BCSDN, in partnership with European Center for Non-profit Law (ECNL), has published the third Regional Report on Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development in Enlargement Countries, presenting the regional state of play of civil society in 2015 and highlighting the priorities for intervention by national and EU institutions at the regional level towards creating a more enabling environment for civil society.
According to the findings for 2015, the legal environment for CSOs in the Western Balkans and Turkey remained relatively stable. Freedom of association, assembly, expression and information continue to be legally guaranteed in all countries of the region with the exception of Turkey. Still, there are continuous challenges with inadequate implementation of the laws and lack of implementing bylaws. Repetitive crackdowns on the exercise of freedom of assembly and breaches of the legal guarantees were identified in the majority of the countries. CSOs continuously struggled to secure their financial sustainability in the whole region as fiscal regulations remain problematic. State support in 2014 was too often distributed through non-transparent mechanisms, and remained insufficient. Many countries reported that the dialogue with public authorities has deteriorated compared to 2014, particularly in the involvement of CSOs in the decision-making processes. The following are the key recommendations directed towards national governments and relevant EU institutions which are considered a priority for the region:
Key recommendations for national institutions:
- Legal guarantees for freedom of association, freedom of assembly and other related freedoms to be preserved and properly implemented in practice.
- Fiscal regulations on the CSO income and tax incentives for donors need to be revised to provide supportive tax treatment for CSOs.
- Public funding mechanisms need to be reformed and their rules properly implemented to ensure relevant, transparent and accountable redistribution processes.
- Mechanisms for CSO-state cooperation need to be made functional through sufficient allocation of financial and human resources with adequate capacities.
- CSOs to be regularly involved in decision and policy making processes at all levels, including effective access to information and inclusion in early stages of the process.
- Involvement of CSOs in provision of services on behalf of the state need to be increased also in areas beyond social services.
Key recommendations for EU institutions:
- Participation of the civil society in the EU accession processes to become obligatory.
- The EU to prioritize the enabling environment in the negotiation processes.
- The EU funds to be distributed transparently and in a depoliticized manner.
- The EU to support diversification of CSO financial resources.
The full Report is available for download here.