Europe Program

ecnl-in-warsawOver the past two decades, ICNL has worked in several European countries, and at the level of the European Union. Our programs in Europe are led by our affiliates, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) and the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL).

ECNL is an independent and established European leader with more than 15 years of experience in civil society law, working across 21 countries and 4 regions. ECNL aims to strengthen the enabling legal and policy environment for civil society in Europe and beyond by supporting people’s ability to establish groups, movements, and formal civil society organizations (CSOs); assemble, demonstrate and protest; and fully participate in policy making. ECNL is the only regional organisation in Europe focused entirely on this field.

ECNL is seen as a thought leader on key issues and trends affecting the CSO legal environment, and engages different stakeholders: government public authorities, INGOs, CSOs, experts and activists. ECNL develops tools and mechanisms for monitoring implementation of laws and practices, provides its expertise through comparative research, analysis and policy recommendations. Central to its mission is empowering local CSOs to develop their own reform strategies and engage in policy dialogue.

ECNL looks beyond basic registration and operation, by addressing complex needs of CSOs: how they can fully engage their communities to achieve their missions; what mechanisms can support their financial viability; how they can strengthen internal governance and cross-sector cooperation; which mechanisms can increase trust and giving; and how they can respond to the opportunities and threats they face.

[Y]our recent regional project on ‘Strengthening the Legal Framework for Citizen Action Through Freedom of Association’ [...] is considered by all stakeholders and us here in Brussels as a real success at both regional and in-country levels. This project could constitute a model which could inspire many participants and help them to better reflect on how to implement a project at regional level in a positive and result-oriented manner.

Jean-Charles de Cordes, EuropeAid Co-operation Office

consultation on strategy

ECNL creates synergies between its global, regional and country level work to amplify impact. On the country level, ECNL has contributed to development of progressive laws or push back against restrictions in Europe and neighboring countries, as well as in countries such as Mongolia and Iraq. ECNL has built capacity of CSOs to advocate and be leaders of reform in their countries and grow understanding around enabling environment issues of other actors, such as members of parliament, government, judges.

On the regional level, ECNL provides expertise at European Union to improve policies, mechanisms and funding for CSOs as well as increasing understanding on civic space issues and interventions the EU can make externally. ¬†For example, ECNL comments submitted to DG Justice in response to the Public Consultation on the Review of the Financial Regulation were integrated in the text of the program and ECNL’s opinion was the first of 400 cited in the results of the consultation. ECNL provides expertise to the Council of Europe and its Expert Council on NGO Law and to the OSCE/ODIHR Panel of Experts on the Freedom of Assembly. For example, ECNL provided expertise to the drafting group and a background report that informed the development of the recently adopted Council of Europe’s Guidelines for civil participation in political decision-making.

ECNL strengthens the safeguards on freedom of assembly, association, and participation on the global level. To this end, ECNL collaborates with CSOs, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and country missions, and most recently supported development of resolutions that create safeguards on civic space issues and the right to participation. It also co-leads a global and European coalition of NPOs which engages with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on their counter-terrorism financing policies and the FATF evaluation of how countries comply. Through evidence based research, advocacy and expertise the Coalition achieved fundamental change to FATF policies that will hopefully remove arguments governments used to overregulate CSOs. The ECNL team also raises awareness about the importance and positive impact of these freedoms, as discussed in TEDxLiberdade: The Power of Together.

The European Center for Not-for-Profit Law

ECNL LogoECNL is a leading European resource and research center in the field of civil society law based in Budapest. Its mission is to promote an enabling legal and fiscal environment for civil society in Europe and beyond by developing expertise and building capacity on legal issues affecting CSOs and public participation. Visit ECNL's publications directory.

The Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law

BCNL is based in Sofia, Bulgaria and its mission is to provide legal and policy support for the development of civil society, public participation and good governance in Bulgaria. BCNL pursues its mission with the strong belief that developing the legal framework for not-for-profit organizations is fundamental to the creation of an independent and prosperous civil society.