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.