Foundations play an important role within the European Union, particularly in civil society. Through their various activities in various fields, they contribute to the achievement of the Union’s fundamental values and objectives, such as respect for human rights, the protection of minorities, employment and social progress, the protection and improvement of the environment or the dissemination of scientific and technological progress.

In this context, they make a key contribution to achieving the ambitious targets for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth set out in the Europe 2020 strategy. To achieve these objectives, foundations grant grants and carry out projects. In addition, the foundations promote and facilitate a more active involvement of citizens and civil society in the European project. However, there are many obstacles that foundations encounter in carrying out their activities at EU level.

In the European Union operate more than 110 thousand foundations of public utility that, in their totality, possess an estimated patrimony of approximately 350 billion euros, employ almost 1 million citizens and every year for their collectivises they spend approximately 83 billion.

However, differences between national legal systems and their obstacles often make cross-border activities costly and inefficient. When foundations decide to operate abroad, they often must invest part of their resources in legal advice to meet the legal and administrative requirements defined by the various national legal systems. In this way, the amount of funds available to foundations for carrying out public utility activities decreases, with the possible effect of discouraging them from continuing their work.

On 8 February 2012, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a statute that aims to establish a single European legal form, the “European Foundation (EF)” identical in all member states.

Highlights of the Proposal

The proposal aims to establish a single legal form that can operate throughout the Union, substantially identical in all Member States: the “European Foundation” (FE).

This initiative creates a new European legal form to facilitate the establishment and functioning of foundations in the single market. This allows foundations to channel private funds for public utility purposes more effectively and across borders across the Union.

As a result, this leads to more funds available for public utility activities, for example because of lower costs for foundations, with a positive impact on the public good of European citizens and on the EU’s global economy. Economic activities not related to the public utility purpose of the FE may constitute a maximum of 10% of its net annual turnover, provided that the results of unrelated activities are presented separately in the financial statements.

What are the most tangible benefits? 

  • Legal personality and capacity in all States of the Union.
  • Ability to carry out activities within the EU more easily.
  • Channelling funding more smoothly and at less cost given the application of equal rules across the EU.
  • Obtaining a European label that makes the individual foundation more reliable and recognizable even across borders.
  • The tax regime of the Fe is the same tax regime as that applied to national foundations.

For more information, please consult the following attached documents:

  • Proposal for a COUNCIL REGULATION on the Statute of the European Foundation (EF), European Commission, Brussels, 8.2.2012, COM (2012)35 final, 2012/0022 (APP).
  • Statute of the European Foundation – European Parliament resolution of 2 July 2013 on the proposal for a Council regulation on the Statute of the European Foundation (EF) (COM (2012)0035 – 2012/0022(JPA)).


  • European Commission – PRESS RELEASES – Press release – Promoting public utility projects: the statute of the European Foundation (
  • Proposal for a COUNCIL REGULATION on the Statute of the European Foundation (EF), Brussels, 8.2.2012.
  • European Statute for Foundations: Proposal for a Community Framework – ACRI
  • The Statute of the European Foundation arrives | Northeast Smes