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NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 2014


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Season's Greetings - Address by the Executive Director Anna Sevortian >>

TOP NEWS
New Steering Committee Members Elected at the General Assembly in Tallinn >>
Deeper Cooperation with the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum: 6th General Assembly in Batumi >>
Round Tables on Human Rights and Media in the Times of Propaganda >>

FLASHBACK
A Big Danish Voyage of Anna Sevortian >>
2nd All-Russian Civil Forum in Moscow with Stefan Melle as Moderator of the International Section >>

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Investigate Attacks against the Joint Mobile Group and Provide Safe Working Conditions for Human Rights Defenders in the Chechen Republic" >>

MEDIA
Interview with Vera Barova, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Tyumen >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS

Sluzhenie: Results of the Assembly of Social NGOs of the Volga Federal District >>
Polish NGOs: Appeal on the Occasion of President Poroshenko's Visit to Poland >>
Association for International Affairs: The Key to the Czech Republic's Fully Fledged EU Membership in Fifteen Keywords >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Season's Greetings - Address by the Executive Director Anna Sevortian

Dear colleagues, / Dear friends,

The year 2014 is coming to an end. It has been a truly memorable and a truly challenging year for all of us and for the world community. The dramatic events of 2014 in Ukraine only proved the value of consolidation and cooperation on the level of the civil society actors from the European Union and Russia.

Solidarity was our most important topic at the 5th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, which took place on 27-29 November 2014 in Tallinn, Estonia. It is solidarity that we think of when looking into 2015.

Today we are 140 NGOs of 18 countries, many of us working in challenging environments, but everybody is wishing a better world and more tolerant and more responsible society.

On behalf of my colleagues at the Secretariat, I wish you all the success in advancing your ideas and ideals in 2015. Let us face its challenges together and join efforts for peace and democracy.

Many greetings and all the best for the holiday season. See you in 2015!

Sincerely Yours,
Anna Sevortian
Executive Director
EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

TOP NEWS

New Steering Committee Members Elected at the General Assembly in Tallinn

On 29 November 2014, the last day of the General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in Tallinn, Estonia, a new strength of the Forum's Steering Committee was elected.

The Steering Committee has 10 members - a half of them from the European Union and another half from the Russian Federation. Before the election, it was clear that 5 Steering Committee members would stay, due to the fact that their 2-year term hasn't been completed yet, - Katarzyna Batko-Tołuć (Citizens Network Watchdog, Poland), Yuri Dzhibladze (Center for Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia), Harry Hummel (Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Netherlands), Stefan Melle (German-Russian Exchange, Germany), Natalia Taubina (Public Verdict Foundation, Russia). Two Steering Committee members were re-elected in Tallinn - Anna Skvortsova (NGO Development Centre, Russia) and Ksenia Vakhrusheva (Bellona, Russia).

New to the Steering Committee are Evgenia Chirikova (Ecological Defence of Moscow Region, Russia), a Russian environmental activist and leader of the "Save Khimki Forest" Movement; Ralph du Long (UNITED for Intercultural Action, Netherlands), a lawyer and an NGO trainer working across Europe on the topics of anti-racism, non-discrimination, and far-right movement; Simon Papuashvili (International Partnership for Human Rights, Belgium), a famous international human rights activist.

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum congratulates Steering Committee members with their (re-)election and wishes a fruitful and successful work at their positions.


The full list of the Steering Committee members is available here.

TOP NEWS

Deeper Cooperation with the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum: 6th General Assembly in Batumi

Photo by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum
Representatives of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (EU-Russia CSF) - Ksenia Vakhrusheva, Co-Ordinator of the EKOenergy Project at “BELLONA”, Member of the Steering Committee, and Barbara von Ow-Freytag, Head of the Contact Group with the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF), attended the EaP CSF’s 6th General Assembly (GA) in the Black Sea port city of Batumi, Georgia on 20-21 November 2014. Similarly, two former Steering Committee members of the EaP CSF took part in the GA of the EU-Russia CSF in Tallinn, Estonia a week later.
 
It was the first time that representatives of the two Civil Society Forums attended each others' General Assemblies as part of an agreement between two Forums to consult on areas of agreement and cooperation more closely. In May 2014, both CSFs cooperated on a first Round Table of civil society actors from Ukraine, Russia, and the EU in Berlin.
 
Overlooking the spectacular skyline of Batumi, some 250 civil society representatives, officials, and experts from the EU and six Eastern Partnership countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - attended two days of expert panels and workshops. Opened by video addresses of Giorgi Margvelashivili, President of Georgia, and Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EaP Forum marked the first anniversary of the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine with a minute of silence to honour the victims.
 
Panels then focused on the deteriorating human rights situation in the Eastern Partnership, especially in Azerbaijan, and the “Russia factor” in the security environment of the area. Within the panel on "Propaganda and Information Warfare in Times of Conflict", Barbara von Ow-Freytag presented an analysis of the new hybrid quality of disinformation by the Russian government and state media and a list of recommendations how to counter it.
 
Discussions on the future of the Eastern Partnership dealt with the growing divergence between countries, which have signed Association Agreements with the EU, and those who are increasingly drifting into alignment with the Customs Union and the Eurasian Union projects propagated by Russia. The problematic situation in Azerbaijan left a special imprint on the Assembly, as members of the Azeri National Platform tried to pull down posters of an exhibition on political prisoners in Azerbaijan and prevented the passing of a resolution calling for the release of political detainees in their country.
 
The Assembly approved a new strategy on general priorities and advocacy tasks for 2015-2017 as well as a reform for a more efficient Steering Committee. It also passed a resolution on cooperation with the EU-Russia CSF calling on the Steering Committees of both CSFs to regularly exchange information and on Eastern Partnership civil society organisations to work together with the EU-Russia CSF in areas of common interest while steering clear of closer institutional relation. Members of the European Commission presented in Batumi the current EU civil society programmes.

TOP NEWS

Round Tables on Human Rights and Media in the Times of Propaganda

As a follow-up of the Round table "Civil Society Ukraine-Russia-EU", which was held on 20 May 2014 in Berlin, Germany as an initiative of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) and the Eastern Partnership CSF supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Afffairs and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the German capital hosted two more round tables in December 2014 devoted to specific topics in this relations' triangle - on human rights and media.

On 16 December, Round table "Murders, Disappearences, Tortures: Human Rights in the Times of War" took place at the German Parliament - Bundestag. This discussion was organised by the "European Exchange" and the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group in cooperation with the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As discussion participants, Refat Chubarov (Crimean Tartar Parliament - Mejlis, Simferopol), Svetlana Gannushkina (Grazhdanskoe Sodeistvie, Moscow), Oleg Orlov (Human Rights Centre "Memorial", Moscow), Roman Romanov (International Renaissance Foundation, Kyiv), Olga Skrypnyk (Centre for Citizenship Education "Almenda", Yalta), Yevhen Zakharov (Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Kharkiv), and others were invited. The focus of talks was on violations of human rights in Eastern Ukraine and in Crimea as well as on the situation of Ukrainian refugees in Russia. Besides, results of independent missions of Ukrainian and Russian NGOs in the course of the war conflict in Ukraine were presented.

The next day, another round table was carried out with participation of media representatives. They gathered at the Heinrich Böll Foundation to discuss the topic "Between Propaganda and Counter-Propaganda: Defending Quality Journalism" and to develop new strategies for a non-propagandistic information space in a wider Europe. This event was co-organised by the "European Exchange" and the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in partnership with "Reporters Without Borders", the n-ost Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe, and the "German-Russian Exchange" and supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The panels "Defending the "Fourth Estate" in Times of Propaganda" and "Maintaining Quality Journalism in Europe - and Extending It to Russian Speakers" - gathered inter alia representatives of media innovation projects, which distribute their non-propogandistic messages for the Russian-speaking audience. As participants of the discussions, Sergei Buntman (Echo of Moscow, Moscow), Ivan Kolpakov (Meduza, Riga), Tetiana Matychak (Stop Fake, Kyiv), Emin Milli (Meydan TV, Baku), Gemma Pörzgen (Reporters Without Borders, Berlin), Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy (Belsat, Warsaw), Roman Skrypin (Hromadske TV, Kyiv), and others were invited.

A long day ended with a public event at the Representation of the European Commission to Germany. There Ann-Dorit Boy (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurt), Yevhen Hlibovytsky (Media Freedom Initiative, Kyiv), Peter Pomerantsev (Legatum Institute, London), Maria Stepanova (Colta.Ru, Moscow) were invited as speakers and Tamina Kutscher (n-ost, Berlin) as a moderator.


On 18 December 2014, several Round table participants met Alexander Kudascheff, Editor-in-Chief at Deutsche Welle (Berlin-Bonn), and Cord Meier-Klodt, Director for Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, and Central Asia at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

FLASHBACK

A Big Danish Voyage of Anna Sevortian

Upon invitation of the Baltic Sea NGO Network Denmark, Anna Sevortian, Executive Director of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, paid a visit to Copenhagen on 1-3 December 2014. Anna came to talk on the situation in the Russian NGO sector and promote the work of the Forum. She gave a lecture at the University of Copenhagen as well as attended meetings at the Copenhagen City Hall and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

Special attention was paid to cooperation opportunities between the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and Danish NGOs, in particular the Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, which applied for a Forum membership. 

'This time in Copenhagen was important for building a “bridge” to Scandinavia,' says Anna Sevortian. 'EU-Russia Civil Society Forum today has only few links to the Northern European states, and for some time it was our wish to closer cooperate with this region, so the Danish colleagues’ initiative was very timely. It was encouraging to learn about re-socialisation programmes for the underpriviledged and migrants run by Kofoeds School in Copenhagen, to know about the work on minority issues in Denmark... I hope this wealth of experience will soon be presented within the Forum.'

The Danish Baltic Sea NGO Network brings together around 40 organisations. These NGOs are engaged in the development of the Baltic Sea states in the field of human rights, civil society, social issues, culture, and environment. Visit the official website of the Network to learn more.

FLASHBACK

2nd All-Russian Civil Forum in Moscow with Stefan Melle as Moderator of the International Section

Photo by the All-Russian Civil Forum
For the 2nd All-Russian Civil Forum on 22 November 2014, over 700 representatives of Russian citizen initiatives, experts, and journalists came together at the Hotel "Cosmos" in Moscow. It was initiated by the Committee for Civil Initiatives founded by Alexei Kudrin, former Russian Minister of Finance. 14 thematic sections were devoted inter alia to the problems caused by repressions against NGOs and media in the country, preconditions for stable civil institutions, environmental challenges, and the growing nationalism in Russia.

Stefan Melle, Head of the Consortium of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Director at the "German-Russian Exchange", co-moderated - along with well-known scientists Igor Yurgens (Insor Institute) and Andrei Zagorsky (MGIMO) - an international section of the event, which was organised for the first time in Forum's history. The discussions were attended by participants from Poland, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, Russia, and Latvia. The result of the section was a plan to hold in 2015 a conference devoted to the 40th anniversary Helsinki Final Act, to make an overview about European-Russian initiatives as well as to foster participation of Russian players in European civil society projects.

Both within the section and at plenary sessions, the question of conflict around Ukraine was highlighted. The audience mostly agreed that the actions of the Russian authorities against Ukraine were not in compliance with the international law and a breach of international relations but also meant severe consequences for the Russian society. In a final document, the Forum called up for a reconcilitation with Ukraine, expressed against an isolated development of Russia as well as sketched specific proposals for actions and laws as results of the sections.

Stefan Melle appealed as a speaker of the last panel to continuation of the European cooperation as well as to comeback to the standards of international law and human rights. He pointed out that the case of Germany and Poland showed that a reconciliation after a war would be possible, even if it would take a couple of decades of mutual efforts.

Further information on the All-Russian Civil Forum may be found at its website und on Facebook
.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Investigate Attacks against the Joint Mobile Group and Provide Safe Working Conditions for Human Rights Defenders in the Chechen Republic"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses its deep concern and indignation about the recent attacks against human rights defenders from the Joint Mobile Group in the Chechen Republic of the “Committee against Torture”, the Forum’s member.

Last week, Ramzan Kadyrov, President of the Chechen Republic, urged to demolish houses and expel from the republic relatives of suspects in terrorist attacks on 4 December 2014 in Grozny, capital of the Chechen Republic. A few days later, Igor Kalyapin, Head of the “Committee against Torture”, asked the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office and the Russian Investigation Committee to check the legality of Kadyrov’s appeal. Since then, members of the “Committee against Torture” and its Joint Mobile Group in the Chechen Republic have been constantly harassed by the public and attacked by the local police.

Read more

MEDIA

Interview with Vera Barova, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Tyumen

To watch the interview please follow the link

Vera Vladimirovna, I heard a lot about the Сity of Tyumen, and what I heard was very positive, for instance, in the field of urban infrastructure and community building. Your foundation, the Community Foundation of Tyumen, primarily deals with community building. Please tell us about your major directions of activities and name some of your most favourite projects.

Vera Barova: The city of Tyumen is historically the first Russian city beyond the Ural Mountains. Since Ermak’s troops had settled here, the people of Tyumen really liked to be pioneers. So, when the idea of creating community foundations came to Russia, we also took part in the CAF foundation Programme. Our foundation was established in 1999, fifteen years ago, and became the second of such kind in the country. It brings together commercial structures as founders and trustees, but in fact, it is a centre of attraction for new ideas that come from citizens’ active groups, NGOs, and business associations. For fifteen years, we have been, in fact, working in two directions: We inspire our benefactors - those who allocate resources, and beneficiaries - those who share great ideas and, thanks to financial support of our foundation, increase the amount of ongoing projects literally threefold thanks to raised funds and thereby strengthen this city. The city is really interesting, and there has lately been a lot of positive changes here. It became more comfortable, though it has always lacked attention. It was the oil capital of the vast Tyumen region, rich in oil and gas, but there has never been enough time and effort put to deal with its problems. 

Read more

MEMBERS' VIEWS

Sluzhenie: Results of the Assembly of Social NGOs of the Volga Federal District

On 3-4 December 2014, 180 representatives of non-profit organisations from the Volga Federal District and a number of other Russian regions as well as authorities and media came together in Nizhny Novgorod to take part in the 2nd Assembly of Social NGOs of the Volga Federal District with the title "The Volga Region NGOs. New Cooperation Opportunities".

The Assembly organisers were the Centre for Development of Public Initiatives - "Sluzhenie" Association as well as a network of resource centres of social NGOs of the Volga Federal District in partnership with the Ministry for Economic Development of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Internal Regional and Municipal Policy of the Nizhny Novgorod Region.

 

Read more (in Russian)

 

Polish NGOs: Appeal on the Occasion of President Poroshenko's Visit to Poland

In the run-up of an official visit of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko to Poland, a number of Polish NGOs, including member organisations of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, published a special appeal.

The full content of the appeal in Polish can be downloaded here, in Ukrainian - here.

 

Association of International Affairs: The Key to the Czech Republic's Fully Fledged EU Membership in Fifteen Keywords

Policy paper of the Director of the Research Center of the Association of International Affairs (Czech Republic) Vít Dostál was written in the frame of joint project of the Association and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation concerning Czech European policy ten years after the accession to the EU. Dostál is devoting this paper to the challenges connected with the current institutional structure of the EU and to the shaping of appropriate stance of the Czech Republic towards the European integration, especially on the level of the Eurozone.

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