Burning issues for associations 
By Sarah Verschaeve, Counsel (Curia CVOA), Sarah van den Brande, Counsel (Curia CVOA)
Your workshop at the 11th UIA Round Table in Brussel on 10 November is about “Burning Issues for International Associations” - which is the hottest topic in your opinion an why?
In our workshop, we will in particular elaborate on the impact on international associations of (i) the plans of Minister of Justice Koen Geens to reform Belgian legislation on Companies and Associations as well as (ii) the General Data Protection Regulation that will apply in the entire European Union from 25 May 2018 and that will create a new data protection framework. We consider both of these topics as burning issues. Which of these topics is the hottest topic for an international association will mainly depend on the (processing) activities of the international association concerned.
The proposed new legislation on Companies and Associations will be relevant for all (international) associations. However, for international associations developing or contemplating to develop (substantial) commercial activities (consultancy, congresses with industry exhibitions, etc.) the proposed new legislation will be particularly relevant as it will entail new opportunities (cancellation of limitation on commercial activities) but also new risks that should be adequately dealt with (bankruptcy, directors’ liability, impact on subsidies etc.). These opportunities and risks will be discussed in our workshop.
Every international association deals with personal data on a regular basis and is therefore subject to the GDPR. In our workshop we will explain the scope of applicability of the GDPR, the various legal grounds that associations can invoke to process personal data and the onerous obligations the GDPR imposes to prove compliance. This can include: (i) maintaining documentation, (ii) conducting a data protection impact assessment, (iii) implementing new documents, (iv) appointing a DPO ….
What impact is the Brexit going to have on the work of international associations?
An important concern for international associations established in the UK and receiving EU funding is how to continue benefiting from this EU funding in the future. In our workshop we will elaborate on how establishing a presence in Belgium (Brussels being the heart of Europe) may address this concern. Based on our experience of the past year a significant number of international associations are already preparing a move of their headquarters from the UK to the continent or the establishment of a subsidiary in countries such as Belgium or Ireland.
Please give a short overview of the Belgian "AISBL" - what is the current status, how will it develop?
International non-profit associations, in short INPA’s, in French “association internationale sans but lucratif, AISBL”, are governed by Title III of the Law of 27 June 1921. Belgium is the only country that provides a specific legal status for this type of association, specifically created to promote international collaboration in a not-for-profit context, serving a non-profit or social profit purpose. In order to obtain legal personality, INPA’s must be recognized by Royal Decree. This recognition requirement adds to the credibility of INPA’s. Currently, INPA’s need to take into account only a limited number of legal provisions, offering a lot of freedom to the founders of the INPA. Fortunately, and based on the draft bill, this flexibility will be maintained in the future.
Why should an association representative attend UIA Round Table and your workshop? What is he/she going to take home from it?
In light of the (expected) legislative changes that have been highlighted above, we are confident that attending our workshop will be 90 minutes well spent for international associations established in Belgium or considering the establishment of a presence in Belgium.
“Curia is a law firm with offices in Brussels with a specific reputation as service provider to not-for-profit organisations, such as international organisations, foundations, federations, etc active in very different sectors (healthcare, welfare, culture, sports, industry networks in energy, food, mobility…).
Services of this team vary from advice on choice of suitable legal form, governance, (public-private) partnerships, governmental relations, mergers, D&O-liability, privacy, intellectual property, labour law, over transactional work to process management and dispute handling.
Curia also disposes of an international network of experts on not-for-profit organisations and social business through the European Social Enterprise Law Association (‘Esela’), providing expert support to associations with international and cross-border activities.
The team was elected top tier firm in the Legal 500 EMEA 2017 Edition for Belgium, category not-for-profit.
Marleen Denef, founding partner at Curia, professor at the Brussels campus of Leuven University and board member of Esela, was elected “leading individual” by Legal 500 in the same category. This n° 1 ranking is a recognition for 15 years of focussed dedication to the development of the NPO-niche and is a stimulus to continue to invest in the development of specialized knowledge, which the team regularly shares with their (potential) clients in workshops, at conferences and publications.
At the UIA Round Table in Brussels on 10 November, Curia will be represented by Sarah Verschaeve and Sarah van den Brande, both counsel at Curia, in a workshop on burning issues for international associations.”