Amendments to law governing freedom of association are dropped

Association

As previously covered in the CIVICUS Monitor, civil society in Kosovo recently mobilised against new proposed amendments to the legal framework which could have curtailed freedom of association. After the voting of Law 06/L-043 on Freedom of Association, the second reading of the law on the 7th of November 2018 saw a number problematic amendments added to the bill. In response, around 80 CSOs (which increased to over 300 once the wider advocacy campaign started) in Kosovo sent a request to the President of Kosovo, pleading with him to not sign the new law into force and return for reevaluation in the Assembly.

The President, recognising civil society’s arguments reacted by sending it back for review in the Parliamentary Committee on Public Administration. The committee was also given a set of recommendations proposed by civil society aimed at removing the problematic clauses. If unchanged, the law would have contained several provisions that run contrary to international principles on freedom of association. For example, the proposals gave the authorities the power to terminate NGO registrations based on vague provisions that could be arbitrarily interpreted, as well as complicating the founding and registration of NGOs and their Public Benefit Status.

After a long and arduous advocacy campaign and protests by civil society in Kosovo, the changes were dropped. On 15th April 2019, during the bill's third reading in the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, MPs rejected the changes. The problematic and newly added provisions were removed, and the bill reverted back to its previous form. Given that the first iteration of the bill was drafted with civil society's input, the move was warmly welcomed by activists and organisations in Kosovo. In response to the positive news, CIVICUS Monitor partner the Kosovar Civil Society Foundation highlighted the victory for civil society. In a statement, the group said: 

"More than five months after it approved a highly restrictive law, the Kosovo Parliament today voted on the amendments proposed by the Office of the President of Kosovo on the NGO Law, in line with best international standards and practices, and civil society demands."