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180 civil society organizations said NO to the law on foreign agents

19 December 2022

On 27.10. 2022 a group of MPs from the PP "Revival" submitted to the National Assembly the bill on the registration of foreign agents. The bill, which de facto, creates a blacklist of organizations that receive cash or other material assistance from foreign sources declaring them "foreign agents."

If the bill is passed:

● The Bulgarian Constitution and the constitutionally guaranteed civil and political rights of Bulgarian citizens would be violated, in particular the freedom of expression and the right of association. It also contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Articles 10, 11 and 14, as well as the General Guidelines on Freedom of Association of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Venice Commission and other international human rights instruments to which Bulgaria is a party.  At the same time, the draft also proposes measures in violation of EU law, in particular the freedom of movement of capital and the rights guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to the protection of personal data, to freedom of association and to private and family life. 

● Stigmatising and denigrating civil society organisations and individuals as 'foreign agents'.

● Introducing a new discriminatory ground for any Bulgarian citizen on the sole basis of having received funding from abroad.

● It will enable the government to control people without a clear basis related to the commission of a crime or offence, but only because they have received funding from abroad.

We are therefore concerned that there is increasing political-party agitation in Bulgaria based on demands to restrict citizens' rights and to give the state exclusive power to monitor, restrict the rights of and sanction anyone - whether an individual or a legal entity - who wants to be civically active, has an opinion, wishes to organise peaceful assemblies or protests, etc.

A major role of civil society organisations is to be a constructive corrective in the decision-making process. That is why we participate in the public debate, expressing the voice of the different members of society, often the most vulnerable, for the sake of the state hearing different opinions and making informed decisions that will make Bulgaria a better place for all.

180 CSOs believe that we must counter any threat to freedom of association and limit the ability of CSOs to be active, which is why they stood behind the CSO Statement on the Foreign Agents Registration Bill.