On 27 July 2020, the new Law on Non-commercial Organisations (NCO Law) was published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Moldova. The Parliament adopted the new NCO Law on 11 June 2020, which will enter into force on 27 August, 2020, replacing the Law on civic associations adopted in 1996 and the Law on Foundations from 1999.
The new law:
- simplifies the registration procedure for CSOs,
- eliminates registration fees,
- removes restrictions for certain categories of people to be a member or part of the governing bodies of CSOs, and
- introduces a flexible system of internal organization, including the possibility for founders to individually design their structure and governing bodies.
The law also connects the special legislation to the amendments to the Civil Code that entered into force in 2019.
However, the new law prohibits NCOs to provide material support and free services to political parties, including during election campaigns while allowing “actions to promote elections and debates between electoral contestants and to monitor the correctness of the conduct of electoral campaigns and elections”. This provision is problematic in that a number of media outlets are registered as NCOs and rely on paid political advertising during election campaigns.
Antecedent of the new NCO Law
The draft law was adopted in first reading in May 2018, and has been left aside by the Parliament for the following two years. The process was resumed following a public call from the CSOs, in March 2020, to adopt the law in final reading without amendments that could hinder the CSO activity.
The voting in final reading was preceded by a string of critical messages from the state leaders: President Igor Dodon said he would not promulgate the law in the current wording, which is contrary to the interests of the Republic of Moldova, as it would allow CSOs involvement in political activity with financial support from abroad. Prime Minister Ion Chicu declared that this law will lead the Republic of Moldova to lose independence. The Socialist Party faction in Parliament proposed amendments to limit the work of CSOs during election campaigns (e.g. ban on monitoring election campaigns), but eventually withdrew these amendments after prolonged debates.
The adoption of the law is one of the conditionalities of the European Union for the disbursement of the €30 million from the macro financial assistance.