European Non-Profit Oversight: The Case for Regulating from the Outside In

31 Pages Posted: 27 May 2016  

Oonagh B. Breen

Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin

Date Written: May 26, 2016


When it comes to the regulation of non-profits, the European Commission experiences many of the same pressures and constraints faced by national charity regulators. It suffers, however, from an added disadvantage in that, arguably, it lacks jurisdictional competence to regulate non-profits qua non-profits. This article explores the consequences of the Commission’s unsuccessful attempt to secure the passage of its proposal for a European Foundation Statute (‘EFS’). Notwithstanding the European Council’s inability to muster the necessary Member State unanimity required to pass the proposal and its subsequent demise, the Commission is still dogged by the problems it identified as giving rise to the need for the EFS in the first instance. Against this background, Part I reviews the rationale for the EFS proposal, the political concerns that left it vulnerable to veto and the structural challenges faced by the Commission in legislating for non-profits at a European level. The argument is advanced that extant a purely functional approach, European regulation of nonprofits from ‘the inside out’ is difficult in the absence of a valid treaty basis.

Part II proceeds to examine recent NGO attempts to influence the Financial Action Task Force (‘FATF’) reform process (supported by the European Commission) and to demand a fairer process under FATF Recommendation 8 for dealing with NGOs. The European Commission’s role in assisting NGOs to bring pressure on the FATF to be more accountable and transparent in its dealings presents an interesting vignette of one regulator laying siege to another for the greater good of better non-profit oversight. Arguably, the Commission’s attempts at ‘regulating from the outside in’ has led to it demanding a higher level of transparency of the FATF than it has been willing to provide to NGOs itself in the past, while simultaneously enhancing Commission-NGO relations. The article concludes that it is now timely for the European Commission to be alert to the possibilities of regulating from the outside in on occasions when it may not be so possible to regulate from the inside out.

Keywords: Non-Profits, Regulation, Charities, EU, European Union, FATF

Suggested Citation

Breen, Oonagh B., European Non-Profit Oversight: The Case for Regulating from the Outside In (May 26, 2016). Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 91, No. 3, 2016, Forthcoming; UCD Working Papers in Law, Criminology & Socio-Legal Studies Research Paper No. 03/16. Available at SSRN:

Oonagh B. Breen (Contact Author)

Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin ( email )

Sutherland School of Law
Dublin 4

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