Monday, April 16, 2007

Legal & Prayer Update: Unjust (and unwise) law in Kosovo

Since the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999 dozens of organizations have brought millions of dollars worth of food, clothes, equipment and other humanitarian supplies into Kosovo.  That is all changing.  Now the government has begun to treat NGOs (non-governmental organizations) like regular for-profit businesses with respect to bringing material into Kosovo, including things that will be given away for free, like Samaritans Purse Shoe boxes.

Today I received an update on this issue which sums everything up quite nicely.  It was addressed to the missionary organizations operating within Kosovo:

You have been sent several emails regarding the VAT issue over the past year or so.  Maybe you are unaware of the ramifications of this Law and what our friends John Chesnut, Artur Krasniqi, & Sharon Burton (along with others) are fighting for.    

I’ll try to sum it up in a nutshell.  Some of you are (or were) registered NGO’s and had Public Benefit Status (PBS).  Among other things, this meant that the NGO could bring humanitarian aid and other items into Kosova without paying VAT (through a rebate system).   Unfortunately that changed last year and now all NGO’s (including you) must pay 26.5% (customs & excise & VAT)  on aid/vehicles/equipment etc that you wish to bring into Kosova.  Obviously NGO’s – especially small organizations like us cannot afford to do that.   

Think about the future – would you or your organization want to be able to bring type of equipment or aid to enable a project or to help your ministry – not just NOW but in 10 years? 

This is what this group is fighting for –

  • to stop a system that dictates all NGO’s must pay for aid & equipment which is coming to help the people of Kosova
  • to fight for a ‘fair’ administrative system that will allow NGO’s to continue their work effectively and not be penalized by paying unfair taxes
  • to fight for a ‘fair’ Law that encourages NGO’s to not seek for the ‘back door’ approach to bringing aid into Kosova.

If this affects you, don’t wonder what you can do, join the group and help fight for a better Law and a better system. 


We are not ‘too small’ to make a difference.

As I understand it, this law will effect all kinds of materials being brought into Kosovo. If this continues we will not be able to afford to pay the taxes on things we are giving away for free.

  If this continues we won't be able to participate in events like Sams Purse shoe box distributions like this one and pictures like the one above will be a thing of the past.

The government's position is that Kosovo has moved from a country in need of "relief" to a country in need of "development" and that, therefore, NGOs shouldn't be bringing in great quantities of humanitarian supplies.  As the poorest place in central Europe, however, most of its residents would probably disagree.

Please be in prayer about this issue as it will have a significant impact, not only on Christian organizations, but on NGOs of all types.  In the title I said this was unwise on the part of the government, and it is. 

The government will not generate more revenue from aid imports into Kosovo.  Aid will simply stop, harming the people the government is charged with protecting.

Please pray that the government would act wisely and justly in this regard.

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