Tag Archives: Exclusion

Promoting the role of voluntary organisations and foundations in Europe

Promoting the role of voluntary organisations and foundations in Europe

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Promoting the role of voluntary organisations and foundations in Europe


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Anti-discrimination and relations with civil society

Promoting the role of voluntary organisations and foundations in Europe

The European Commission is working to encourage and develop the civil dialogue by promoting the role of voluntary organisations and foundations. This dialogue is intended to inform citizens about social policy development and in particular the implementation of measures designed to combat social exclusion and discrimination. In this Communication, the Commission explains the problems and challenges facing voluntary organisations and foundations with a view to encouraging their development at national and European levels, improving their ability to respond to future needs, and maximising their contribution to European integration.

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 6 June 1997 on promoting the role of voluntary organisations and foundations in Europe.[COM(1997) 241 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Civil dialogue may be described as the reciprocal exchange of information between citizens at the grass roots and the European institutions, which facilitates the development of a social policy that is responsive to real needs, from the European level down to the local level, by promoting European citizenship and participation.

The beginnings of a more structured and consistent civil dialogue date back to the Maastricht Treaty, which enshrined Declaration 23 (annexed to the EU Treaty). This declaration stresses the importance of “cooperation between [the European institutions] … and charitable associations and foundations as institutions responsible for welfare establishments and services”.

The social economy consists of three sectors:

  • cooperatives,
  • mutual societies,
  • voluntary organisations.

Among these sectors, the voluntary organisations and foundations are becoming increasingly numerous. In addition, they play an essential role in almost all fields of social activity (sports activities, human rights, development policy, citizens’ interests, etc.). They play a part in creating jobs, in demonstrating active citizenship and in the exercise of democracy. Over time they have begun to contribute to European integration. This is why the Commission has mounted an extensive survey in order to learn more about the sector and to identify the problems to be addressed (the results of the survey are contained in Annex 1).

Over the years the voluntary sector and the European institutions have begun to cooperate more closely (the voluntary sector disseminates information to the public and shares its knowledge and experience with the institutions). There is a genuine political will for systematic consultation at European level, both in preparing and in implementing policies, ever since the adoption of Declaration 23.

However, the voluntary sector has had to address fresh problems and challenges linked to the extension of its role. Voluntary organisations trying to develop transnational European activities encounter a series of obstacles such as:

  • the difficulty in finding partners in other countries for joint projects;
  • the lack of funding at European level;
  • late payment of Community financial aid;
  • the unrepresentative nature of certain organisations;
  • lack of adequate training.

The Commission and the Member States are trying to remedy these problems on an ad hoc basis. The Commission considers it important to put in place a consistent policy and a strategy for this sector. It has put forward a certain number of ideas for examination by the voluntary sector, at both national and European level.

Member States:

In compliance with the subsidiarity principle, the Commission considers that the bulk of the activities must take place at national or even regional or local level, and proposes in particular:

  • learning more about the sector at all levels;
  • developing partnerships between the public authorities and the voluntary sector, while ensuring that they remain truly independent;
  • developing a clearer legal and tax framework for the voluntary organisations and foundations;
  • ensuring that the voluntary sector has adequate training opportunities.

Voluntary organisations and foundations:

The voluntary organisations and foundations should be more open and accessible so that citizens and the public authorities can familiarise themselves with their objectives and working methods.

They should also:

  • diversify their sources of funding;
  • encourage their personnel to seek training;
  • liase more closely with the public authorities and the business community.

Community level:

The dialogue between the voluntary organisations and institutions and Community bodies should be developed, in particular by the Consultative Committee for Cooperatives, Mutual Societies, Associations and Foundations, which aims to ensure the horizontal consultation and coordination of the sector, but also via the European Social Forum.

Parliament has also proposed creating an observatory to monitor the development of the sector in the single market.

Other actions could also be undertaken in order to:

  • improve access to European training programmes for members of voluntary organisations that wish to expand in Europe;
  • promote access to certain Community funds;
  • create a special fund in order to encourage transnational activities by the voluntary organisations.

The Commission is keen to mount a large-scale dialogue involving the sector, the European institutions, the Member States and other interested parties, in order to scrutinise the proposals set out in this Communication. It plans to organise a series of conferences and seminars to discuss this Communication and the questions it raises.

Related Acts

European Parliament Resolution on the Communication from the Commission on promoting the role of voluntary organisations and foundations in Europe [COM(97)0241 C4-0546/97].


Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2006

Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2006

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2006


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social protection

Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2006

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission, of 13 February 2006, to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2006 [COM (2006) 62 final – Official Journal C 67 of 18.03.2006].


The European Union (EU) and its social policies face major challenges in the medium to long term.

In the long run, the challenges of global competition, the impact of new technologies and an ageing population need to be addressed.

More immediate action is needed to boost sluggish growth, curb high rates of unemployment and reduce continuing inequalities.

Social protection and social inclusion: developments and reforms

After several years of stagnation, the percentage of GDP (28% in 2003) spent on social protection has now risen slightly.

Systems of cash transfers (other than pensions) account for 5% of GDP. In this area, reforms have been undertaken with a view to strengthening incentives to take up work. Benefits to support incomes for those making the transition to (low-paid) employment are also becoming more widespread. Social assistance is increasingly linked closely with social and employment services, thus achieving synergies and increasing efficiency. Moreover, notable reform efforts were made in relation to long-term sickness/invalidity schemes.

Spending on pensions, which averaged 13% of GDP in the EU in 2003, has ensured that being old is no longer associated with being poor or being dependent. Furthermore, in the light of population ageing and the increase in life expectancy in Europe, most Member States have undertaken reforms to ensure the adequacy, sustainability and modernisation of pensions. The National Strategy Reports which Member States submitted in 2005 show that these three objectives must be viewed together in order for the reforms to succeed. Member States have therefore adopted a three-pronged strategy based on:

  • reducing public debt;
  • higher employment rates among older people;
  • reforming pensions.

In 2003, spending on health care and long-term care averaged 8% of GDP. At present this area is directly affected by the consequences of ageing and the emergence of new technologies. In 2004 the Open Method of Coordination (MOC) was extended to include health care and long-term care, areas which continue to pose challenges in terms of supply, access and financial sustainability. In response to ever-growing demand, in order to guarantee access to health care for all and also to overcome the quantitative and qualitative gaps in supply, Member States have undertaken various reforms:

  • ensuring greater effectiveness and efficiency through reorganisation, prioritisation and the development of incentive structures for users and providers;
  • strengthening the role of health promotion and disease prevention policies;
  • systematic use of charges and co-payments as well as reductions in fees, targeted at disadvantaged groups;
  • promoting active lifestyles and healthy ageing;
  • developing indicators and setting quality standards, practice guidelines and accreditation systems;
  • involving patients;
  • promoting choice;
  • technological progress.

With regard to fighting poverty and exclusion, considerable progress has been made in several areas. However, like the economic situation, the picture remains mixed. Moreover, the review of the Lisbon Strategy revealed an implementation gap between what Member States committed to and the policy effort to implement them. There are eight problem areas in which action must be taken:

  • labour market participation, which is generally low;
  • modernisation of social protection systems;
  • disadvantages in education and training;
  • child poverty, which still persists;
  • assistance to families;
  • housing, an area where significant inequalities persist;
  • access to quality services;
  • integration of people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and immigrants.

Intervention was also necessary in light of the concentration of multiple disadvantages in certain urban and rural communities and among some groups (people with disabilities, migrants and ethnic minorities, homeless, ex-prisoners, addicts and older people).

Social protection and social inclusion: challenges

The Commission’s January 2006 Communication on a new framework for the OMC identifies four overarching challenges for social protection and inclusion policies:

  • to promote social cohesion and equal opportunities for all through adequate, accessible, financially sustainable, adaptable and efficient social protection systems and social inclusion policies;
  • to interact closely with the Lisbon objectives on achieving greater economic growth and more and better jobs and with the EU’s Sustainable Development Strategy;
  • to strengthen governance, transparency and the involvement of stakeholders in the design, implementation and monitoring of policy;
  • finally, there should be a two-way interaction between the OMC and the Lisbon Strategy. Social protection and inclusion policies should support growth and employment objectives, and, conversely, growth and employment policies should support social objectives.

For social protection schemes a holistic approach is required which focuses on:

  • sustainability;
  • monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of systems, policies and funding mechanisms;
  • the distribution of spending across different branches;
  • the balance between public provision and self-reliance.

With regard to pension schemes, it is necessary to:

  • further highlight the interlinkages between the three broad objectives of adequacy, sustainability and modernisation of pension systems;
  • continue to remove disincentives and strengthen incentives for working longer (including for potential beneficiaries of minimum pensions);
  • improve the way in which both employers and labour markets treat older workers;
  • monitor the trend towards a decline in replacement rates;
  • take better account of new forms of working and of career breaks (particularly for care);
  • ensure that women can build up their own pension rights;
  • ensure that private pension schemes are affordable and secure, so that they can complement public schemes (which are the principal source of pensions in all but a few Member States) as effectively as possible.

With regard to health care and long-term care:

  • in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, there is a need for greater coherence and better coordination between different types of care;
  • in terms of access and quality, action must be taken to strengthen the role of family doctors;
  • in terms of financial sustainability, it is recommended to boost incentives to use resources in a rational way, and to ensure greater use of regulated competition.

The chapter on the challenges for the future in relation to fighting poverty and exclusion highlights a threefold need:

  • better mainstreaming;
  • better governance;
  • better links between the NAPs for inclusion and the Structural Funds (in particular the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund).

Still in relation to fighting poverty and exclusion, a more strategic, systematic and transparent approach is needed for the formulation of NAPs for inclusion, to ensure that policies are set out more clearly. The OMC needs to develop a strong focus on poverty among children and their families. The multiple exclusion faced by young people from ethnic minorities in poor neighbourhoods also needs increased attention. In this context, the fundamental role of education and training in breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty should be highlighted.

It is essential to ensure that the OMC and the revised Lisbon Strategy mutually reinforce one another. Monitoring and evaluation also need to be strengthened.


This second Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion responds directly to the challenges of the Lisbon Strategy and of the Hampton Court Summit, and builds on the 2003 Communication ” Strengthening the social dimension of the Lisbon strategy: Streamlining open coordination in the field of social protection “. It draws on the plans and policy statements produced by the Member States during 2005 under the three policy strands of social inclusion, pensions, and health and long-term care. It is guided by the views expressed by Member States and stakeholders on the value of the OMC.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission of 22 December 2005, “ 
A new framework for the open coordination of social protection and inclusion policies in the European Union
 ” [COM (2005) 706 – Not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission of 27 January 2005 on the 
Draft joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2005
 [COM (2005) 14 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

Communication from the Commission, of 27 May 2003, Strengthening the social dimension of the Lisbon strategy: Streamlining open coordination in the field of social protection [COM (2003) 261 final – Official Journal L 314 of 13.10.2004].