Here is a formulation of what I consider matters, in practice, for freedom of association.
Without having to notify or register with anyone else, a group of people ought to be able to:
- hold property collectively
- open a bank account
- have the rules of their group enforced by the courts
The EU proposal seems to risk these things, by requiring non-profit organisations to register with some public authority.
My attempts to find out what the EU is actually doing in this area continue; I have not heard back from the Commission about my request for information, and the relevant government and civil society people in the UK all seem to be away from work this week.
I have spoken with the relevant official in the European Commission about the Non-Profit Organisation regulation proposal. He seems to think that organisations shouldn't be allowed to collect money from the public unless they're "registered", that such a right is not or ought not to be "automatic", and that registration should be some sort of quid pro quo, though quid the quo is, I don't know.
In practice, this would mean that you couldn't set up a website for your organisation's single-issue political campaign, and give out an address for people to send cheques to. Collecting money on the street already requires a permit, but this hardly constitutes "registration". He didn't give any justification for this proposed change.
As a member of a law-abiding non-profit organisation which isn't registered with anyone other than its bankers, I'd like a reason for being asked to change my ways.
As with many of these EU recommendations, it's impossible to determine with sufficient confidence just how mandatory its provisions are going to be, though I accept the Commission's statements that most of the measures are going to be pretty voluntary.