Party of the Regions plans afoot to ban foreign sponsorship of NGOs
According to an article in Thursday’s Kommersant-Ukraine, the Party of the Regions is preparing to draw up a draft bill aimed at imposing control over the funding of civic organizations in Ukraine. Party of the Regions members think it possible that such a law would have a norm saying that civic organizations could only exist on money received from Ukrainian citizens. They stress however that they’re a long way from making a final decision. Analysts warn that such a law would put an end to any chance of Ukraine joining the EU.
Kommersant –Ukraine’s source in the Party of the Regions says that the idea arose among the Party of the Regions management two weeks ago, and at the beginning of this week the question was discussed at a closed meeting of the faction. As reported, the Head of the Party of the Regions faction in parliament, O. Yefremov had previously claimed that a scenario similar to that in Northern Africa is being set in motion in Ukraine on money from the International Renaissance Foundation’s founder, George Soros. The statement issued immediately by the Head of the International Renaissance Foundation can be read here.
The information that in the Party of the Regions they were ready to restrict the conditions of funding for civic organizations was confirmed by the Deputy Head of the faction, Vadim Kolesnychenko. “We have created an informal working group which will work on this issue. I’ve discussed this subject with Yefremov and we are now preparing variants on resolving the existing problem. It lies in the fact that we must be clear what aims foreign countries have in spending money on the territory of our country”, Kolesnychenko stated.
He said that the draft law needed in the first instance to allow for regulation of the procedure for civic organizations receiving grants. “The task has been set out, we must react decisively to issues of fighting extremism and activities aimed against the present regime, If money is spent on charity, it must go to charity or to other democratic institutions, and not on preparing revolution”, Kolesnychenko said that in preparing the draft law the Party of the Regions would take into consideration the experience of EU countries and Russia.
It should be noted that the Law on Non-Commercial Organizations has been in effect since 1996. Various amendments have been made which in 2005 aroused criticism, among others, from the US Congress which spoke of unprecedented restrictions. There is a law in Belarus which prohibits civic organizations from receiving aid from abroad, with this leading to their closure.
At present the activities of civic organizations in Ukraine is regulated by the Law on Citizens’ Associations from 16 June 1992. According to Article 22 which gives a list of restrictions on funding from abroad, only political parties do not have the right to receive money from foreign states, international organizations or foreign nationals. It is noteworthy that on Wednesday the Verkhovna Rada considered the draft Law “On civic organizations” in its first reading. This is intended to replace the above-mentioned law presently in place. The draft law has no norms restricting funding of civic organizations.
The Party of the Regions is considering one variant whereby only Ukrainian citizens could fund the activities of civic organizations. According to Olena Bondarenko from the Party of the Regions “in some countries civic organizations are solely funded by citizens of their country since there is often a temptation for foreign countries and foundations to work on the principle that they those paying call the tune”.
She stressed that this was not the only variant being discussed for funding and they were still far from drawing conclusions.
International Renaissance Foundation’s Executive Director, Yevhen Bystrytsky believes that any plan to restrict the work of international NGOs runs counter to Ukraine’s course towards EU integration.
“If a law is passed in Ukraine, like in Belarus or Russia, putting obstacles in the way of the independent activities of civic organizations this will destroy any chance of Ukraine joining the EU”. He considers that it is to large extent thanks to the work of international foundations that there is democracy in the country since local business will not risk financing critics of the authorities and demanding transparency although it takes part in charitable projects.
The Head of the Shadow Government, Serhiy Sobolev, from BYuT-Batkivshchyna points out that the Party of the Regions initiative is incredible given that Viktor Yanukovyh is, is holding out his hand, asking international organizations and neighbouring countries for money to build the Chernobyl shield, while the Cabinet of Ministers and various ministries are receiving grants for implementing state projects.
Boris Berezovsky, however, who does not conceal the fact that he gave funding to the organizers of the Orange Revolution now says that a moratorium on funding could be beneficial, getting rid of those who are living off civic organizations. So although a bad initiative on the one hand, on the other, he says, it will mean that those who remain are those really willing to stand up and be counted.
Slightly adapted from a report by Olha Kuryshko