Parliament to Vote on alarming NGO Law

Association

Between 2nd and 19th July, the Romanian Parliament held an extraordinary session to deliberate on a draft law which has serious implications for the work of NGOs. Maria-Nicoleta Andreescu, executive director of local human rights group APADOR-CH, told the CIVICUS Monitor that the alarming piece of legislation (which the CIVICUS Monitor has previously reported about) had been put on Parliament's agenda. At the time of writing, the law was still under discussion in the parliament's judicial committee. 

Draft law 140/2017 proposes the closure of any NGO that does not publish reports of their revenues and expenses every six months in the Official Gazette. Civil society considers this an arbitrary imposition on NGOs, since other private entities in the country only have to publish such reports once a year. The draft bill also requires the publication of the name of every donor supporting an organisation. Observers note that this draft bill aims at stifling the non-governmental sector by consuming their resources and by decreasing the money they are able to collect.

The draft law also provides for situations in which an association or foundation may be recognised by the government of Romania as having "public utility status"' in order to receive public funds. To be eligible, an association may not have carried out "any political activities" during the previous two years. "Political activities" are not defined in the law, leaving open the possibility that the government could interpret this very broadly. 

At the same time, the Romanian government moved forward with another highly problematic legislative initiative which the CIVICUS Monitor had also previously reported on. This draft law, which is now at the Senate and will be discussed in the autumn, obliges associations, foundations and federations to declare personal data about their beneficiaries. Dollores Benezic, communication expert at APADOR-CH summarized the expected consequences of the law:

“Non-compliant organizations will face an extreme sanction: dissolution. Specifically, the project will lead to:

the complete closure of organizations working for the most vulnerable groups: abused individuals, people whose human rights have been violated, people affected by extreme poverty; a drastic decrease in the number of citizens turning to non-governmental organizations; NGOs no longer being able to enter into partnerships without sharing complete lists of data on their beneficiaries, including individuals, with names, surnames and all data included in their identity cards.”

The law has not yet entered into force as the parliament is yet to approve it.

Expression

According to a bill currently being put through public debate in the Senate, people who publicly promote anti-Romanian doctrines could receive jail sentences of  between three months and three years, while those who establish anti-Romanian organisations risk receiving sentences of between three and ten years imprisonment. The bill was initiated by Members of Parliament from the National Liberal Party (PNL), the second-largest party in the Romanian Parliament, and the Popular Movement Party (PMP).