Expression of concern

Expression of concern
July 10, 2020 Адриана Гоцова

With regards to the proposed amendments and additions to the Law on Non-profit Legal Entities

In an official position sent to the Bulgarian government, The Cedar Foundation expressed its strong concern with regards to the Bill for amendment and addition to the Law on Non-profit Legal Entities, introduced on Jul 1, 2020 by Iskren Veselinov and a group of national representatives. This Bill contradicts the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the national legislation, as well as EU law and democratic principles more broadly. In our letter to the government, we noted that only days ago the Court of Justice the EU ruled that a similar law in Hungary was violating the EU’s principles of protection of the basic rights of the Union’s citizens by exercising indirect discrimination against civil society organizations and the persons who support them. This law was ruled to contradict EU law.

We also reminded the government that civil society organizations contribute substantially to a number of important sectors—social activities, education, healthcare, including through inviting donations and grants nationally and from abroad. Moreover, presently, we are legally bound to report our activities to at least four state institutions. We submit annual tax returns to the National Revenue Agency and annual reports to the National Statistical Institute. We declare all loans to the Bulgarian National Bank and publish a public annual report of our activities and a financial report to the Trade Register and the Register for Non-profit Legal Entities of the Registry Agency to the Ministry of Justice. In addition, civil society organizations report their work and the spending of funds to their donors and the public. It remains unclear what the aim of a new Register, led by the Ministry of Finance, would be, and there have not been provided any arguments to support the need for such a legislative change, including explanations on how it would improve the transparency in financing Non-profit Legal Entities.

Moreover, the proposal for implementing an obligation to the members of the governing bodies of civil society organizations to declare personal property is exceptionally dangerous and effectively undermines the years of effort in developing civil society in Bulgaria. An obligation of this nature baselessly equates the governing bodies of Non-profits with persons in public office and infringes on the right to a personal life and its inviolability under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

In our official letter, we called for the rejection of the proposed Bill, as this would confirm that Bulgaria is a democratic country where state institutions observe and adhere to the Constitution and where laws are not used to constrain or violate civil rights and the work in benefit to society.