of as many people as possible is a prerequisite for the 1.4. The importance of charitable associations in the
establishment and development of a community spirit economy as a whole is frequently underestimated. They
in society. The subsidiarity concept is put into effect by occupy a position between the public sector and the
a number of vehicles — self-help groups, neighbourhood market sector. As non-governmental organizations, they
assistance groups, voluntary workers, parishes and are voluntary and are not under a statutory obligation
secular associations. Charitable associations are a focal to carry out their work. They are not motivated by
point for this commitment. profit in the same way as commercial enterprises in the
private sector. The European court of Justice, too, has
recently recognized the special status of charitable
associations; it has ruled that under EU law all Member
Whilst not ruling out similarities with the other forms States are entitled to give priority treatment to charitable
of ‘partnership’, this opinion will confine itself to dealing associations over other profit-orientated enterprises
with charitable associations in the sense of organizations (Judgement No C-70/95 — Sodemare v. Regionale
dedicated to the pursuit of social solidarity. This will Lombardia). Charitable associations now operate on a
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very large scale (see the detailed information set out in these organizations arranged by the study group. The
Appendix I). term ‘establishments and services’ for which charitable
associations are responsible, as set out in Declaration
1.4.1. Charitable associations are also able to con- No 23, must be broadly defined in this context. The
tribute to a certain extent towards creating additional term covers all organizations involved in carrying out
jobs, even against a background of a stagnating or slowly long-term measures, designed to have a lasting effect,
growing labour market. Funding used by charitable to help persons dependent upon all forms of social
associations has a high level of added value since it: assistance (for information on the characteristics of the
various forms of charitable associations, see Appendix II)
— is systematically targeted at points where social
problems are most acute;
2.3. Declaration No 23 must be construed in such a
— is used to support work carried out by a large way if the EU unification process is to accommodate the
number of volunteer helpers: disparate circumstances of charitable associations in the
— is augmented by voluntary donations from the Member States. The range of activities of charitable
public. associations extends — depending on the approach to
social welfare and the social policy pursued by the state
concerned — from stimulating and enabling people to
1.5. The role of charitable associations as actors in engage in self-help and helping others to the operation
the field of social policy in the EU has been recognized of non-profit enterprises providing social services. The
(see Appendix II). The Final Act of the EU Treaty aim of all these measures is to provide people facing
contains a Declaration No 23: ‘The Conference stresses particular situations in life with the support they need.
the importance, in pursuing the objectives of Article 117 This is the only way to ensure that Declaration No 23
of the Treaty establishing the European Community, of will have the desired European dimension.
cooperation between the latter and charitable associ-
ations and foundations as institutions responsible for
social welfare establishments and services.’ The Amster- 2.4. In this context particular attention should be
dam Treaty gives recognition to Declaration 23 insofar paid to the fact that the term ‘charitable associations’
as reference is made to Article 117 of the Treaty has specific connotations in all the official languages of
establishing the European Community which sets out the EU, linked to their respective linguistic culture.
the principle underlying social policy; the incorporation These terms cannot, however, unreservedly be squared
of the social agreement in the Treaty gives this article a with the understanding of charitable associations pre-
new, more lasting importance. vailing in the culture of the individual states; the position
of charitable associations depends entirely on the politi-
cal and legal framework of the respective states. As
1.6. Agreement was reached in Amsterdam on a regards the application of the term ‘charitable associ-
declaration on voluntary services which is, however, not ations’ in the EU, this is a special term under EU law,
confined to social welfare work. The declaration reads the interpretation of which requires constant updating
as follows: in both the Community and the Member States. This
‘The Conference recognizes the important contri- very goal is one of the particular objectives of the present
bution made by voluntary service activities to opinion.
developing social solidarity. The Community will
encourage the European dimension of voluntary
organizations with particular emphasis on the 3. Rationale of closer cooperation between the EU and
exchange of information and experiences as well as the charitable associations
on the participation of the young and the elderly in
voluntary work.’
3.1. Solidarity and subsidiarity must be key principles
underlying all social policies. These principles are,
2. Aim of the present own-initiative opinion however, still by no means fully recognized, either by
EU law or policies, as regards the links between
charitable associations as players in the field of social
2.1. This own-initiative opinion has a twofold aim: protection (in the sense of solidarity and social cohesion)
(a) to heighten awareness of the role and importance of and the provision of state services in this field. Under
charitable associations as economic and social partners the EU Treaty, the principle of subsidiarity, for example,
in the EU and as important players who are active in has so far applied only to relations between the EU and
various areas of social policy and (b) to put forward the respective Member States. A large number of
concrete proposals on measures for institutionalizing questions have still to be answered at EU level, however,
cooperation with charitable associations and placing it as regards parity of status and value between the work
on a systematic footing. of charitable associations and that of bodies operated
by central governments or local authorities or by private,
2.2. The starting point for the present opinion is commercial concerns. Initial steps have, however, been
Declaration No 23 (Final Act of the Maastricht Treaty) taken, to accommodate these principles, such as the
on cooperation with charitable associations. The declar- abovementioned Declaration No 23, which would have
ation also covers cooperation with all organizations no particular meaning in the absence of the background
working in the field of social welfare, thereby according of political debate on the principles of solidarity and
with the view unanimously expressed in the hearing of subsidiarity.
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3.2. Charitable associations constitute an important 4. Proposals

economic and social group in the social protection
systems of the individual Member States and at the level 4.1. One of the most important tasks of charitable
of the European Union, whose Member States are associations is to draw attention in public debates and
becoming ever more closely linked. The ESC takes the the legislative process to the concerns of the victims of
view that this is in itself reason enough to welcome the social exclusion, who are inadequately represented in
presence of members representing charitable associ- public bodies. With this aim in view the following action
ations. The desired civil dialogue will be achieved yet needs to be taken at EU level:
more effectively if charitable associations are adequately
represented at the ESC. — charitable associations need to be consulted and
their views heard;
3.3. In spite of the differences in social protection — recognition must be given to the special importance
systems, there is increasing agreement in the EU Member of charitable associations as champions of social
States about the proven value of leaving charitable rights and providers of social services;
associations their full independence but incorporating
— cooperation must be promoted between charitable
their services in public social protection schemes. The
associations in Europe and between charitable
work and services provided by charitable associations
associations and the EU.
have a complementary role to play alongside the social
policy pursued by the public sector; such work and A factor of decisive importance here is that the way in
services do not, however, take the place of the latter which cooperation is organized with the charitable
policy. It is accepted, on the one hand, that state associations must not be determined by the internal
authorities, by themselves, are not in a position to administrative structure of the individual DGs at the
provide all the necessary help; the requisite resources Commission. A further point which is clear is that
can only be made available through joint action between to date the Commission has no special institutional
public and private welfare organizations. On the other machinery for addressing explicitly the question of
hand, it has also been recognized that social services can Declaration No 23 or the area of social policy which it
frequently be provided by charitable associations at covers. Bearing in mind these two factors, the proposals
lower cost and in a manner which is more in tune with set out below are intended only to provide guidelines as
needs. to how Declaration No 23 may be implemented.

3.4. Charitable associations accept competition with 4.2. One possibility is for the Commission to define
private, commercial bodies. They approve of compe- responsibilities more clearly, for example in the case of
tition in particular in areas where it may help to increase DG V — Employment, Industrial Relations and Social
efficiency and improve the instruments and methods; Affairs, in order thereby to take account of the need to
they likewise endorse competition based on common coordinate and further develop cooperation between the
quality criteria for social welfare services, linked to EU and the charitable associations. The different roles
equivalent requirements, which should be clearly of charitable associations in the individual Member
defined. The introduction of market economy pro- States should be examined, especially in the light of their
cedures should however by unreservedly rejected where different functions in the various fields of social work.
they would have a detrimental effect on people in need One of the tasks should be to collect more precise
of assistance. As a general principle, the market economy statistical data on charitable associations in the EU as a
model geared to making maximum profit does not work social phenomenon, particularly as regards work carried
in the social welfare fields. out by volunteers. The Commission is urged to examine
whether it already has machinery for carrying out these
3.5. There is one decisive reason for this own- tasks or whether such machinery will have to be
initiative opinion which also emerged from the hearing established.
of the representatives of the organizations invited to the
study group’s first meeting. This reason is the common 4.3. The same considerations should apply in respect
political recognition of the fact that organizations such of administrative measures to be taken by DG XXIII
as charitable associations, which provide social welfare — Enterprise Policy, Distributive Trades, Tourism,
establishments and services in the EU Member States, Cooperatives if new administrative measures are
play a key role by involving as many members of the required in the light of the Commission’s communication
public as possible in maintaining social harmony and on non-profit associations; these measures, too, could
making available to them the social services which they take account of the special characteristics of charitable
really need. associations as institutions responsible for social welfare
establishments and services. Overall, steps must however
3.5.1. One of the risks attendant upon the trend, be taken to ensure that the general social dimension of
which can be observed at both EU and world-wide private charitable associations is not addressed only
levels, of placing an economic value on all social from the point of view of economic and business
processes lies in the exclusion of more and more people considerations.
from receiving assistance. Such exclusion is a threat to
the human dignity of its victims; human dignity can only 4.4. When providing assistance, the Commission
be maintained if a minimum level of care is provided. should take account of the particular situation of
Solidarity must be the guiding principle behind the charitable associations. Tendering procedures should be
overall development of society. drawn up in such a way as to ensure that the participation
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of charitable associations is neither ruled out nor cooperation on the part of charitable associations with
jeopardized. In the case of jointly financed measures, a view to securing the particular resources which typify
recognition should be given to all the usual sources of charitable associations; such cooperation involves, in
funding open to charitable associations, including the particular, cooperation with volunteers.
work of voluntary and unpaid helpers.
4.5. With a view to putting cooperation into practice, 4.5.2. This could also tie in with practical measures
and placing the support policy in this field on a for bringing about the promotion of voluntary services
permanent footing, provision should be made for a in the EU, as provided for in the new declaration in the
specific, appropriately funded support programme Amsterdam Treaty.
entitled ‘cooperation with charitable associations’, to
follow up the current pilot project on cooperation with
charitable associations; this support programme should 4.6. After a period of three years, the ESC should
be enacted by means of a Council Decision. draw up a further own-initiative opinion reviewing
4.5.1. One of the main aims should be to exchange implementation of the above recommendations and
information and views on best practice as regards setting out any requisite new proposals and action.

Brussels, 10 December 1997.

The President
of the Economic and Social Committee


Statistics on the economic importance of charitable associations

There are very few meaningful statistics in respect of charitable associations in the EU (and indeed in
respect of the third sector overall). The main problem which has to be faced when compiling statistics
in respect of the third sector and charitable associations is the differing structures to be found in the
individual states. These differences derive from different historical and political — and also religious
and cultural — developments. The lack of comparable data has also helped to bring about a situation
in which the social and economic importance of charitable associations in the EU has been underestimated.

The three tables set out below are derived mainly from the following publication: Salamon, Laster M;
Anheier, Helmut K.; Sakolowaki, S. Wajciech, and associates: The Emerging Sector: A Statistical
Supplement — The Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies, Baltimore 1996. The following
Commission publication was consulted for comparison purposes: European Communities — Commission
(DG XXIII): the cooperative, mutual and non-profit sector in the European Union — Office for Official
Publications in the European Communities, Luxembourg, 1997.

None of the data set out here are derived from official statistics or other statistics drawn up on the basis
of criteria agreed amongst the EU Member States. In order to enable an assessment to be made of the
value of the three tables, a commentary is set out below on the survey on which the tables are mainly


In order to obtain internationally comparable basic statistical data, the Johns Hopkins Institute for
Policy Studies in Baltimore carried out a research programme in various states, including five EU
Member States. The purpose of the survey was to provide a statistical representation of the social and
economic importance of the third sector. Very careful attention was paid, in determining the way in
which the survey was carried out, to ensuring that the statistical data relating to the individual states
was reciprocally comparable.

The Johns Hopkins Institute survey closely examines, using the same methodology throughout, the
whole area covered by the third sector in five EU Member States — France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and
the UK — together with Hungary, Japan and the USA. The survey covered charitable organizations
— were non-profit-orientated,
— had a formal structure,
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— were administratively independent of the state,

— had administrative autonomy, and
— did not constitute mandatory associations or have compulsory membership.

The following type of organizations were expressly excluded.

— public enterprises and bodies (including publicly-owned and operated enterprises),
— organizations having a primarily religious purpose (e.g. church administrations, religious bodies and
— organizations having a primarily political purpose (e.g. political parties),
— cooperatives (e.g. producers’ and consumers’ cooperatives),
— mutual organizations (e.g. insurance associations).

The organizations were broken down into the 12 groups set out below, using a standard classification
[the International Classification of Non-profit Organizations (ICNPO)]:

1) Culture and leisure,

2) Education and research,

3) Public health, (hospitals and similar bodies, nursing homes and similar bodies, psychiatric clinics
and similar bodies, and other public health organizations),

4) Social services (social services and similar social welfare bodies, bodies operating in the fields of
protection and assistance in the event of disasters and financial support and assistance),

5) The environment,

6) Development, housing and employment (development, community work, housing, employment and
vocational training),

7) Legal issues, interests of citizens and consumers, political issues,

8) Foundations, voluntary donations, unpaid work,

9) International activities,

10) Religion,

11) Economic associations, occupational associations, trade unions,

12) Miscellaneous organizations.

Using the above classification it is possible to determine the areas of activity of the charitable associations
to which the various statistics refer. The activity profile of charitable associations points to the fact that
they are particularly active in Group 3 (public health) and Group 4 (social services); there is also a degree
of overlapping with activities listed under Group 6 (development, housing and employment). Group 9
(international activities) embraces development cooperation carried out by charitable associations; there
is also further overlapping with Group 2 (training and research) and Group 7 (legal issues, interests of
citizens and consumers, politics) and Group 8 (foundations). The statistical data in respect of Group 3
(public health) and Group 4 (social services) may basically be regarded as representative of the work of
charitable associations; Group 6 (development, housing and employment) and Group 9 (international
activities) do however also come into contention in this respect.

There are, however, a number of caveats: (a) reference has already been made earlier to the major
structural differences between individual states, (b) the survey carried out by the Johns Hopkins Institute
for Policy Studies sought to cover the full range of the third sector and did not seek primarily to provide
a statistical picture of charitable associations. It therefore follows that data in respect of the charitable
associations can only be inferred indirectly — and therefore with some degree of imprecision — from
the abovementioned ICNPO classification, (c) the third caveat is more a matter of principle: in highly
complex societies it is difficult to classify many organizations, thereby producing imprecise data.

The Johns Hopkins survey is the only survey carried out to date which permits comparisons to be made
at international level; despite criticisms relating to detailed aspects of the survey, the fact remains that it
has been scientifically recognized and has been quoted by the Commission when appropriate, such as in
the communication from the Commission on the promotion of the role of non-profit associations and
foundations in Europe (COM(97) 241 final).
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The Commission, for its part, published a survey on cooperatives, mutual associations and the non-profit
sector in the EU in 1997 (quoted above). The statistical data was collected by means of questionnaires
issued to leading local and national organizations. These statistics, in particular those relating to the
non-profit sector, are of a very general nature, classified only very imprecisely and by no means complete.
By contrast, the Johns Hopkins’ survey is more complete and classified by subject to a much more
accurate degree.

It is possible to make comparisons between both surveys in respect of France, Germany and the UK (as
regards Italy, the Commission’s survey quotes data from the Johns Hopkins’ survey). In the case of the
abovementioned three states, data from the Commission survey in the field of ‘health and social work’
can be compared with data from ICNPO 3 (public health) and ICNPO 4 (social services) from the Johns
Hopkins’ survey. Expenditure on public health and social services, expressed as a percentage of GDP, is
put at 1,45 % in the Johns Hopkins’ survey in the case of France, as against 1,39 % in the Commission
survey. The corresponding figures given in the respective surveys for Germany are 2,07 % and 1,92 %
and, in the case of the UK, 0,72 % and 0,72 %. Despite differences in methodology between the two
surveys, there is a high level of conformity between the two sets of statistical data. Both surveys highlight
the economic importance of charitable associations.


Number of jobs (full-time jobs) provided by the third sector and charitable associations (1990)

Number of jobs (1) provided by charitable associations (2)

Jobs (%)
by the third
Overall As a As a
sector as number of jobs percentage percentage
a percentage of overall of the overall
of the overall number of number of
number of
(’000) (%) jobs in the jobs in the
jobs (1) service sector third sector

France 4,20 487,5 2,57 6,15 61,2

Germany (West) 3,70 720,9 2,79 7,75 74,6
Italy 1,80 223,7 0,96 2,93 53,4
Sweden 2,50 24,7 0,75 1,55 29,9
UK 4,00 245,7 1,21 2,92 30,2

(1) Full-time equivalent jobs.

(2) ICNPO Groups 3, 4, 6 and 9.


Economic performance (expenditure) of the third sector and charitable associations (1990)

Economic performance of
charitable associations (1)
Third sector
State performance as a As a percentage of
percentage of GDP As a percentage
third sector
of GDP

France 3,34 1,70 50,9

Germany (West) 3,58 2,65 73,9
Italy 1,99 0,84 41,3
Sweden 3,95 1,03 25,9
UK 4,80 1,27 26,5

(1) ICNPO Groups 3, 4, 6 and 9.

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Trends in the size of the workforce of the third sector and charitable associations in France and
Germany in comparison with the corresponding figures for the economy as a whole (period 1980/1981
to 1990/1991)

Trends in size of workforce

(expressed as %)
State Ref. Period
Third Charitable Whole
sector associations economy

France 1981-1991 + 40 + 67 (1) + 3,1

Germany (West) 1980-1990 + 36 + 30 (2) + 5,3 (3)

(1) Data covers only ICNPO Groups 3 and 4.

(2) Calculations made by the author on the basis of statistical data on charitable care organizations in Germany
[overall statistics for private charitable care establishments, Bonn 1994 (in German)].
(3) German Federal Statistical Office 1996 (long series of data on economic development).


Charitable associations in the EU


Declaration No 23, Budget heading B 3-4101

The European Parliament took an initial step to implement Declaration No 23 by including in the budget
since 1993 funds for ‘cooperation with charitable associations’; in 1996 ECU 2 million were allocated
for that purpose. The 1997 budget includes a new heading B3-4101 ‘cooperation with charitable
associations and with non-governmental organizations and associations looking after elderly people’;
funding of ECU 4 million has been allocated under this heading. The proposal made by the Chairman
of the European Parliament’s Committee on Social Affairs, Mr Stephen Hughes, that a new budget
heading ‘civil dialogue’ be included in the 1997 budget was not accepted by the EP. For the 1998 budget
the Commission once again proposed that a separate budget heading be introduced, under the simplified
title ‘cooperation with charitable associations’; an appropriation of ECU 4,5 million was proposed and
it is expected that the EP will endorse these proposals. The Commission has taken action under the
abovementioned budget headings by introducing a series of appropriate projects which have been carried
out by various organizations. Cooperation with NGOs and charitable associations has frequently been
the subject of questions raised by MEPs [see, most recently, the question asked by Mr Iversen MEP (OJ
C 60, 26.2.1997, p. 101)].


European Forum on Social Policy, role of NGOs

Declaration No 23 first exerted a political influence on the Commission in its medium-term social action
programme 1995/97 (COM(95) 134 final). The Commission referred expressly to this declaration when
it announced in the action programme the establishment of a European forum on social policy; the
Commission argued that non-profit associations, representative organizations and interested parties
should be consulted on a large number of social issues. The forum held a meeting — which was not
regarded as an unqualified success — in March 1996. This issue of associations and other bodies was
also taken up in the report by the ‘Committee of Wise Men’ drawn up for the abovementioned forum in
1996. According to the report it had been shown to be necessary for non-profit bodies and foundations,
and more generally bodies representing collective interests working in civil society, to be involved in
social policy decision-making. A special place at the table should be reserved for charitable associations
which combat social marginalization and poverty and are able to represent unemployed victims of social
marginalization (Report, Part V, No 1, Brussels, 1995 — February 1996).
In its most recent social policy communication on modernizing and improving social protection in the
European Union (COM(97) 102 final), the Commission invites only the social partners, in addition to
the EU institutions and Member States, to give further views on this issue; it merely includes NGOs
C 73/100 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 9.3.98

among participants at the second forum on social policy, due to be held in 1998. The communication
makes absolutely no mention of charitable associations and it therefore also fails to recognize their role
as independent players in the field of social protection.

Social economy, statute of a ‘European association’

The Commission has also addressed a number of issues from a different standpoint, in particular the
question of associations. It has proposed draft legal vehicles for cooperatives, mutual associations and
other associations — not just associations operating in the social field — which would give such
organizations, collectively referred to as the ‘social economy’, a European legal status.

These proposals are designed to give recognition to common objectives and practical aspects over and
above the different legal articles of the organizations. The articles are to be applied, where possible,
under the laws of the Member States. In respect of partnerships established under EU law, the
Commission has proposed that provisions be introduced governing transition between the three types
of organization (cooperatives, mutual associations and other associations).

Adoption of these proposals by the Council is however not yet in prospect, inter alia because of the fact
that the proposed Directives concerning works councils in enterprises of this type — submitted at the
same time — brought into the frame the controversial debate in the EU on worker participation. In this
same context the multi-year programmes submitted by the Commission for the social economy have not
yet been endorsed by the Council for various reasons. One of these reasons is the failure to pay adequate
attention to the heterogeneous nature of associations in the EU Member States. The Commission has
however implemented appropriate measures using the ad hoc funding allocated under the various
budgets. An ‘advisory committee’ has also been set up in Brussels by the Commission, comprising
representatives of the abovementioned organizations from all EU Member States. On 6 June 1997 the
Commission submitted a Communication on enhancing the role of non-profit associations and
foundations in Europe (COM(97) 241 final) which referred inter alia to the abovementioned Declaration
No 23; this Communication does, however, cover all non-profit organizations (e.g. those operating in
the field of sport, culture, etc.) and, from the content point of view, it draws upon a white paper on
associations, etc. made available on an informal basis quite a long time earlier.


In 1992 the European Round Table of Charitable Social Welfare Associations — ET Welfare — was set
up with specific reference to Declaration No 23; since 1996 this Round Table has operated under the
legal form of a non-profit European economic interest association. With the assistance of the Commission,
ETWelfare has carried out two pilot projects using funding from the abovementioned budgetary
headings. One of the aims of these pilot projects was to improve cooperation between welfare associations
through the exchange of staff from associations in all EU Member States. With a view to preparing the
forum on social policy in 1996, the NGOs working in the social field set up a ‘platform of social NGOs’;
at the final meeting a member of the ESC, Soscha, Countess of Eulenburg, was appointed as the
spokeswoman for the platform.

A distinction can be drawn between sectoral alliances between organizations and intersectoral,
inter-disciplinary alliances. A good example of the former is to be found in the alliances which have
been set up in the EU and the Member States to combat poverty and social exclusion (the European
network for combating poverty, the European umbrella group for combating homelessness (FEANTSA)
and the European disability forum and the European youth forum, bringing together associations
representing the groups concerned and the bodies providing services and operating establishments. The
role of these alliances is to defend the rights and interests of the victims of particular forms of need,
conflict and other difficult situations affecting their lives who have joined forces in associations to tackle
these problems.

Such a role has by no means ruled out important joint action being taken in individual cases in respect
of general social demands. One example which may be quoted here is the Platform of Social NGOs, set
up to prepare the 1996 social policy forum and the next forum scheduled for 1998. The aim of both
forums is, in particular, to promote dialogue with the two social partners, which requires appropriate
cooperation and coordination between the NGOs working in the social field.

A distinction should be drawn between the abovementioned organizations and charitable associations
and foundations which provide inter-disciplinary social services and facilities. These bodies both provide
social welfare services and at the same time defend the social rights of the people concerned (cf., for
example, the European Round Table of Social Welfare Associations — ETWelfare, which currently
brings together umbrella associations providing such services and facilities in 14 EU Member States).
9.3.98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 73/101


to the opinion of the Economic and Social Committee

The following amendments, which attracted more than 25 % of the votes cast, were rejected during the
course of the deliberations:

Point 3.2

Amend to read as follows:

‘Charitable associations constitute an important economic and social group contributing to social
solidarity in the individual Member States and at the level of the European Union, whose Member States
are becoming ever more closely linked. The ESC is pleased to count representatives of charitable
associations amongst its members. The appropriate representation of these bodies means that the
broadest representation of civil society is to be found at the ESC, thereby enabling it to embody and give
effect to the “civil dialogue”. By exercising this role, on the basis, in particular of its current membership,
the ESC is in a position to carry out the tasks with which it has been charged.’


— For the term ‘social solidarity’ see the reasons in respect of Article 3.1 above.
— Although the proposed amendment would tone down Article 3.2, as set out in the corrigendum, it
would not make substantive changes.

The admissions made in the present version of this article represent an extremely dangerous self-inflicted
blow to the ESC’s authority, standing and overall credibility of its work and its members. This is
because, in its present form, the article takes the line that:
— representation is currently not appropriate because charitable associations have to be adequately
represented (implying that they are at the present time not appropriately represented!);
— because of this inappropriate representation the ESC cannot effectively achieve the desired civil
dialogue (cf. point 3.2 of the corrigendum: ‘the civil dialogue will be achieved yet more effectively if
charitable associations are adequately represented at the ESC’).

Contrary to the existing Article 3.2, the proposed amendment endorses the presence at the ESC of
representatives of charitable associations, whilst pointing out that, thanks to this presence, the ESC has
an appropriate composition, thereby enabling it to represent and give full expression to civil society.

Result of the vote

For: 36, against: 47, abstentions: 9.

Point 3.3

Delete the last sentence: ‘On the other hand, ... in tune with needs.’


This is an unreasonable claim, as it would be impossible for voluntary charitable associations to take
over responsibility for e.g. home help or meals on wheels to the elderly.

Result of the vote

For: 38, against: 40, abstentions: 13.