Slovak NGOs fear new law is designed to limit their activities
This week, a group of 400 nongovernmental organisations from all over Slovakia submitted official requests to withdraw a proposed new law on associations. The groups fear that if the new law on associations is approved in its original version it will have substantially negative effects on the entire NGO sector.
Representatives of the nongovernmental organizations claim that for example environmental organizations or those organizations helping people in need could not exist under such a legislature. Every participant in this sector would also have to make an annual report of their activities to the government. They say this may create serious financial burdens especially for small size organizations with small budgets. Sarlota Puflerova who represents Slovak NGOs believes that the whole concept of the law is wrong.
“This law is not following our constitution. It has a completely different philosophy than the law we have valid now, that is based on the democratic principles.”
What is the major change from the previous law?
“There are several changes. For example the members of so called “spolok” - a new form of organization, could do activities only for themselves. So this is limiting the freedom for doing activities for other people, animals, environmental activities etc.”
But the government claims that it just wants to make the third sector more transparent and more readable.
“This is hardly believable, because the new law has more than 20 pages and the law that is valid now has 3 pages. If there are any needs from the side of the government, there should be a public discussion about what should be changed.”
The ministry also claims that most of the organizations working in the third sector are not active.
“I think that this is not a role of the ministry to decide if the organization is dead or not. I think that they have a problem with the registration of organizations and with updating the data. This could be solved by creating a special database that should be updated regularly.”
Can you compare the current situation in Slovakia with the situation in (other parts of) the European Union? Do you see any analogy?
“In the European Union, there is no country in which you could find such a restrictive law, as the new proposal of our law. But we can find analogy in the Russian Federation where 2 years ago, a new proposal was introduced too. There are many signs that this proposal was very similar. There is also the analysis of Council of Europe showing that the law that was later passed in the Russian Federation is a non-democratic law that is very restrictive to non-governmental organizations.”
The Interior Ministry did not follow the standard process, because the proposal was formulated without consulting the third sector. It has not been approved by the government’s own ouncil for non-governmental organizations. The Interior Ministry’s provided the following written answer as to why they followed their particular course..
“The Interior Ministry followed the article 9 of the government’s legislative rules and it introduced the proposal to all governmental bodies according to this directive.”
The new law has generated fears among NGOs that its real intention is to eliminate any public monitoring of the governing political parties and their activities.