Copy

NEWSLETTER JANUARY 2016


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Today's Russia: Activating the Religion and Superiority of Civil Freedoms >>

TOP NEWS

General Assembly: See you in February >>
Between the Carrot and the Stick: Discussion on the State of the Russian Civil Society in Helsinki >>
Presentation of a New Report by the Fighting Transborder Corruption Group in Estonia >>

STEERING COMMITTEE
Statement "Legislative Changes in Poland Undermine Separation of Powers and Threaten the Rule of Law Principles" >>


MEDIA
Dr Małgorzata Bonikowska (Centre for International Relations, Warsaw, Poland): 'It Would Have Been Much Better If the Critics Had Looked at Facts' >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
Youth Centre of Consultancy and Training: NGO TV's New Format >>
Kostroma Civic Initiatives Support Centre: Lawsuit Against Ministry of Justice >>
Robert Bosch Stiftung: Programme "Reporters in the Field" >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Today's Russia: Activating the Religion and Superiority of Civil Freedoms

On request of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Alexander Verkhovsky, Director at the SOVA Information and Analytical Centre (Moscow, Russia), reflects on the place and perception of religion in the modern Russian society:

 

Russia, that left the process of a forced secularisation 25 years ago and has been going through a slow and controversial modernisation, not only abandoned relics of the past but has been steadily using those. There are two layers of such relics to be observed, which has been re-constructed by both the authorities and the society as a whole, namely, the imperial Soviet ones and imperial pre-Soviet ones.

The most evident example here is that we can observe extension of the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church and its “younger brothers“, ie recognised big organisations of other religions common for this country. This influence is based on the citizens‘ demand for an ethnocultural identity and the authorities‘ demand for a symbolic capital of religious communities as a legitimate factor. The first demand has been in action permanently and for a long period of time, while the second one is dependent on the political situation. Hence, the latter one has significantly intensified since the start of protests at the edge of 2011-2012, as the authorities needed a bottom-up support again.

But let us not forget that these are not just ideological or identity games: Various religous indicators have been slightly developing, though they can’t be always fixed by obsolete sociological methods.

Read more

TOP NEWS

General Assembly: See you in February!

Although the 6th General Assembly (GA) of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (7-9 December 2015) has become already a history, discussions initiated there have been going on within and beyond the Forum.

Besides, more and more materials related to the GA are now available online. Should you have missed the largest annual event of the Forum or wish to re-fresh your memories, please go to the special section on our website and take a look at what media are reporting about the GA or watch videos and photos from the event in the Hungarian capital.

Yet, we are also looking forward to the next GA, which will take place exactly in an year - on 1-3 February 2017 - in Helsinki, Finland. Save the dates in your calendar! We would be happy to welcome you next year at the 7th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.

TOP NEWS

Between the Carrot and the Stick: Discussion on the State of the Russian Civil Society in Helsinki

Upon invitation of Finnish colleagues, representatives of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum took part in the International Conference "Between the Carrot and the Stick: Emerging Needs for and Forms of NGOs in Contemporary Russia" held on 28-29 January 2016 at the Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki.

For the Round Table "NGOs and Researchers in Contemporary Russia: Opportunities and Limits for Cooperation" on the first day of the conference, moderator of the discussion Elena Belokurova, member of the Forum's Steering Committee and Board Member at the German-Russian Exchange (St. Petersburg), gathered together Olga Drozdova from the Agency for Social Information (Moscow), Oksana Karpenko from the Centre for Independent Social Research (St. Petersburg), Grigori Melkoniants from the Golos Association (Moscow), Anna Sevortian, Forum's Executive Director (Berlin), and Anna Skvortsova from the NGO Development Centre (St. Petersburg), member of the Forum's Steering Committee.

The speakers discussed such burning issues as limited opportunities for an international collaboration as a result of the law on "foreign agents"; role of social researchers in assisting the NGOs under current circumstances; ways of improvement for collaboration between NGOs and researchers, and others.

Anna Sevortian and Kristina Smolijaninovaitė, Forum's Project Coordinator, also used the visit to Helsinki as an opportunity for advocacy meetings in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland as well as with local NGOs, including the Finnish Refugee Council and the Kehys Association. Another result of the visit will be an article in "Helsingin Sanomat", the largest Finnish paper, based on an interview with Russian civil society activists to be publish later this month.

TOP NEWS

Presentation of a New Report by the Fighting Transborder Corruption Group in Estonia

Photo: Andras Kralla

Investigations by the Forum's Fighting Transborder Corruption Group keep on attracting European attention. After the Report "Russian "Black Money" in the EU: Indicators of Transborder Corruption" had been presented on 9 December 2015, the International Anti-Corruption Day, in Budapest, two of its authors - Andrei Kalikh, Coordinator of the Group, and Konstantin Rubakhin from the "Save Khoper" Movement - were invited by the Open Estonia Foundation for a talk in Tallinn on 21 January 2016. The event was moderated by journalist Artemi Troitski.

Along with the report mentioned above, the speakers also presented their first report published earlier in 2015 - "Lack of Transparency and Indications of Transborder Corruption in Investment Projects in Russia".

'Corruption became a global appearance overcoming borders following business, financial, and technological channels,' pointed out Andrei Kalikh. 'In last 20 years, dozens of non-transparent projects have been implemented between Russia and EU countries. They allowed European thieving businessmen to earn "easy money" in Russia, while Russian officials could initiate money laundering in Europe.' 

The reports inter alia focus on two companies – the connections of Gazprom, the developer of the Nord Stream Gas Pipeline, with the EU governments and the similar activities of Transmashholding, a producer of railroad equipment.

'Should you ask me, what to do to draw nearer democratic reforms in Russia, I would reply to it with an appeal to participate in fighting transborder corruption between our states,' summed up Kalikh.


Both reports may be downloaded from the website of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Legislative Changes in Poland Undermine Separation of Powers and Threaten the Rule of Law Principles"

In the run-up to the European Commission’s internal debate on the situation in Poland, the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expressed concern about recent controversial changes in Polish laws and urged the Polish government, the ruling “Law and Justice” Party, and President Andrzej Duda to reverse these changes and hold on to standards of rule of law and the democratic separation of powers.

On 25 October 2015, the “Law and Justice” Party won the general election in Poland. As a result, it possesses a majority in both chambers of the Parliament – the Sejm and the Senate – and has President Andrzej Duda, a former member of the party, as its ally. Unfortunately, the mandate granted by the Polish society to the “Law and Justice” Party in the elections seems to have been used to increase control of the government over the third branch of power, the judiciary, and the fourth, the media.

At an accelerated pace and just before the New Year holidays, both chambers of the Parliament passed an amendment to the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal and later another amendment to the Act on the Public Media. These changes were adopted without consultations with civil society and the expert community and despite protests by human rights groups and significant segments of the public.

Read more

MEDIA

Dr Małgorzata Bonikowska (Centre for International Relations, Warsaw, Poland): 'It Would Have Been Much Better If the Critics Had Looked at Facts'

To watch the interview please follow the link

As President of the Centre for International Relations, a think tank primarily involved in the activities in the field of Poland's foreign and EU politics, which burning issues do you see in this respect now for the country and your organisation as a research institution?

First of all, we want to continue our activities within EU topics, and we are highly worried about Poland’s future in the EU. Up to date, good cooperation and partnership with EU leading countries, and in particular Germany as our neighbour, but also other states have been crucial for us. Hence, we would like to find out the position of the new Polish government towards the key point of reference in our foreign policy. That’s why the EU role and the position of Poland in the EU is the number one question, especially concerning our German neighbours. If there is a change in the position, we would like to understand, which accents have been set.  Of course, our role in the EU is quite important and no one neglects that, but the accent and the details is the question.

On 19 January 2016, Beata Szydło, Polish Prime Minister, defended the position of her government at the European Parliament. Besides, Zbigniew Ziobro, Polish Minister of Justice, harshly reacted to the rule of law framework initiated by the European Commission. What do you expect from these EC-Poland negotiations?

I do hope there will be more understanding between the parties – and that will relieve the situation. In fact, I don’t see any interest from the Polish side or from the European Commission or any other of the EU Institutions to deteriorate this issue between a member state and the EU Institutions. I believe both parties are interested in finding a better way of communication and handling all the matters, which are not well presented or explained in the mutual context. Certainly, the result of this process will depend on what the attitude of the EU institutions towards these explanations will be and which decisions will be met on the Polish side. If both parties want to cooperate well, they will easily resolve the occurred problem. And I do hope there will be no need for more debates on Poland at the European Parliament.

Read more

MEMBERS' VIEWS

Youth Centre of Consultancy and Training: NGO TV's New Format

NGO TV Internet Channel launched by Timur Kobalia from the Youth Centre of Consultancy and Training (Volgograd, Russia) initiated a format of regular news blocs on the work of non-governmental organisations and the civil society sector.

News blocs appear on a bi-weekly basis and may be watched at the NGO TV official  YouTube page.

 

Kostroma Civic Initiatives Support Centre: Lawsuit Against Ministry of Justice

The Kostroma Civic Initiatives Support Centre appealed the order by the Ministry of Justice on the inclusion of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the "foreign agents" list at the Supreme Court. The activists from Kostroma consider that the current order violates the NGO law.

Read more (in Russian)

 

Robert Bosch Stiftung: Programme "Reporters in the Field"

Are you a reporter who simply wants to dig deeper and take the road less travelled? Who insists on exploring countries in ways they haven’t been seen before? Who is determined to discover new insights about people and the issues that affect them?

The Robert Bosch Stiftung supports journalists committed to in-depth research and cross-border investigation.

Read more
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Email
Website

Copyright © 2015 EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, All rights reserved

Imprint/Contact
Secretariat at the German-Russian Exchange
44, Bad St.
13357 Berlin
Germany
tel        + 49 30 44 66 80 0
fax       + 49 30 44 66 80 10

unsubscribe from this list                                                            update subscription preferences 
Back to Top