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NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2016


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Online Election Observation is Just a Matter of Time >>

TOP NEWS

#GAHelsinki: Registration Open for the 7th General Assembly >>
Study Tours - Another Tool for Support of Working and Expert Groups >>


STEERING COMMITTEE
Statement "Stop Violence against Russian Civil Society Activists and Punish Perpetrators" >>

WORKING GROUPS

Different Wars: New Online Design and Plan for 2016-2017 >>
Comic Star: St. Petersburg - Budapest Express >>
Fighting Transborder Corruption: Joint Investigations and Widening of an International Anti-Corruption Network
>>

MEDIA
Tomáš Jungwirth (Association for International Affairs, Prague, Czech Republic): 'We are Finding it Very Hard to Cope with the Idea that We Should Become Once the Same as Our Partners in the Western Europe' >>


MEMBERS' VIEWS
Civic Assistance Committee (Moscow, Russia): Svetlana Gannushkina Awarded an Alternative Nobel Prize >>
Gulag.Cz (Prague, Czech Republic): Three More Abandoned GULAG Camps Documented >>
Legambiente (Rome, Italy): Islands Towards 100% Renewable Goal >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Online Election Observation is Just a Matter of Time

Photo by Karol Bijoś

On request of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Karol Bijoś, a Member of the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats (Warsaw, Poland), prepared an article on online observation of the latest Parliamentary Elections in Russia:

 

In June-September 2016, the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats and the European Platform for Democratic Elections implemented the “Young Election Observers” (YEO) Project supported within the Open Call Mechanism of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. The project’s mission was to highlight the situation of Russian election observers in Poland and other EU countries.

After having organised a specialised training and conducted a long-term observation with 14 participants from Poland, the Netherlands and Italy, we reached the E-Day (18 September 2016) preparation week. Unfortunately, the YEO group failed to receive the accreditation of the Russian Central Election Commission. Subsequently, the YEO coordinator decided to open a new recruitment process and – thanks to a good promotion - the group grew to 26 people. YEO consisted of 24 observers from 7 European countries (Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Russia) as well as two observers from the USA. All of them were provided with a training through via a webinar platform.

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TOP NEWS

#GAHelsinki: Registration Open for the 7th General Assembly

Until 16 December 2016, registration for the 7th General Assembly (GA) of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum has been open. The General Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the Forum, which gathers around 150 civil society actors from Russia and the European Union coming from both Forum members and further interested organisations as well as prominent guests – journalists, diplomats, researchers, etc.

The next GA is held on 1-3 February 2017 in Helsinki, Finland. The choice of the host country is not a coincidence: On 6 December 1917, the Finnish Parliament, or Eduskunta, adopted the Declaration of Independence. In the meantime, Finland has become a country with a strong and diverse civil society. Those two occasions will be celebrated at a centennial discussion with prominent representatives of the local CSOs.

Besides, the assembly will focus on cross-cutting issues for civil societies in Russia and the EU as well as Europe and the world as a whole – changing borders, propaganda, poverty reduction, and others. In late January, in the run-up of the General Assembly, a series of sneak preview events will be held in the neigbouring city of St. Petersburg.

GA 2017 will offer a plenty of formats open to the public. We ask for your understanding that sessions devoted to Forum's internal issues are reserved for the members of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum only.

The official local partner of the 7th General Assembly is Kehys, the Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU.


Please do not forget to fill in the application form until 16 December 2016!

To read more on the GA format, please follow the link.

TOP NEWS

Study Tours - Another Tool for Support of Working and Expert Groups

In summer 2016, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum introduced a new tool for enhancing networking, share of experiences and outreach opportunities of the Working and Expert Groups. The call for study tours and workshops by Forum members evoked a great interest among them.

The biggest Working Group (WG) - "Human Rights and Rule of Law" - received support for two proposals. The first one shares best practices and will look for the ways of what the civil society can do and how to react to implementation of verdicts by the European Court of Human Rights. The second project strives to intensify establishment of the Forum's new WG on migration.

Members of the WG "Environment" will be travelling to St. Petersburg, to a high-profile conference on sustainable energy and climate adaptation related to aquatic ecosystems. Apart from Russian colleagues, the event will be attended by experts from Bulgaria and Norway as well as representatives of Forum's member organisations from the Czech Republic and Germany.

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STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Stop Violence against Russian Civil Society Activists and Punish Perpetrators"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses its indignation at the recent escalation of politically motivated violence in Russia, including a series of violent attacks targeting civil society activists and nonprofit organisations over the past month in different parts of the country.

On 3 September 2016, an anniversary of the hostage crisis at School No. 1 in Beslan, members of the NGO “Voice of Beslan” and journalists Elena Kostiuchenko and Diana Khachatrian were forced to leave the school memorial's premises and then assaulted by two unidentified men: one of them snatched the journalists' phones while the other one doused Kostiuchenko with green antiseptic. None of the police present tried to stop the assailants, and the journalists were questioned about the attack as late as half an hour after it occurred.

On the night of 8 to 9 September in Krasnodar Region, unidentified men armed with clubs, knives and guns attacked members of the Environmental Watch on North Caucasus and Greenpeace (both NGOs are members of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum) and volunteers who had come to fight forest fires in the region. The attackers beat the firefighters, smashed their cars, and slashed the tires and tents. They threatened the environmentalists with more violence if they did not leave Krasnodar Region before the next morning and yelled insults, telling the firefighters to ‘go back to their America, their “Pindosia”.

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WORKING GROUPS

Different Wars: New Online Design and Plan for 2016-2017

The Touring Exhibition "Different Wars: National School Textbooks on World War II" has got a new online design and a separate section on the website of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. Now it includes not only a general information on the project and the names of authors and contributors but also photos and media coverage from the opening ceremonies in Prague and Strasbourg as well as Moscow, Perm and Yekaterinburg.

Besides, the users can learn, when the exhibition arrives to their city. So, the upcoming opening is scheduled for 19 October 2016: The Russian version will go to the capital of Siberia - the Novosibirsk Regional State Scientific Library.

To look at the new design and to get more information on the exhibition, please go here.

The research and coordination work for the exhibition was fulfilled by Antikomplex (Prague), the German-Russian Exchange (Berlin), Gulag.Cz (Prague), the KARTA Centre (Warsaw), the Kostroma Civic Initiatives Support Centre (Kostroma), Memorial International (Moscow), Memorial Italia (Milan), the Society of German-Russian Relationship (Münster/Münsterland) and the Youth Memorial (Perm).

The project is supported by the European Commission, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Georg Eckert Institute, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Oak Foundation.

WORKING GROUPS

Comic Star: St. Petersburg - Budapest Express

On 8 September 2016, the Russian participants of the Project "Comic Star - Creative Inclusion" supported within the Open Call Mechanism (OCM) visited Budapest. There, three comics prepared as a cooperation of young people from troubled backgrounds with professional artists were presented at the H52 Youth Centre to the Hungarian public.

The stories turned out to be pretty different from each other. “Bad Company” by Olga Lavrentieva shows, how far addictions and alcoholism can lead somebody, but also manifestates that we all have our own choices. Two other comics by Gergely Oravecz are about responsibility and drug usage (“The Accident”) and bullying at school (“Why Always the Smaller?”).

 

The event was opened by representatives of project's cooperation partners - Marcell Lőrincz (Subjective Values Foundation, Budapest) and Sergei Simonov (German-Russian Exchange, St. Petersburg). They both expressed their happiness that the comics had been printed and exhibited already, while the stories would be used in youth groups, where these issues might be discussed.

Later the Russian group visited
Eötvös József High School. Teenagers attended a Russian class. They didn't feel any language barrier and freely talked about the comics. Besides, they were also involved in activities by Sergei Simonov related to human rights.

'The visit was a great opportunity to bring our participants closer to each other,' sums up Olesia Kataeva, a leading trainer of the Russian group. 'We really felt we belonged into the joint good team now.'

 

'It is not just a great opportunity for all of us to cooperate,' added Krisztina Mogyoró, who was a trainer of the Hungarian workshops. 'We believe that our work is building a bridge between our two nations.'

By the way, on 5 October 2016, the exhibition was opened at the Comic Book Library in St. Petersburg.

WORKING GROUPS

Fighting Transborder Corruption: Joint Investigations and Widening of an International Anti-Corruption Network

On 10-11 September 2016, a working meeting of the Fighting Transborder Corruption Expert Group took place in Albena, Bulgaria. This time, it was strengthened by new international participants, who had been selected within the Open Call Mechanism (OCM). These are six journalists, human rights defenders, bloggers and activists from Bulgaria, Germany, Great Britain and Russia, who have in-depth experiences in civil investigations.
 
'The new participants presented topics for their investigations, on which they would like to elaborate within the project,' says Andrei Kalikh, Coordinator of the Expert Group. 'The best ones of those investigations will be included in another anti-corruption report by us. Its release has been planned for January 2017. The topic selected not only describe international corruption cases: We agreed on a gradual abandoning of this narrow agenda and building up our potential while investigating any cases of international law violations between our countries with concealed self-interests of officials and businessmen.'
 
The topics presented at the Albena meeting clearly show a new agenda for the group. So, a participant from Kaliningrad with his like-minded colleagues is going to elaborate on violations and embezzlements at the construction of nuclear power plants in the Kaliningrad Region and other countries. Another expert from Great Britain has been maing a research on funding of Russian hackers and trolls as well as their active helpers in the West. A human rights defender from Murmansk has been investigating into migrant-related transborder corruption. A Bulgarian blogger presented a project on assets of Russian diplomats in that country. Further projects include research on political corruption, violations related to the capture of the Khimki Forest, etc.
 
Another working direction of the group is education. In the upcoming months, a manual and a series of trainings for journalists will be offered.
 
The Project "Fighting Transborder Corruption: Building Capacity for the EU and Russian Civil Investigators" having been implemented by the group is targeted at development and improvement of quality of own investigations as well as widening of an international network of civic activists and transborder corruption fighters.

MEDIA

Tomáš Jungwirth (Association for International Affairs, Prague, Czech Republic): ''

To watch the interview on YouTube, please follow the link

Thank you very much for your agreement to give an interview to the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. The Association for International Affairs has been involved in various projects in the so-called Visegrád countries (V4), given that there is still such a notion as Visegrád countries. Which current projects in this area have you been implementing?

The Association for International Affairs has recently had a strong V4 aspect in its activities. Last year we organised a survey among V4 foreign policy experts, which enabled us to gather the data of more than four hundred people responding to the questionnaire. We tried to identify key policy issues that the people see within the V4 region and also to observe what they considered the current main foreign policy challenges in this regard. It turns out that issues - such as security, and energy security in particular, and migration - are on the top of the agenda. And now we intend to follow up on this project next year - with a specific focus on European policy, which we thought should be very interesting given the current standing of the V4 within the European Union as a sort of a pressure bloc.

Another project that we have been involved in this year is led by our Moldovan partners and is focusing on the communication of the accession process to the European Union and gathering some of the best practices by the V4 countries - prior to their accession to the European Union in relation to Moldovans, Georgians and Ukrainians signing the association agreements and joining the free trade areas. And this is another project with a strong V4 aspect, in which we think we can somehow gather the “know-how” that the V4 has and transfer it further for some use.

The most long-standing project of the Association for International Affairs has been the Prague Student Summit, which is launching its 22nd year and that's based on the models of various international organisations with the students from all around the country. But these are not only the participants from the Czech Republic: We have lately had students from other V4 countries. One of the sessions has always been a simulation of a V4 session. This year, we transformed that to an OSCE simulation, which will gather thirty international students, including those from the V4 countries, to go and discuss the problems that are relevant for the region. That’s roughly what we have been doing in this regard and we definitely intend to develop those projects further.

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MEMBERS' VIEWS

Civic Assistance Committee (Moscow, Russia): Svetlana Gannushkina Awarded an Alternative Nobel Prize

A leading figure of the human rights movement in Russia today, Svetlana Gannushkina has been announced as a Laureate of the 2016 Right Livelihood Award. Gannushkina receives this award ‘for her decades-long commitment promoting human rights and justice for refugees, forced migrants and different ethnic groups’.

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Gulag.Cz (Prague, Czech Republic): Three More Abandoned Gulag Camps Documented

In August 2016, Gulag.Cz made another expedition to abandoned Gulag camps in Siberia. This time, it headed to the Kodar Mountains in the Chita Region, where Gulag prisoners mined uranium for the first Soviet nuclear bombs. The expedition participants documented three camps, which came under the administration of the Bor Corrective Labour Camp.

Read more

Legambiente (Rome, Italy): Islands Towards 100% Renewable Goal

In order to reduce fuel consumption, emissions and waste, the energy future will be built by plants using renewable and efficient sources integrated with smart grid and energy storage systems.

Several islands have committed to become self-sufficient by using 100% renewable energy and Legambiente thinks that Mediterranean small islands represent an ideal testing ground. Today these islands still have old and polluting central oil for the production of electric energy and we wish to direct to transaction so that these islands can enhance the energy produced by the sun, wind, tidal, water.

Read more

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