Café Babel has asked for Anne David’s opinions and comments on the development of the SAE. She is the General Delegate of FONDA – the association for the promotion of Community life and an active partner in inter-Community discussions both in France and Europe – and President of CEDAG, the European Council for Voluntary Organisations, a Brussels-based think tank. On a European level, therefore, she is one of the top specialists on the associative sector.
Café Babel: Mme David, when you talk about the Statute for a European Association, what exactly are you referring to?
Anne David: The Statute for a European Association no longer exists. The current situation is that a draft regulation has been prepared by the European Commission and the member states have discussed it at the heart of the Presidency of the European Union Council’s ‘Societies’ Rights’ task force. When the Council has come to an agreement, the text will be presented to the European Parliament, and there will probably be a joint decision.
The legal status will be optional. It will be an attribute of European citizenship and an instrument for exercising the free provision of services and the freedom to become established within the European Union – associations providing economic activities to serve society. The statute will also be very useful for exercising cross-border activities.
More than 15 years have passed since the Fontaine report was published and the famous statute for a European association it advocates is still a long way from being adopted, in spite of CEDAG’s efforts. Who are the scheme’s main opponents? Which government and / or institutions are opposed to it more or less openly?
At the current stage of the project’s development, it is up to the European Union presidents to put it on their agenda. Denmark have already done so, followed by Greece. The current Italian Presidency and most probably the following Presidencies (Ireland and Greece) will not grant it much time, in which case we will have to wait for Luxembourg to take over the Presidency in the first term of 2005.
There is opposition from several member states who have insisted that it is necessary to define the field of and notably the definition of ‘European Association’ which figures in the 1st Article before debating the necessity of using such a tool.
CEDAG’s action is therefore very important in the work of making a proposal to people from different member states and intervening in their governments. I cannot stress too often that the road to Brussels goes through our own capital cities.
And in political terms, who are your major allies?
The Commission, who, after the Statute for a European Society, have extended the Statute for a European Co-operative and are preparing that of the European Voluntary Sector. Next, we should see a Statute for a European Mutual Society.
The European Parliament, who have supported this project for a long time. An ad hoc opposition Social Economy group exists and is very useful in making representatives aware of the specific nature of our sectors. However, it will have to be reconstituted after the 2004 election.
Finally, the French government, particularly the Delegation to Social Economy who organised meetings with all affected ministers which associations were invited to take part in.
Associations’ internal structures have sometimes been accused of not always being democratic. How far would a European statute go in forcing them to have democratic internal structures?
Article 4 of the Statute for a European Association defines the elements that statutes must contain, notably forms of convocation, minority votes sufficient to block motions, methods of deciding votes, means of entry and so on. It is more restrictive on these points than the 1901 [French] law, the association being a private legal contract in which the parties are free to organise themselves (prefecture-style statues are not obligatory).
We therefore need a statute, a tool for the development of European citizenship and the feeling of belonging to a community.