On April 12, the Macedonian Parliament enacted the revised Law on Associations and Foundations, thus bringing Macedonian legislation in line with European standards and best regulatory practices. Importantly, the law creates a basis for further reforms to strengthen the sustainability of the civil sector in Macedonia. Since 2002, ECNL and ICNL have worked closely with the local drafters and have provided support to the Ministry of Justice in development of the draft law.
The most important changes include:
- Right of NGOs to engage directly in economic activities. The draft law allows NGOs to directly engage in economic activities related to their purpose. This will enable them to generate income as an independent source of funding without the need to spend resources to establish and manage a company, as was the practice until now.
- Right of legal entities and foreigners to form associations. Before, legal entities and foreigners were only able to establish foundations.
- Provides citizens the right to association without the need to register a formal legal entity.
- Improved provisions concerning the governance of NGOs, specifically clarifying the roles of the governing and management bodies.
- Introduction of the concept of “public benefit status,” which is a prerequisite for receiving tax benefits.
The draft law contains several other provisions that will improve the legal environment and sustainability of NGOs. For example, (1) it introduces the rights of minors to be founders of associations, although only under certain conditions; (2) it removes the fine for organizations that do not inform the Central Registry that they have become members of a union or an international organization; (3) it introduces provisions which aim to improve the distribution of funding from the state and bodies of the local government; (4) it removes the requirement for foreign organizations to obtain approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if they want to establish branches; and in general, the new law further develops and clarifies the provisions from the 1998 NGO law and the amendments to this law from 2007.
ICNL and ECNL supported the process of drafting the law by providing in-person expertise and consultation; conducting an assessment of needs concerning the reform among judges, government officials, and NGOs; developing comparative research; and providing comments and specific recommendations as the draft law was being developed. ECNL also co-organized training sessions, workshops, and public discussions on the draft law.
ICNL and ECNL activities were supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Since 2005, ECNL has provided assistance to the NGO law under the Strengthening the Legal and Policy Framework for Sustainability of CSOs project supported by USAID and managed by a consortium led by the Institute for Sustainable Communities that includes ECNL, Konekt, and the Macedonian Institute for Media.
For more information please contact ECNL.