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EU is crucial for Britain and the voluntary sector, but reforms are overdue

Commenting ahead of the Prime Minister’s speech on Europe, Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said:

"This country’s membership of the European Union brings with it a vast range of benefits, as leaders in politics and business have rightly said. Above and beyond its free market, however, Europe speaks to a principle that we hold dear – coming together to address common problems.

"There is no doubt that our world is becoming inexorably more globalised. We want the voluntary sector to be involved in shaping
these global changes, and for that we have to be influencing the debates from inside the tent. The UK’s membership of the European Union is a crucial way for us in the voluntary sector to influence these debates.

"Yet like all things, the European Union reflects the time in which it was conceived and reform is overdue. Europe’s large institutions can feel distant, inaccessible and unresponsive, especially in an era where
transparency and accountability are expected.

"A key issue for charities, for example, is that as a consequence of inflexible EU rules, European Structural Funds are very hard for smaller charities to access.

"We will be contributing to the government’s review of EU powers and calling for greater transparency and accountability in Europe. To my mind, however, the answer is unquestionably reform of Europe, not walking
away from it."

NCVO will call for:

  • European Structural Funds to be made more accessible to smaller charities.
  • Simplification of decision making and greatly increased opportunities for people in Europe to have direct influence on EU decisions.

Ends

NCVO champions and strengthens the voluntary sector, with over 10,000 members, from the largest charities to the smallest community organisations.

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