“As a Government, we have heard the recommendations of the Commission for the needs to improve the legal and financial framework that affects civil society organisations and we are ready for consistent implementation in practice,” said Minister Bojan Maricic at the debate “Public Benefit Organisations – regional and domestic experiences in anticipation of the amendment to the Law on Associations and Foundations” organized by the Civil Society Resource Centre on 26th May 2021.
In his introductory speech, Maricic expressed his optimism for finding a model that will help revive public interest organisations in the country. According to the Minister, it is time to build a prosperous environment through legal changes that will provide better opportunities for development of the civil society sector.
Nicola Bertolini from the Delegation of the European Union also asked for betterconditions for the civil society sector through the announced revision of the Law on Associations and Foundations. He stressed that not every organisation should receive the status of an organisation of public benefit, but those who already have it should enjoy thebenefits, and the state should support them in their actions, and not put obstacles on their way.
Luben Panov, a legal expert from the European Centre for Non-Profit Law, spoke about regional experiences. He presented a detailed comparative overview of the situation in the region with an emphasis on the benefits for organisations with a status of public benefit. “The benefits that these organisations enjoy relate to tax incentives for donors and organisations, and there are tax exemptions for recipients of donations. Other benefits refer to state funding, use of state property, etc. Organisations that have this status see it as a prestige and also consider it a benefit” Panov said.
The status of public benefit organisations in some of the countries in the region is not regulated by law, i.e. the law regulates activities of public benefit. Such is the case in Montenegro and Croatia. Ana Novakovic Gjurovic, Executive Director of the Centre for Development of the Non-Governmental Sector (CRNVO) from Montenegro clarified that they have 21 areas that are treated as public benefit. This means that every organisation, foundation or association has the right to apply for state aid as long as the project or program is within these areas. Any organisation can be or is an organisation of public benefit.
The status of public benefit organisations in the Republic of North Macedonia is determined by the Government upon the proposal of the Commission for organisations with public benefit status. Marija Mitevska, President of the Commission said that from the establishment of the Commission in 2012 until May 2021 only 10 organisations have expressed interest in gaining this status. Currently only three organisations have this status. Mitevska sees the reason for the low interest in the insufficient benefits that organisations of public benefit receive, which makes this status absolutely unattractive. Organisations with the status of public benefit have greater obligations to the Government, the Commission, the Public Revenue Office, the Central Registry, but receive the same treatment as other organisations.
About 50 CSOs’ representatives discussed the effects of the status of public benefit organisations and possible improvements for the announced amendments to the Law on Associations and Foundations. For them, the priority isthelegal reform with emphasis on the benefits that should follow with this status. According to the participants in the debate, amendments should be made to the Law on Associations and Foundations and this law should be harmonized with other relevant laws by stimulating organisations to apply for this status. The participants considered this status insignificant without the benefits.
The debate was organized within the Civil Society Resource Centre, a project funded by the European Union and implemented by the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation in partnership with Media Plus from Stip and the Association for Democratic Initiatives from Gostivar.