Update 27 July 2020: Bulgarian NGOs write to European institutions alerting of increased pressure on civil society in the country. Civic organisations report:

On 1 July 2020 a group of MPs from the parliamentary group “United Patriots” (a partner in the ruling coalition) proposed a package of amendments to the Not-for-Profit Legal Entities Act (CSO Law) and to several other laws. The amendments contain the following main proposals:

  • Obligation to report all income from foreign sources (foreign states, individuals or companies) above 1000 BGN (500 EUR)
  • Creation of a register of nonprofit legal entities financed from abroad
  • The Public Financial Inspection Agency will be able to conduct financial inspections of CSOs.
  • Possibility to terminate the CSOs or temporarily suspend its public benefit status
  • Obligation for reporting to the Commission for Combating Corruption and
    Illegal Assets Forfeiture 

Read the entire letter Here.

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(8 July 2020) Extract from letter by Bulgarian CSOs published on 5 July 2020

On July 1st, 2020, a group of MPs from the United Patriots Parliamentary Group submitted a Draft Law amending and supplementing the Non-profit Legal Entities Act in the Bulgarian Parliament.

The Draft Law proposes an amendment to the Non-profit Legal Entities Act in two parts – the part regarding the functioning of the Civil Society Development Council, as well as proposing the creation of a new legal framework on declaring and controlling the funding of NGOs received from a foreign country or from a foreign natural or legal person. 

This Draft Law is extremely dangerous as it follows closely the Russian model for shrinking civic space and labelling NGOs receiving international funding as “foreign agents”. 

Furthermore, the Draft Law to an extent replicates the Law that passed in Hungary in 2017 and which the Court of Justice of the European Union exactly two weeks ago on June 18, 2020, found “discriminatory and unjustified”2. In its ruling, the ECJ found that “the restrictions imposed by Hungary on the financing of civil organisations by persons established outside that Member State do not comply with EU law”. 

The suggested changes and amendments are discriminatory, disproportionate and unconstitutional. The formulation of the limitations is so vague that it opens the door for a very broad interpretation of the wording “foreign country and foreign person”. It can, in fact, limit any foreign funding of NGOs in Bulgaria, jeopardizing the whole civil society sector. 

Bulgarian NGOs need support!

We call on you to inform your partners in the European Commission and the European Parliament, relevant intergovernmental institutions and international partners, and to alarm them about the disturbing developments in Bulgaria. It should be prevented that the country slides additionally back in its democratic achievements. 

We would appreciate some reaction on your behalf. If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact: Krasimira Velichkova, Director of the Bulgarian Donors’ Forum – kvelichkova@dfbulgaria.org, or Iliyana Nikolova, Executive director of Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation – inikolova@frgi.bg. 

Read the full letter by Bulgarian CSOs asking for support below:

Bulgarian MPs Submitted a Draft Law on Controlling Foreign Funding for NGOs vff