10. Juni 2006

Concern about new NGO-legislation in the CBSS countries

Statement from Baltic Sea NGO Forum to the 6th Baltic Sea States Summit in Reykjavik 8th June 2006

Concern about new NGO-legislation in the CBSS countries. We, the members of the Consultative Committee for the Baltic Sea NGO Forum, wish to express our deep concern about the new legislation for the NGO-sector, both in the EU-member states and in Russia, legislation brought forward under the cover of "fight against terrorism", after the event of September 11th 2001.
Free and independent NGOs are a very important part of the civic society, and have a very decisive role in a democratic society, both as “watchdogs” and initiators of the political process. If they are hampered in their work by government control in form of compulsory registration, compulsory delivery of membership lists and financial control, it will have a very detrimental effect on our democratic society and political development.
Moreover, this control legislation will, in our opinion, not be an effective instrument in the fight against terrorism. On the other hand, a dynamic civic society, and independent NGOs can be an important contributor in our common fights against terrorism.
In Russia the new NGO-legislation will hamper the cooperation of the civic society in the political process, and will prevent the very important international cooperation between NGOs. In this legislation, Russia indicates that it has been inspired by the EU-proposals, and this may hamper the EU-countries from complaining to Russia over this restriction in democracy.
We, the members of the Consultative Committee for the Baltic Sea NGO Forum, therefore request the 6th Baltic Sea States Summit to: - keep a close watch over the NGO-legislation in the membership countries in order to respect the freedom of associations, - work for a close cooperation between CBSS and the NGOs in the CBSS member states, - include a clear statement in the EU-Northern Dimension of the importance of the cooperation between government and civic society, - work towards a simplification of the visa-rules in connection with NGO-arrangements.

The Baltic Sea NGO FORUM is a NGO-network with partners in all CBSS-countries. More information is available at
www.cbss-ngo.de - German platform of the Baltic Sea NGO Network
http://www.cbss-ngo-pl.org - NGO FORUM 2005 in Gdynia / Poland
BALTIC SEA NGO FORUM 2006 in Stockholm / Sweden

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