Many people choose to get involved in a variety of voluntary activities in an effort to play an active role in our social fabric. Volunteering, unpaid engagement, civic engagement – these are some of the names given to this phenomenon, which takes place in various forms in the member states of the EU. Across Europe, there are also different approaches to measuring volunteering and thus making it susceptible to statistical analysis.

The legal environment for volunteering varies considerably between individual EU member states. Some countries have a dedicated legal framework applying to volunteering. In others, it is regulated under general laws. Some member states are currently in the process of developing their own legal framework.

The current influx of refugees has resulted in many people volunteering to help refugees. This again shows the significance of volunteering for the society and its cohesion.

The European Year of Volunteering 2011 helped raise awareness for volunteering and fostered exchanges of ideas about volunteering policies across Europe. The promotion of volunteering is also part of the EU Youth Strategy (2010 to 2018). A European Parliament resolution on volunteering and voluntary activity in December 2013 explicitly called for the introduction and development of a volunteering policy based on the Open Method of Coordination. In his State of the Union speech 2016 president Juncker announced to install a European Solidarity Corps to give young Europeans the possibility to volunteer in crisis situations. The Observatory has been monitoring the European dialogue on this topic.