NGOs warn newest corona package abolishes their state funding

Ljubljana – The Centre for Information, Cooperation and Development of NGOs (CNVOS) has warned the the most recent corona crisis package, adopted by the government on Saturday, envisaged the abolishment of the state’s fund for NGOs, the only systemic source of state funding for NGOs in Slovenia.

The abolishment will take money from volunteer networks, the Caritas, and sports organisations, among others, and stop the development of NGOs and drawing of EU funds, CNVOS said, wondering how this would help mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus epidemic.

The senior coalition Democratic Party (SDS)”slipped the abolishment” into the seventh corona package, CNVOS said. “They have tried to do this this twice in recent months but without success. This time they managed to force the abolishment.”

“The NGO fund is a thorn in the side of the biggest government party because it is the only systemic source of funding for non-governmental organisations, and the government cannot wilfully strip it of the money because it is protected by the NGOs act. Therefore the SDS now wants to change the act,” CNVOS said in a press release.

Without state funding, there will be no more independent work in human rights, transparency, fight against corruption, fake news, hate speech, as well as a number of social projects designed to help vulnerable groups, CNVOS said.

The EUR 5.2 million fund also finances EU-funded projects and by losing this source, NGOs will not be able to get EU funding. None of this has ever been nor can it be funded by individual ministries, the press release said.

It added that the government tried to divert the attention from this move by proposing a 0.5% increase in personal income tax donations, which would amount to EUR 4.7 million. NGOs have been in favour of this for a long time, but this cannot substitute state funding, because these are completely different forms of funding.

Tax donations go primarily to people’s local associations, such as firefighter societies, sport clubs and cultural associations. On average, NGOs get EUR 913 per year from tax donations, with nearly 800 NGOs receiving less than EUR 5, CNVOS said.

Meanwhile, the NGOs fund has a completely different purpose, the press release said. It is the only source of state funding used for development and innovation in NGOs. Moreover, funding from the fund is considerably higher on average than tax donations.

Economist Matej Lahovik, who is advising the government on corona crisis measures meanwhile told Radio Slovenija that NGO received between EUR 300 million and EUR 400 million from various ministries.

The changes do not interfere with these funds but only with the distribution of tax donations. Currently donations that have not been donated to a particular NGO are distributed by an expert commission.

“We are talking about four to five million euro that were being distributed by politically-appointed expert commissions and now people will have the opportunity to give them to chosen associations directly,” said Lahovnik.