Laws in the field of NGOs do not comply with European standards

Baku/18.04.17/Turan: "Bringing the legislation and practice of Azerbaijan in the field of NGOs to European standards" was the theme of the conference organized today by the European Union and the Council of Europe. The event was attended by Director of the Directorate for Democratic Governance of the Council of Europe Claudia Luciani, heads of EU and CoE offices in Baku, representatives of the presidential administration and parliament, ambassadors of the EU countries, NGO activists. Vice Speaker of Milli Mejlis Bahar Muradova said that Azerbaijan attaches great importance to the improvement of legislation in the field of NGOs. "The Azerbaijani government has always been in favor of an open and transparent discussion of problems in this area. We have achieved the creation of conditions for the free activity of NGOs, "Muradova noted, positively assessing the proposals of international experts in this field. At the same time, she expressed her disagreement with the statement about problems in the application of legislation. The country has perfect legislation for the development of civil society, provided conditions for their activities, she said. The head of the presidential administration Elman Pashayev noted the important role of the recommendations with a view to bringing NGO activities to civil dialogue.

"The expansion of NGO activities is not limited to improving legislation. It is also important to increase the professionalism of NGO members, increase transparency and accountability. I hope that this will be reflected in the recommendations of the Council of Europe experts," Pashayev said. Azay Guliyev, Chairman of the Council on State Support for NGOs, noted that the changes in the legislation on NGOs are related to three factors. "First, transparency in the activities of donors and NGOs should be maximized; Secondly, the projects of NGOs and donors should be coordinated; Third, national security is ensured. There were cases when grants were given to radical religious groups, to support terrorist organizations. Therefore, changes in the legislation are understandable. I hope our partners will understand the changes in legislation in the field of NGOs with understanding, "Guliyev said. Referring to the recommendations of the Council of Europe, Guliyev noted a number of important points, some of which he called "unacceptable." Guliyev considers it important to remove from the legislation the norms on the NGO report to the Ministry of Finance and on the electronicization of the registration of NGOs.

"We offer foreign donors who do not want to undergo legal procedures to use the bank account of the Council for State Support of NGOs. They can finance this account, "Guliyev said. Head of the CE Office in Baku Dragana Filipovich noted that this project is being implemented within the framework of the EU-Azerbaijan Cooperation Plan for 2014-2017. "The goal of the project is to improve the activities of NGOs, create favorable conditions for them," she said. Head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan Malena Mard said that the project will be continued for another year. According to her, since 2007 the EU has financed 70 civil society projects worth 90 million Euros. This year, it is possible to finance another € 10.5 million. These funds will be used to finance non-profit organizations, including civil society institutions," Mard said.

 Note that the recommendations of the Council of Europe proposed amendments to the Civil Code, laws on NGOs, Registration and the register of legal entities, grants, the Code of Administrative Offenses, the Tax Code and numerous regulations. The recommendations indicate that legislation on the establishment and operation of NGOs does not comply with the CE standards. In addition, a number of requirements for NGOs unduly limit the activities of civil society.

 It is also proposed that the legislation be thoroughly amended to ensure the contribution of NGOs to the development of democracy and human rights, and to the enhancement of social development. The legislation should reflect that NGOs can engage in any activity that does not contradict the Constitution and laws. They should not be prohibited from engaging in political or religious activities, the recommendations of the Council of Europe say. -03C-

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