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CoE Expert Council Opinion on Romania’s Draft Law on Associations and Foundations

The Expert Council on NGO Law of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe just published its opinion on the Romanian Draft Law 140/2017 on Associations and Foundations.The draft Law was adopted by the Senate on 20 November 2017 and is currently pending for debate in the Chamber of Deputies.

“The Expert Council on NGO Law finds that the changes that would be effected by the provisions in the draft Law give rise to a number of shortcomings as regards compliance with international standards and best practices. In particular:

  1. the proposal to prohibit associations and foundations from having the status of public utility if they engage in any kind of political activities is incompatible with the guarantees of the right to freedom of association and should not go beyond limiting their activities other than in the case of ones directly connected to those of an unambiguously party political character;
  2. the proposed provisions for selection of associations and foundations for recognition as ones of public utility, as well as for the actual allocation of public support, leaves unjustified scope for discriminatory treatment. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that the procedure leading to the withdrawal of recognition of public utility status will be governed both by a fair, judicial procedure and the principle of proportionality;
  3. the proposed reporting obligations are entirely incompatible with international standards and best practices and should not, therefore, be retained; and
  4. the arrangements made for the non-renewal of recognition of public utility status do not make proper provision for the completion of undertakings that were initiated on the basis that they were so recognised.”

The Expert Council further notes that if the draft is adopted in the current form it will seriously weaken the ability of NGOs to contribute to government policies, provide services and meet people’s needs. The opinion also cautions against unjustified use of the concept of ‘transparency’. It also emphasizes the importance of consulting the sector in developing any further legal measure.

You can read the full opinion on the website of Council of Europe here.