European Program

Over 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 and the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

ECNL is a non-governmental organization based in the Hague, Netherlands, which aims to create legal and policy environments that enable individuals, movements, and organizations to exercise and protect their civic freedoms. The work of the ECNL is focused around a number of strategic priorities including civic space, public participation, the right of peaceful assembly, and technology and artificial intelligence. In all of these areas, ECNL’s objective is to put into action transformational ideas that address pressing human rights challenges.

Today, ECNL is an independent and established European leader in enabling environment for civil society, working across 21 countries and 4 regions. ECNL is the only regional organization in Europe focused entirely on the policy and legal environment for CSOs. ECNL’s approach is to empower civil society partners, but also where possible, national authorities to understand the trends and their impact, to have the knowledge and tools to create and defend their own spaces.

The ECNL team has helped shape United Nations resolutions, European Union, and Council of Europe documents, and has worked with partners to develop enabling laws affecting freedoms of association, assembly, and participation on the national level. ECNL has created several tools that help monitor the civil society environment and the right to assembly.

ECNL leads the ICNL Alliance engagements with the UN Human Rights Council and represents the ICNL Alliance in the Private Consultative Forum of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).”

Founded in Sofia in 2001, BCNL provides legal support to the development of civil society in Bulgaria. BCNL’s activities include helping identify CSOs’legislative priorities, co-drafting CSO legislation, organizing seminars and training on issues related to CSOs legal and fiscal frameworks, maintaining a database of civil society laws, and providing legal assistance on CSO registration and other topics. BCNL also conducts research on a variety of issues pertaining to nonprofit law.

To support the development of a vibrant CSO sector in Bulgaria, BCNL has created the country’s largest CSO information portal, only CSO summer school, first CSO entrepreneurship program and bazaar of social enterprises, and first CSO coworking space, the NGO House. BCNL also launched one of the first pilot programs exploring supported decision-making as an alternative to guardianship for people with disabilities. BCNL has been a driving force behind the Bulgaria Gives campaign.

Key Resources

ICNL and our alliance members, ECNL and BCNL, have produced many research products related to European civil society. Below is a sampling of our key resources. For more materials and information, we encourage you to explore the ECNL and BCNL websites.

Fundraising Principles

The Fundraising Principles report provides a global overview of current trends in fundraising regulation and self-regulation, addressing seven key areas based on international and regional standards, and country practices. It aims to support advocacy efforts to create an enabling environment for fundraising around the globe. ECNL and ICNL developed the Fundraising Principles with the support of a group of key experts on fundraising.

Handbook on Using EU Law to Protect Civic Space

In partnership with EFC and DAFNE, ENCL wrote a handbook to provide practical guidance for civil society organizations to advocate, litigate, and protect their rights using European Union law to protect their rights and civic space in the EU.

Handbook on Registering a Civil Society Organization

The handbook provides comparative information on founding and operating CSOs in ten countries, including Belgium, Czechia, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, and Sweden. The country notes are divided into thematic subsections detailing the legal requirements for organizational forms in each country. The handbook is available in English, Arabic, and Russian.

The Right to Free Assembly in the Balkans

Since 2015, ECNL has been supporting partners in the Balkans to monitor the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. This summary report is primarily drawn from 2018 monitoring research but also draws upon the findings of the earlier research conducted in 2016 and 2017. It provides targeted recommendations to stakeholders to address each of these issues.

Explore our full global resource collection, which includes reports, legal analyses, and curated collections of materials on an array of issues shaping civic space around the world.