The last months have seen further growth in the commitment of foundations to work together in Europe through NEF on joint ventures which both give a European perspective to the particular initiative and aim to produce greater impact than could be achieved by foundations acting alone. Chaired by Luc Tayart de Borms of the King Baudouin Foundation, the nucleus of 11 foundations committed to NEF acts as a catalyst for new forms of transnational collaboration in Europe.
Its openness to engage other foundations besides the core members in this process is illustrated both by the designation of the Freudenberg Stiftung and the Bertelsmann Stiftung to lead two new NEF initiatives (see p7) and by the increasing participation of more and more non-member foundations in the different NEF projects.
The growing interest throughout Europe in new forms of deliberative democracy to complement and challenge representative democracy will be the focus of two new initiatives to be launched shortly under the NEF umbrella, one addressing the future of rural areas in Europe and the other (following the two ‘no’ votes in the Dutch and French referenda) exploring the further development of the European Union. Both initiatives will involve panels of citizens and raise new ideas which can better engage citizens in shaping both national and European political choices. These initiatives will be the subject of a special event organized by NEF at the EFC Annual General Assembly in Brussels in May 2006.
The Mercator Fund, established by the Gabriel Foundation in the framework of NEF, is conducting a major enquiry into the feasibility of licensing opium in Afghanistan for medicinal use (see p9). It is through the Mercator Fund that the Raymond Georis Prize for Innovative Philanthropy in Europe is awarded.