Europe Program

ecnl-in-warsawOver the past two decades, ICNL has worked in several European countries, and at the level of the European Union. Our programs in Europe are led by our affiliates, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law ECNL) and the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL).

ECNL aims to strengthen the enabling legal and policy environment for civil society in Europe and beyond and is deeply committed to empowering civil society organizations and to ensuring their sustainability and participation.

ECNL has been widely perceived among key stakeholders, government officials and CSOs alike, as the leading source of expertise on issues pertinent to the enabling legal, fiscal and institutional environment for CSOs. The ECNL team of experts has more than 15 years of experience in promoting CSO law reform and has provided support that has directly and positively influenced the reform of policies in Europe, Eurasia, and Turkey, as well as countries as far as Iraq and Mongolia.

[Y]our recent regional project on ‘Strengthening the Legal Framework for Citizen Action Through Freedom of Association’ [...] is considered by all stakeholders and us here in Brussels as a real success at both regional and in-country levels. This project could constitute a model which could inspire many participants and help them to better reflect on how to implement a project at regional level in a positive and result-oriented manner.

Jean-Charles de Cordes, EuropeAid Co-operation Office

consultation on strategyBesides working with local experts and civil society organizations ECNL cooperates with key inter-governmental institutions working on an enabling environment on the regional level, including the European Union, Council of Europe, and OSCE ODIHR. For example, ECNL comments submitted to DG Justice in response to the Public Consultation on the Review of the Financial Regulation were integrated in the text of the program and ECNL’s opinion was the first of 400 cited in the results of the consultation.

ECNL strives to strengthen the safeguards on freedom of assembly, association, and participation on a global level. To this end, ECNL collaborates with UN OHCHR and other partners in order to create standards on the global level, to raise awareness about constraints on civic space, and to increase knowledge and monitor developments of these freedoms. ECNL is co-leading a global and European coalition of NPOs raising awareness, collecting information and monitoring restrictions of civic space in the name of counter-terrorism and is influencing change of global counter-terrorism policies. The ECNL team also raises awareness about the importance and positive impact of these freedoms, for example see TEDxLiberdade: The Power of Together.

BCNL is the leading organization on not-for-profit law affecting Bulgarian NGOs. Its mission is to provide support for the drafting and implementation of legislation and policies aiming to advance civil society, civil participation and good governance in Bulgaria.

BCNL has influenced laws and government strategies that directly affect the operation of CSOs in Bulgaria and has also helped more than 3000 organizations to be established or to meet the requirements of the law; provided more than 100 trainings on capacity building, advocacy, fundraising, public-private partnerships, etc.

BCNL oversees the NGO Information Portal - the primary source of information about Bulgarian NGOs.

ICNL has clearly been a key actor in the development of legislation in the region over a long period of time. ICNL affiliates, ECNL and BCNL have become important contributors to the resolution of "second generation" legal issues [such as the legal framework for philanthropy, volunteering, and CSO-government cooperation]. Their involvement has been viewed as extensive, objective, expert, and sensitive to local conditions. ICNL experts bring a comparative overview and international weight that is valued by all sides in discussions.

USAID Evaluation Team


USAID NGO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia

The annual NGO Sustainability Index assesses the strength and continued viability of a region's NGO sectors based on seven dimensions of the NGO environment: legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, public image, service provision, and NGO infrastructure.

The Legal Framework for Not-for-Profit Organizations in Central and Eastern Europe

This 2009 report provides an overview of CSO legislation in 16 Central and Eastern European countries. English | Pусский

A Handbook of NGO Governance

Drawing from the experiences of NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe, this publication sets forth the basic principles and practices of nonprofit governance. The Handbook is currently available in twelve languages.

Online Library

Access our complete collection of resources by visiting ICNL's Online Library.

The European Center for Not-for-Profit Law

ECNL LogoECNL is a leading European resource and research center in the field of civil society law based in Budapest. Its mission is to promote an enabling legal and fiscal environment for civil society in Europe and beyond by developing expertise and building capacity on legal issues affecting CSOs and public participation. Visit ECNL's publications directory.

The Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law

BCNL LogoBCNL is based in Sofia, Bulgaria and its mission is to provide legal and policy support for the development of civil society, public participation and good governance in Bulgaria. BCNL pursues its mission with the strong belief that developing the legal framework for not-for-profit organizations is fundamental to the creation of an independent and prosperous civil society.