2008 was a year of accomplishment for ECNL. ECNL sought to ensure a supportive legal infrastructure for civil society throughout the region and beyond, through (1) technical assistance on the legal and fiscal framework; (2) technical assistance in policy development; (3) the development of an analytical base for reform through research; (4) the capacity development of local stakeholders; and (5) regional networking. ECNL efforts contributed to a more enabling environment for civil society in Europe and the European neighborhood, from Armenia to Hungary, and from Lithuania to Cyprus.
In terms of accomplishments, ECNL completed the "Strengthening the Legal Framework for Citizen Action through Freedom of Association" project, financed by the European Commission's European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). Within the framework of the two-year project, ECNL worked together with local partners on improving the legislative and policy framework for freedom of association and civil society in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. Through technical assistance and support to local partners, ECNL provided assistance in the adoption of the Code of Participatory Cooperation (Armenia), the Strategy for Civil Society Development in 2008-2011 (Moldova), and 5 municipal-level regulations on local level participation (Moldova).
ECNL engagement in South-eastern Europe remained focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia. In Serbia, ECNL made critical contributions to local efforts to develop a draft Law on Foundations and draft Law on Volunteerism, though efforts to enact the long-awaited Law on Associations were again derailed for macro-political reasons. ECNL secured funding extensions for its programs in Bosnia and Macedonia (through 2010). Notably, ECNL provided assistance to Macedonian partners in bringing amendments to the Law on Volunteering.
In the new EU member states, ECNL was particularly active in Cyprus, Hungary and Lithuania. Through substantial capacity building efforts in Cyprus, ECNL supported comprehensive civil society law reform. Following an in-depth legal assessment, ECNL hosted a study tour for Cypriot government and NGO representatives, and a regional conference concerning the legal and regulatory framework affecting NGOs in Cyprus. In Hungary, ECNL deepened its relationship with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in working on the legal framework for official development assistance (ODA) and with the Ministry of Justice on reform of the legal framework for foundations; in the case of both initiatives, ECNL recommendations were largely accepted by the Ministry.
Significantly, ECNL made significant contributions to the analytical base for reform in Europe in 2008. First, and most notably, ECNL completed an EU-level research study on recent public and self-regulatory initiatives aimed at enhancing CSO transparency and accountability in the 27 EU Member States; the research was funded by the European Commission and linked to EC concerns with counter-terrorism but aimed to take a broader view in presenting best practice initiatives in regulatory practices from Europe. Second, ECNL worked with its affiliate, ICNL, in launching global research on policies and legislation affecting volunteerism.
Finally, ECNL supported and nurtured regional networks. Through Senior Legal Advisor Dragan Golubovic, ECNL participated as a working member of the Expert Council of the Council of Europe, which monitors the implementation of the COE Recommendations on the Legal Status of NGOs. ECNL also hosted several cross-border events, including not only the Cyprus-related events, but also a regional conference on government-civil society relations in Georgia for partners and government officials from four countries (the Caucasus plus Moldova). Moreover, in conducting the EU Accountability research study (described above), ECNL reached out to over 130 lawyers, civil society practitioners and experts in all 27 EU member states, thereby expanding its network into Western and Northern Europe.