CIVICUS

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Romania

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Last updated on 13.03.2018 at 09:12

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State proposes further restrictions on NGOs in latest amendment to NGO Law

State proposes further restrictions on NGOs in latest amendment to NGO Law

In early March 2018, another restrictive draft amendment to Romania's NGO laws appeared on a government website.

Association

In early March 2018, an amendment to the NGO Law (Government Ordinance No. 26 / 2000) was published on the website of the National Office for the Prevention and Control of Money Laundering in Romania.

Maria-Nicoleta Andreescu, executive director of local human rights group APADOR-CH, told the CIVICUS Monitor that the pretext for this amendment is the implementation of a European Union directive on the prevention of money laundering or terrorism financing.

Under this directive, which gives some discretion to each state as to how it is implemented, the Romanian government wants to impose an obligation on each association and foundation to report periodically to the Ministry of Justice. Those reports would include significant amounts of information related to the work of civil society organisations (CSOs), including the names of each of their beneficiaries. One interpretation of the draft law suggests that a significant number of organisations would need to report to the Ministry every 15 days. The proposed sanction for failing to meet this obligation would initially be a substantial fine of up to 5,000 Romanian lei (more than 1,000 EUR), followed by dissolution of the organisation. In a statement, APADOR-CH called on the Romanian authorities to reconsider the law, requesting that the government:

"...temper its increasingly brutal attempts to retaliate against [...] criticism from civil society by introducing legal regulations that prevent normal development of associations and foundations". (Translated from Romanian)

Andreescu believes that this latest amendment to the NGO Law represents yet another of the government's blatant attempts to restrict space for civil society in Romania. As previously reported, in early June 2017, the government published a draft bill proposing the closure of any non-governmental organisation (NGO) that does not publish reports of their revenues and expenses twice annually. On 20th November 2017, this bill was tacitly adopted by the Senate. Romania`s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, will discuss the bill before its possible adoption into law. An analysis of that bill by the Open Society Justice Initiative, which was endorsed by 42 Romanian civil society organisations, found that, if implemented, it would violate European Union law.

Peaceful Assembly

The Romanian government’s relentless attempts to undermine judicial independence and make it harder to prosecute high-level crimes and corruption continue to spark public protests on the streets. On 20th January 2018, for example, an estimated 50,000 people marched in Bucharest against the ruling Social Democrats' efforts to decriminalise several corruption offences among public officials, while thousands more demonstrated in cities across the country. With public anger over corruption showing no signs of abating, protests continued in February and into March 2018.

Association

People in Romania are able to form associations to advance their interests, generally without interference from the state.

People in Romania are able to form associations to advance their interests, generally without interference from the state. The constitution guarantees freedom of association, and the principal regulation governing CSOs is the Governmental Ordinance 26/2000, which was substantially amended by Law 246/2005. The law states that any organisation must register in a court and the procedure is fairly simple. There are no limitations on CSOs’ sources of income. Most human rights defenders can operate without interference, however on occasion organisations critical of the government face hostile treatment and can become the targets of smear campaigns. As a consequence, some NGOs have refrained from performing advocacy, fearing retribution from politicians.

Peaceful Assembly

People in Romania are generally able to assemble peacefully in public places and they do so frequently and across the country.

People in Romania are generally able to assemble peacefully in public places and they do so frequently and across the country. In November 2015 for example tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against public sector corruption, highlight the deaths of 32 people in a nightclub fire and demand the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta. In 2014, thousands gathered in the city of Cluj demanding the resignation of Minister Corlăţean, while many environmental protests in opposition to the Roșia Montană project. Law no. 60/1991 regulates public gatherings and requires prior notice for demonstrations. The law prohibits ‘hindering the regular use of public roads and public transportation’ and imposes fines on protestors who breach the law.

Expression

Freedom of expression is protected by the constitution, while defamation and insult were removed as criminal offences in Romania with the adoption of the new Romanian Criminal Code in 2014.

Freedom of expression is protected by the constitution, while defamation and insult were removed as criminal offences in Romania with the adoption of the new Romanian Criminal Code in 2014. Private media is dominated by business people with links to political parties. Such ownership structures influence editorial lines and causes news coverage to be politically biased. While journalists in Romania are able to work without major interference, they are subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation. An economic crisis has negatively impacted the sustainability of private media outlets, and there are now very few investigative journalists working in Romania.