Albanian parliament has approved the Draft Law “On the registration of non-profit organizations” with 83 votes in favor, nine against, and three abstentions.
The vote comes just days after Amnesty International accused Albania of weaponizing anti-terrorism laws to silence critics and crackdown on NGOs. It said Albania and other countries were “hiding behind the figleaf” of international organizations’ recommendations for tackling money laundering and other financial crimes.
The Global NPO Coalition on FATF had previously noted that the law has some “fundamental problematic issues which may lead to restrictions on the right to establish an NGO.”
This, they stated, included the obligation to register all NGOs, contrary to the international standards on freedom of association.
The law was approved by the Legal Commission in February and was passed in parliament today. Under its provisions, all NGOs must be publicly registered and must make public all information relating to owners and donors. This information will be available to all members of the public.
In Parliament today, Justice Minister Etilda Gjonaj said that the purpose of the law is to reduce bureaucracy. It will become much easier for those who live outside of Tirana to register an NGO or their involvement in one.
She said that the law was drafted “due to the obligations arising from MONEYVAL” and would increase transparency and remove the risk of money laundering.
The Minister added that it is in “full compliance with international best practices.” She did not address the criticism.
The law will also make registering an NGO more simple. Instead of having to go through a court process and have the registration and any changes overseen by a judge, instead it can be applied for online. This cuts costs and saves time, according to Gjonaj.
Last year there were some 2,000 cases in court related to performing actions on the NGO register. The new process, which removes the need for a court hearing, will make the burden on the courts less, and speed up the process for NGOs.
A Financial Investigation Unit was set up in the ASP’s Counter-Terrorism Directorate. The work on terrorism financing in the NGO sector has started with a risk assessment of all NGOs by the general tax authority, and now needs to be taken up by other services.
Creating a register of ultimate beneficial owners of NGOs was also mentioned in the Albania 2020 report from the European Commission. It noted that:
“The work on terrorism financing in the NGO sector has started with a risk assessment of all NGOs by the general tax authority, and now needs to be taken up by other services. So far, Albania has neither established a central bank account register nor a beneficial ownership register.”