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Brussels, 30 January 2009

5478/09 (Presse 14)

P 007/09


Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the EU on the adoption of the Charities and Societies Proclamation by the House of Peoples´ Representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

The EU has taken note of the adoption of the Charities and Societies Proclamation by the House of Peoples’ Representatives, having the objective of ensuring that civil society and its organisations operate in an accountable, effective and transparent manner.

The EU welcomes the thorough exchanges of views it had with the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on the draft Proclamation and appreciates that some of its concerns expressed on the draft have been addressed. However, core elements of the legislation, notably the provisions on foreign funding and social advocacy, remain unchanged.

The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has stated that this new law will in no way impede the work of a vast majority of civil society and non-governmental organisations active in the country and that their positive contribution to economic and social development is fully taken into account. However, the legislation could potentially restrict the operations of civil society organisations, as well as international partners’ assistance to the Ethiopian Government’s development priorities. EU Member States support various Ethiopian NGOs and the new law may thus have an adverse effect on development cooperation. The EU is especially concerned that the law could restrict support for programmes in areas of mutual interest, such as promoting democracy and good governance, human rights, conflict resolution, and advocacy for women, children and other vulnerable groups.

The EU hopes that the law will be implemented in an open-minded and constructive spirit, leaving room for education and awareness raising activities and balances the need for regulation with the need for continued development of a strong non-governmental civil society in Ethiopia. On this note, the EU recalls with appreciation the earlier adoption by the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian legislative bodies of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as only the second country on the continent, setting a very good example for the development of democratic processes in other African Countries.

Bearing in mind the important role of civil society everywhere, the EU will closely follow the implementation and the impact of the new law. The EU stands ready to engage constructively with the Government of Ethiopia and Ethiopian civil society organisations.

The Candidate Country Croatia* , the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.

* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.


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