The Senate of Romania has adopted last 20 November amendments to the law on associations and foundations that if finally adopted by the Chamber of deputies would hamper the freedom of assembly and expression of civil society organisations.
The main changes relate to:
- Rules for obtaining or maintaining recognition of as association of public utility, and allocation of public funding. The proposed changes introduce limitations in the area of activities allowed, and would also lead to potential discrimination among associations because of the subjective nature of the application of these rules.
- A full prohibition of any kind of political activity for organisations of public utility which are disproportionate and would lead to serious restrictions to advocacy and campaigning
- Financial reporting rules which are excessive and not compliant with international standards as associations and foundations would have to publish in the official journal twice a year their annual accounts, and maintain the same value of assets for each year of operations as the first year of activity. Also financial statements would require details over all types of donations including from individuals, which would create compatibility problems with privacy rights of donors. These rules would also be discriminatory as regards other private entities. Furthermore they are likely to be incompatible with freedom of movement of capitals.
Such proposals also follow recent changes in fiscal regulations adopted at the beginning of November which significantly reduce access by NGOs to private funding, excluding most of the private companies from fiscal incentives for donations.
The Expert Council on NGO law of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe has just published on 11 December an opinion on the draft law expressing similar concerns.
The opinion also stresses the lack of consultation of Civil Society on the proposed changes. On the contrary a coalition of NGOs covering the diversity of civil society has addressed a number or concerns since the summer without any follow up.
This draft law comes also after a number of associations and the citizens they represent have raised concerns over transparency and accountability of national authorities and the use of public funding, including the structural funds.
CSE calls on:
- the relevant Authorities at national level to engage in a dialogue with civil society
- on the Chamber of deputies when examining the draft proposal to apply international human rights commitments, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and EU rules
- On the European Commission and the European Parliament to examine closely the situation and follow up with the necessary measures