Two Romanian MPs from PSD (the Social Democrats), the ruling Romanian party, have submitted a law proposal which is to be discussed through an emergency procedure and which proposes important amendments to the Romanian law regulating the work of organizations and foundations. The proposals include obliging NGOs to publish in the Official Monitor, twice a year, information on their revenues and expenses, with details on the persons bringing the revenues and the activities they are being spent on. Otherwise they would risk being closed in 30 days.
Together with several Romanian non-governmental organizations, APADOR-CH submitted to the Parliament and the Government a protest letter, urging them to stick to the transparency they are demanding from the non-governmental sector and to organize public debates before operating such legislative changes.
The criticism of the law proposal includes the fact that NGOs anyways have the same tax obligations as any other private entity in the country, and arbitrarily imposing on them new obligations seems to suggest the creation of a form of political control over the non-governmental sector. In addition, the explanatory statement of the legislative proposal is based on some false premises.
The law proposal also seems to introduce instruments of censorship on possible criticisms made by organizations regarding politicians and public functionaries. It states that public utility organizations should be prohibited to engage in “campaigns of […] opposition to a political party or candidate for a public office in which they can be named or elected”; the formulation of the provision is vague, being able to lead to abusive interpretations.
Another problem is that the Ministry of Public Consultation and Social Dialogue has organized in the last few months several debates with NGOs, on the subject of amendments requested by some organizations to the same law. In these meetings however there were never discussions about the PSD law proposal, although the Senate had asked for a point of view from the Government on it.
This is not the only legislative proposal submitted by the current government in relation to the functioning of the non-governmental sector. A draft law on the regime of non-reimbursable public funding for non-profit-making activities is published for public debate on the website of the Ministry of Justice. During the electoral campaign of 2016, as well as during the massive protests that took place in Romania this winter, there were quite a few politicians making statements through which they were insinuating that some NGOs might be having some hidden interests in “destabilizing the country.” And some of the proposed legislative reforms seem to be inspired by models recently adopted in neighboring countries such as Hungary or Russia.