Register on CSOs should be updated regularly containing general information on organizations along with their main field of work
One of the major problems in determining what is the current status of the whole sector is the lack of precise and official data, that is available to public and CSOs, on almost all important aspects of civil sector. There is an available Register of CSOs in Montenegro but it does not distinguish between active CSOs and those that exist only on paper, and it has not been updated in the previous two years. Besides that, there is no publicly available registry or information on how many people are employed in the civil sector and on what kind of contract. Also, the number of volunteers is unknown. Even previous strategies for development of civil society that contained specific measures in terms of creating these kind of statistics, have never implemented those measures. This lack of data affects proper planning for the future development of civil society, and therefore, the improvement of the work of the Register of CSOs should be given priority
Tax incentives for donors should be introduced, such as exclusion of VAT for donations and sponsorships
Current Tax Law does not recognize any type of tax incentives for donors, except for the EU funds which are exempted from paying VAT. However, that is not the case with national donors, which represents an obstacle for both companies, as well as citizens, to make donations for civil sector. In addition, there have been cases where CSOs provided means or equipment that wanted to donate, but that was subject to taxes. Therefore, the Tax Law should be amended in part regarding donations, i.e. make all donations and sponsorships exempt from VAT. That would provide funds for more organizations, but also encourage donors and companies to donate funds and promote corporate giving. In addition, CSOs pay full taxes and surtaxes for salaries, consulting fees and honoraria, which affects the number of employees in CSOs, but also leaves less means for project activities. Bearing that in mind, CSOs should have some incentives for these taxes and surtaxes.
Volunteering, internships and/or fellowships should be made a part of curriculum in high schools and faculties
The new Draft Law on Volunteerism was passed by the Government and is awaiting to be adopted in the Parliament and it will introduce many novelties in this area. As it will intend to promote volunteerism and encourage organizers to include more volunteers in their work, it is needed to also promote it in regular curriculums in high schools and faculties. Besides that, internships and fellowships should also be a part of academic curriculum, as many CSOs offer these opportunities for high school and university students and are recognized as one the main program providers in several Strategies. Therefore, volunteering, internships and fellowships’ position should be framed within the formal education system and ensure better cooperation between these two sectors.
Comprehensive law on CSOs providing services should be drafted and adopted
Currently, there is no comprehensive legislation that specifically regulates the area of CSOs that provide services. There is no unified law on licensing CSOs and there are no clear criteria on issuing licenses. The process is long, complicated and burdensome. Some organizations were not able to receive funds for approved projects in the field of protection of persons with disabilities until they obtain license. Therefore, a new Law regulating this area should be created and adopted, in order to allow more organizations to register their services and programs as well as to clearly define the process of obtaining license. This is an area that should be regulated, as there are many organizations that provide services in the field of education, healthcare, legal aid, etc. and do not have licensed programs and services, however there are some organizations that do have them but mostly operate in the field of social and child protection and providing help to persons with disabilities.
Register of organizations that provide services and whose programs are accredited should be created
Following the adoption of the Law on CSOs providing services, a Register of organizations that provide service and whose programs are licensed and accredited should be created. This Register should contain list of all licensed organizations, field of their work, as well as services they provide. This would also make the visibility of these organizations’ work better and could contribute to having more users that use these services.
State should introduce institutionalized grants in order to ensure sustainability and capacity strengthening of CSOs
Although state provides funds on national level, it does not provide institutionalized grants in order to support capacity strengthening of organizations, especially small organizations that operate on local level. These grants are necessary in order to ensure long-term sustainability of CSOs in Montenegro. This type of support would enable organizations to develop organizational strategy, organizational structure, communication strategies, strengthen connections with citizens and their target groups, as well as to form and join networks.
Simplified process of submitting annual financial reports to the Tax Administrations should be introduced for CSOs
CSOs are required to submit financial reports (balance sheet and income statement) to the Tax Administration for every year. This process is the same as for any other legal entity and can be burdensome for CSOs, especially small ones or organizations that do not have enough funds. These reports can only be filled in by an accountant and require costs, that some organizations cannot afford. Therefore, a simplified process for submitting these reports should be introduced for CSOs in order to enable more (or all) organizations to submit them. This would also contribute to having more precise information on the civil society and statistics on their finances and number of employees. Another issue that should be considered by the Tax Administration is creating a dropdown menu where organizations could mark themselves as CSOs, and in that way the Tax Administration would have joint and comprehensive data on this sector. As for now, that option is not available and therefore data available is not precise, as each accountant uses different marks for CSOs (some write full name, some write abbreviation, some use dots between, some do not mark them as CSO, etc.)
The Centre for Development of Non-Governmental Organizations (CRNVO) would like to express appreciation to all those who provided the possibility to complete this report with precise data and information. First of all, we would like to thank representatives of 50 CSOs that participated in online questionnaire and provided their insights regarding their work in 2019.
In addition, we would like to thank representatives of media, volunteering organizations, informal groups and mechanisms for cooperation with CSOs, who participated in interviews related to their experience in the field they work in. Moreover, we would like to thank all institutions and authorities that provided answers and information asked through Free Access to Information.
Without all of them, we wouldn’t be able to complete this report and provide relevant data on civil society in Montenegro.
Finally, we express our deepest gratitude to BCSDN team members who enabled the preparation of this report and who contributed with their expertise and knowledge in creating this document.
We hope that this report will contribute to the analysis of the state of the civil sector in Montenegro and strengthen our fight for civil society!
In 2019, Montenegro faced awakening of its citizens following more and more frequent scandals regarding the ruling party; many important new laws or draft laws were introduced and/or adopted, but there were no significant changes for the civil society sector.
The political situation in Montenegro in the last 12 months was marked by deep divisions and lack of trust and communication between the most important actors. Most notably, the parliamentary Committee that was in charge of creating and proposing a new electoral legislation, finished its work without opposition members in it and currently there are major suspicions in the opposition public about the conditions in which the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for autumn 2020, will be held.
At the end of 2019, the Law on freedom of religion was adopted in a session filled with incidents, and after arrests of all MPs from the biggest opposition parliamentary group. After the adoption of this law, historical national identity and ethnic divisions came to surface again, which were mostly visible during 2006, when Montenegro gained its independence, shadowing all other major issues in the country, and a large protest processions led by the Serbian Orthodox Church started to happen twice a week in different towns across the country. Several large civic protests took place also in the first half of 2019, after a video tape of illegal funding of the ruling party’s election campaign of was revealed.
2019 was also a year without significant progress in EU negotiations considering that none of negotiating chapters were neither opened nor closed.
When it comes specifically to the civil society situation, it remained mostly the same as the previous period. From the government officials there is a repeated rhetorical readiness for cooperation, but substantial involvement of civil society is still lacking. A positive development is that the Prime Minister attended several events in which he had discussions with CSO representatives. Furthermore, from the beginning of 2020, he held one-on-one consultations with representatives of some of the biggest CSOs in the country. There are also mixed messages from opposition politicians towards the civil sector. While the majority of them talk fondly and support the role of CSOs, some label them as protagonists of foreign interests and say that their work and funding should be monitored more closely.