Summary: December 22, 2004: Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the adoption of the NGO bill in Zimbabwe (Brussels)
The European Union took note of the adoption of the NGO Bill on 9 December 2004 by the Zimbabwean Parliament.
The European Union expresses its concern on the adoption of the NGO Bill which will, once enacted, have severe consequences for the operations, even the existence of many local and foreign NGOs active in Zimbabwe.
By curtailing the work of local and international NGOs, the NGO Bill will further reduce the democratic space in Zimbabwe. The EU is also of the view that this Bill is not in line with the principles, laid down in the SADC Principles and Guidelines, in particular the principles of full participation of citizens in the political process, freedom of association and voter education.
The European Union believes that civil society should play a central role on the issue of governance, and that NGOs doing so unhindered are an essential part of a healthy democratic environment. The NGO Bill is bound to circumscribe the work of NGOs in the field of governance and could have a significant negative impact on the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe. It also regrets the impact that the bill will have on other areas, notably social, health and humanitarian programmes.
If the Bill is implemented immediately, the EU's ability to provide assistance to Zimbabwe will be significantly affected. The European Union urges the Government of Zimbabwe to issue, in close consultation with civil society, NGO legislation that is in accordance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines governing Democratic Elections, international law, human rights treaties, and the interests of all Zimbabweans.
The EU welcomes the attachment the SADC member states have demonstrated, a.o. during the elections in Namibia and Botswana, to the implementation of the SADC Principles and Guidelines governing democratic elections, unanimously adopted in Mauritius. The EU is convinced that the same attachment, in word and spirit, will prevail regarding other countries in the region moving towards elections.
The Candidate Countries Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Croatia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this declaration.
* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.