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NEWSLETTER JULY 2014


TOP NEWS
Looking Forward to the 5th General Assembly, Address by Anna Sevortian, New Executive Director of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum >>
Meeting with the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels >>
Crackdown on the Memorial Centre of History of Political Repressions "Perm 36" >>

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "New Moves of the Russian Ministry of Justice to Include Leading NGOs into the List of "Foreign Agents" Endanger Development of the EU-Russia Relations" >>
Suggestions for the EU and EU Member States' Roadmaps for Engagement with Civil Society for Russia >>


FLASHBACK
Lecture and Workshop "Political Culture and Civil Society in Russia: Opportunities and Limits for Civic Participation" at the European Academy in Otzenhausen >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
4th Ural Summer School "Strategic Litigation: Experience of Lawyers from U.S., Europe, Russia" >>
Sign the Petition Supporting Civic Activist Sergei Loshkarev  >>
Conference "What Divides Europe? Bridging Traditional Values and Fundamental Rights" >>

TOP NEWS

Looking Forward to the 5th General Assembly, Address by Anna Sevortian, New Executive Director of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

Dear readers, dear Forum members,

I am Anna Sevortian, the new EU-Russia Civil Society Forum director, and I am delighted to greet you here, in this issue of the CSF Newsletter.

Let us start with the most important news - the Fifth annual meeting, Forum’s General Assembly (GA), is approaching quickly – this time we gather in Tallinn, Estonia on November 27-29, 2014. Please save these dates as the Assembly promises to be an incredibly rich event in terms of both content and context of the civil society work in Europe, Russia, and Eurasia. Indeed, we expect a number of high-level guests and speakers there, including Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the President of Estonia. We look forward to welcoming everybody there


For many of us, the late summer days are the time of quiet reflections and planning for the busy autumn. Everything seems to slow down, even the e-mail traffic at Forum! So I am taking this opportunity to introduce our team at the Forum’s Secretariat.

While getting comfortable in the new office in Berlin, the Secretariat is also getting ready for the new season. Together with the Steering Committee and my predecessor Barbara von Ow-Freytag, who will continue to work with the Forum in another function, me and my colleagues – Katarzyna Nowak (finance), Kristina Smolijaninovaitė (projects), Sergei Tereshenkov (communications), and our committed and experienced interns – we have been thinking through challenges and ways to better serve our constituency. Heated debates certainly add to the summer heat, but it is a real joy to observe this group of energetic, experienced, positive, and fun-loving people in action. I hope you will see it yourselves in just a few months at the CSF’s central event of the year - the General Assembly!

Apart from that, there is a lot ahead of the Forum. We intend to increase Forum’s membership considerably from the current 126 NGOs and to re-vamp sections of the CSF website. We are developing the list of services for the members and consolidating resources. We are looking into involving you and other people to advise and assist us in our growth. Change is in the air, and this newsletter will also have a new look very soon!

Externally, there is no shortage of news and things that need responding or addressing – from the crisis in the Eastern Ukraine and the role of the civil society there and in Russia to ease it, from the crackdown on fundamental freedoms and sanctions in Russia – to xenophobic and anti-migrant sentiments in Europe, etc.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for being with us, being a part of the Forum, its body and soul. And sometimes also its critics! As ever, the Secretariat is keen to know your thoughts for the General Assembly in Tallinn and on the Forum’s future – please, email us directly to start contributing now at events@eu-russia-csf.org.

Best wishes,
Anna Sevortian

TOP NEWS

Meeting with the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels

On October 7, 2014, the Joint Seminar "Position and Role of Civil Society in the EU and Russia" is due to take place in Brussels. Within the new granting period, it will be the first official meeting of representatives of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the European Economic and Social Committee.

Possible topics for discussions are civil society as a driver of change, strengthening of relations between the EU and the Russian civil society, role of trade unions and employers' organisations as well as issues of the common EU-Russia interest like environmentally and socially responsible policies and integration of migrants.

The event will be followed up by the EESC next round of discussions on the Russian Civil Society. Besides, further meetings with EU institutions, members of the European Parliament, and other interested organisations and personalities are planned.

TOP NEWS

Crackdown on the Memorial Centre of History of Political Repressions
"Perm 36"

The crackdown on the only GULAG Museum in the Russian Federation - Memorial Centre of History of Political Repressions "Perm 36" - has been on-going. The last July weekend was a traditional time for the International Civil Forum "Pilorama", to which the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum - along with local and international partners - contributed with discussions and an accompanying event - the European Forum for Young Professionals "Pilorama Lab". The second year in a row, "Pilorama" didn't take place - officially due to the lack of co-financing and ineffective practices by the former management.

Earlier in 2014, the institution was split into two organisations - a state-owned one, which possesses buildings and infrastructure of the former GULAG camp, and an autonomous nonprofit one, which has museum's collections and items on its balance as well as is responsible for concept and organising of events. On May 23, 2014, the new Director of the state-owned facility - a Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth Policy, and Mass Communications of the Perm Region - replaced Tatyana Kursina, a long-term Executive Director and - along with her husband Viktor Shmyrov (Director of the NGO) - one of the founders of the Memorial Centre. Tatyana Kursina was forced to change to the NGO, which has no right to hold any event on the territory of "Perm 36" without a written consent from the state-owned organisation. Before that, no agreed funding for 2014 came to the Memorial Centre from the Ministry, while water and electricity on site were cut off, what didn't let hold any guided tours there anymore. All these facts were used for blaming the former management for incompetence and the followed-up dismission of Tatyana Kursina.


The new management shows no respect towards the founders of the Memorial Centre. No excursions are allowed, whereas foreign tourists willing to visit the site have been checked for the compliance with the passport regime. At the same time, the museum was opened for a crew of the NTV channel which came to shoot a controversial documentary on the history of the camp and was accompanied by its former prison wardens and representatives of the notorious “Essence of Time” Movement. Finally, a part of the Museum's original items has been destroyed.

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum will keep you updated on progress of the situation and inform you on support measures for the Memorial Centre of History of Political Repressions "Perm 36" soon.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "New Moves of the Russian Ministry of Justice to Include Leading NGOs into the List of "Foreign Agents" Endanger Developement of the EU-Russia Relations"

New moves of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to include a group of leading Russian non-governmental organisations into the list of “foreign agents” – along with another series of restrictions in the Russian media field – diminish the possibilities for civil society to counter the decrease in co-operation between the partners and endanger constructive development of the EU-Russia relations at large.

On July 21, 2014, a new group of leading Russian NGOs has been added to the list of “foreign agents”. Two active members of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum were affected by this move. “Public Verdict” Foundation’s right to defend itself in court has already been repeatedly violated in the course of a protracted trial. Human Rights Centre “Memorial” has had to undergo derogatory judicial procedures in the course of the last year as well. Further NGOs included are “Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms”, the Kaliningrad Regional Public Organisation “Ecodefence-Women’s Council”, and the Interregional Association of Human Rights Public Unions “AGORA”. On the same day, the Vasileostrovsky Court in St. Petersburg labeled LGBT organisation “Vykhod” (Coming-Out) as a “foreign agent”, too. As of today, the list contains 11 entries in total; 4 of them are EU-Russia Civil Society Forum members. Apart from the mentioned ones, these are Moscow Member Centre of the National Association for the Protection of Voters’ Rights “Golos” and the Kostroma Centre for Civic Initiatives. Both organisations had already closed down or are in the process of self-closure to avoid criminal prosecution of their leaders for refusal to register as “foreign agents”. Several organisations labeled as “foreign agents” have been playing a crucial role in defending rights of citizens in the course of recent major trials like that on the events on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012.

Read more

STEERING COMMITTEE

Suggestions for the EU and EU Member States' Roadmaps for Engagement for Civil Society for Russia

In the beginning of July 2014, the EU-Russia Civil Soiety Forum was invited to contribute to the "EU and EU Member States' Roadmaps for Engagement with Civil Society". The invitation was communicated to the CSF Secretariat on behalf of Mr Vygaudas Ušackas, Head of the EU Delegation to the Russian Federation.

The development of the roadmaps is in compliance with the guidelines of the Communication "The Roots of Democracy and Sustainable Development: Europe's Engagement with Civil Society in External Relations" adopted by the European Council in September 2012.

The roadmap for Russia is aimed at assisting the EU and the EU member states develop a common framework to engage civil society at country level. The suggestions by the Steering Committee included inter alia building of a strong cross-border civil society, provision of new interactive and transparent ways of citizen participation in both the EU and Russia, timely and structured involvement of representatives and expertise of civil society in the EU-Russia governmental dialogue issues, easier and extended people-to-people contacts, closer co-operation between civil society actors in Russia and the Eastern Partnership countries.

Further suggestions for the roadmap were also prepared by one of the Forum's members - the Centre of Civic Analysis and Independent Research "GRANI" (Perm, Russia).

FLASHBACK

Lecture and Workshop "Political Culture and Civil Society in Russia: Opportunities and Limits" at the European Academy in Otzenhausen

On July 27, 2014, the work of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum was presented within the Seminar "Quo Vadis, EU? Quo Vadis, Russia? Challenges Facing the European Union and Russia in the 21st Century" for German and Russian students of social sciences at the European Academy Otzenhausen (Germany).

Within his lecture and workshop "Political Culture and Civil Society in Russia: Opportunities and Limits", Sergei Tereshenkov, Forum's PR Co-Ordinator, used the CSF work as a starting point for group discussions on problems faced by Russia in the fields of interest, which have been handled by Working Groups of the Forum - "Human Rights and the Rule of Law", "Environment", "Social Issues and Civic Participation", "Democratic Structures and Processes", "Citizenship Education", and "Historical Memory and Education".

Every group received an example from the Forum's work - a statement, a policy paper, an article, etc., added its own perceptions and knowledge on the topic to the input and presented the results in a big circle. After the current problems had been discovered, the participants finalised the workshop with their suggestions - in the form of a road - for improvement of the actual situation in the mentioned realms, which would be suitable for the related circumstances in the Russian Federation.

MEMBERS' VIEWS

4th Ural Summer School "Strategic Litigation: Experience of Lawyers from U.S., Europe, Russia"

NGO "Sutyajnik" is organizing 4th Ural Summer School of Human Rights "Strategic litigation: Experience of Lawyers from U.S., Europe, Russia".

If you or your organisation conducts litigation, in order to not only help applicants in a case, but also an unlimited range of citizens, society as a whole, in order to change legislation in accordance with the Russian Constitution and international human rights treaties,  ̶  send your applications for a weeklong training on building and managing strategic litigation campaigns.

Deadline for applications: 12 AM August 3, 2014 (Yekaterinburg time).
Date:  September 16-20, 2014
Venue: Yekaterinburg, Russia 

Read more

 

Sign the Petition Supporting Civic Activist Sergei Loshkarev


Since mid-July 2014, signatures for the Petition on Discontinuation of Unlawful Crackdown on Sergei Loshkarev, a civic activist from Novocherkassk, a protector of the "Red Spring" Grove have been collected, informs "Ecological Watch on North Caucasus" Organisation, one of the Forum's members. The petition is placed at the Change.Org website and addresses Minister of Interior Vladimir Kolokoltsev. It is stated there: 'We, civic and ecological activists, human rights defenders, and journalists, relatives and friends of Sergei, and other concerned citizens, require to restore justice, stop a barbaric crackdown on an honest man.' 

Sergei Loshkarev was arrested on June 5, 2014 upon a fabricated motif for "resistance to a lawful request of a policeman". In the course of the arrest, a pistol was planted to him. On June 6th, a criminal case against him was initiated. At the moment, the activist has been in a detention facility.

Read more

 

Conference "What Divides Europe? Bridging Traditional Values and Fundamental Rights"

UNITED is organising an international conference in Georgia. The concepts of fundamental rights and traditional values will be at the center of the discussion. In order to constructively create bridges between human rights and traditional values, we will explore traditional values on various levels and perspectives.

Date: October 13-18, 2014
Venue: Borjomi, Georgia

Organisations interested in nominating a delegate should fill the online nomination before the deadline: August 21, 2014, 12 a.m.

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