In September 2019 the governing coalition of the Republic of Moldova signed a political commitment for 2019-2020. The governance plan includes the adoption of the draft law on non-commercial organisations, which has been elaborated in close collaboration with CSO representatives. This commitment marks an important step as the former government attempted to restrict CSO involvement in promotion of public policies and strengthen reporting requirements.
What does the draft law include?
The draft law aims to improve the legal framework for non-commercial organisations. It complies with international and European standards on freedom of association. Specifically, the draft ensures:
- Uniformity of the legal framework that regulates the activity of the non-commercial sector;
- Elimination of restrictions for certain categories of persons to set up and participate in non-commercial organisations;
- Clear regulation regarding the structure of self-administration bodies and their competences;
- Reforming the registration mechanism for non-commercial organisations and simplifying the registration procedure;
- Elimination of the territorial restrictions of activity of the non-commercial organisations;
- Additional guarantees designed to protect the freedom of association.
What happened earlier?
The original Law on public associations, adopted in 1996, was reviewed after 20 years when the Ministry of Justice started the elaboration of the draft law in close collaboration with representatives of CSOs. In July 2017, the government added restrictive amendments to the draft law providing that CSOs benefiting from foreign funding were to be banned from participating in the development and promotion of public policies. The amendments would also have required CSOs to report on their income and on representatives of their governing structures. However, due to the prompt reaction of the CSOs and international community, the government dropped the proposals.
In May 2018, the parliament approved the original draft law in the first reading, respecting CSO recommendations. Nonetheless, members of the parliament had several objections. The then-speaker of the parliament, stated that “There are still some challenges – improper foreign donations to influence Moldova’s political system should be banned” and he added “They (CSOs) do nothing but write projects, get funding from abroad and they have to consume that money. They got used to organise protests in this day of the year. Besides organising a protest, you better come to help and do something“
The new governing coalition, installed in June 2019, brought change in the rhetoric and in its governance plan committed to the adoption of the draft law without essential amendments.