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December 4, 2022

PSD’s Serban Nicolae says meeting with Venice Commission delegation looked at transparent funding to NGOs

Rendering transparent funding to NGOs was one of the main subjects of the talks Social Democrat MEPs Serban Nicolae and Liviu Plesoianu had this Tuesday in Bucharest with a Venice Commission delegation.

” I have been informed several days ago that notifications or warnings had come in to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) about the bill initiated by me and Liviu Plesoianu on the transparency of funding to NGOs and a clearer and more predictable regulation regarding the award of the status of organization of public utility. PACE requested a briefing on the part of the Commission for democracy through law, as the Venice Commission is generically known. We have been informed of that and we scheduled a meeting with this body of experts, including two members of the Venice Commission from Iceland and the UK. I attended the meeting with deputy Liviu Plesoianu. It is my understanding that meetings also took place yesterday at the Ministry of Justice, with NGOs and others. After the meeting with us, they had another meeting on the agenda with Chairman of the Lower House Law Committee Eugen Nicolicea, with the heads of the Lower House Committees on human rights and equal opportunities and with Titus Corlatean – the senator heading Romania’s delegation to PACE. They mainly wanted to find out if our proposal is likely to affect associative life in Romania, civil society, if we impose any restrictions, set bans, or if there is any other form of pressure,” Serban Nicolae said at the House of Parliament.

He explained that during the meeting that lasted more than initially expected, about two and a half hours, the MEPs had an open dialogue with the representatives of the Venice Commission, and voiced hopes that “things have been cleared up.”

“In fact, it’s quite simple – I’ve been saying it for a year now, ever since we suggested this amendment to the law of associations and foundations under Government Ordinance No. 26/2000 – that we want nothing else but render transparent the mechanism for the award of the status of public utility to NGOs, to set it on clear criteria assessable on a regular basis, and to have funding to NGOs fully transparent, so that no suspicions regarding the identity of the donors or the transferred amounts arise in connection with a moral, legal, public, socially useful activity,” said the Social Democrat senator.

Asked how he comments the claim of certain NGOs that it is almost impossible to file accounting reports on the funding received, Serban Nicolae underscored this was not about accounting reports, stressing that the NGOs that act in good-faith and have nothing to hide stand to gain from such legislation, “because the transparency of funding leads to credibility, to increasing the society’s respect for these NGOs.”

“There are donors some take pity at, but which finance terrorist activities. (…) I think a general rule to render funding transparent is absolutely necessary and natural,” the PSD senator pointed out.

Replying a question, Serban Nicolae said the Justice laws had not been tackled during the talks, and that the Venice Commission representatives had not been tasked with that. “No. At least at this level, such tricks are not the way to do it – we come for one subject and approach another one. This would have been impossible anyway because PACE could not have mandated them with a subject related to Romania’s domestic law.”

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