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NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2015


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
25 Years of United Germany - Still a Young Democracy >>

TOP NEWS

General Assembly in Budapest: Apply Until 15 October 2015 >>
Crackdown on Civil Society in Russia - Side Event at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2015 >>

STEERING COMMITTEE
Statement "A Solution for the Refugee Crisis Should Be Sought on Both Governmental and Non-Governmental Level" >>

FLASHBACK
EU-Russia Legal Dialogue: Innovative Working Formats and Project Ideas Discussed in Berlin >>


MEDIA
Elena Bobrovskaya (INTERRA, Russia): 'In Siberia, Urbanism Becomes a Trendy Topic' >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
GOLOS: Statement on the Public Observation of Elections in Russia on 13 September 2015 >>
Human Rights House Network: 20th Anniversary >>
Moscow Helsinki Group: Liudmila Alexeeva Awarded the Václav Havel Prize >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

25 Years of United Germany - Still a Young Democracy

Tim Bohse, born in Leipzig, journalist and a Board member at the “German-Russian Exchange” (Berlin, Germany), reflects on the 25th anniversary of the German reunification being celebrated these days:
 
 
25 years ago, in the night from 2 to 3 October 1990, five Eastern German federal lands, which had been created for this specific purpose, joined the Federal Republic of Germany. The German Democratic Republic that had been formed on the territory of the Soviet zone of occupation in 1949 did not exist anymore.
 
There were two milestones on the way to this historic event. On Monday, 9 October 1989, 70,000 people demonstrated on the streets in Leipzig, the second largest city in the GDR, for more democracy – in spite of threats for a “Chinese solution”. The party leaders were definitely confused by the outreach of peaceful protests in a city with half a million inhabitants.
 
An attempt of the government to handle the situation by liberalising the travel regulation with the Federal Republic of Germany turned out to be a disaster. After a misleading announcement by the government on a new order of issuing the visas, seized thousands of Eastern Germans in the evening of 9 November 1989 border control points to West Berlin – and this was the second historic milestone. The GDR border guards could not resist the pressure and finally let the people out. In the night, the people massively stormed into the West. The spontaneous celebration on the streets of West Berlin anticipated the later reunification of states and – due to TV shots - have been remembered with more empathy than 3 October 1990.

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TOP NEWS

General Assembly in Budapest: Apply until 15 October 2015

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum would like to thank those colleagues, who have registered for the 6th General Assembly (GA) already, and inspire other Forum members and guests to fill in the application form until 15 October 2015.

This year’s GA will be held on 7-9 December 2015 at the Benczúr Hotel in Budapest, Hungary. The assembly will focus on the situation with civil societies in Russia and the EU and cross-cutting issues for the civil societies – as challenges of migration and refugees crisis, xenophobia, anti-corruption work, etc. The up-to-date programme version is always available here.

Please note that travel and accommodation costs are covered by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum for the members only. The observers have to take care of their travels (including visa issues, if applicable) and accommodation on their own. Besides, the guests are welcome to attend GA open formats only.

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum would be happy to see its members, supporters, and observers at the GA in Budapest and is looking forward to meet all of you there.


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

TOP NEWS

Crackdown on Civil Society in Russia - Side Event at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2015

On 22 September 2015, the Public Verdict Foundation supported by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the Civic Solidarity Platform organised the Side Event "Crackdown on Civil Society in Russia" at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw (Poland). The event was attended by more than 50 people including representatives of official delegations from the OSCE member states as well as national and international civil society organisations.

'In the course of last years, there was a bunch of legislation acts adopted in the Russian Federation, which significantly limit fundamental rights and freedoms. A part of these laws directly relates to guarantees for freedom of association, - noted Natalia Taubina, Director at the Public Verdict Foundation (Russia), member of the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. - First of all, I mean introduction of such institutions as a nonprofit organisation executing a "foreign agent" function and an undesirable international or foreign non-governmental organisation. The inclusion on the list of "foreign agents" or "undesirable organisations" lead to significant limitations and sometimes to a complete ban of activities, considerable fines, and risk of a criminal persecution.'

Apart from Natalia Taubina, the discussion was attended by Konstantin Baranov (International Youth Human Rights Movement, Russia), Stefan Melle (German-Russian Exchange, member of the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Germany), and human rights defender Andrei Yurov (Russia). Moderator of the discussion was Simon Papuashvili (International Partnership for Human Rights, member of the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Belgium).

Speakers reported on the enforcement of laws on "foreign agents" and "undesirable organisations" as well as on how these practices affect both persecuted organisations and the state of the civil society in general. Besides, they drew attention to other forms of pressure on civic activists, particularly through application of articles of criminal and administrative law as well as direct physical assaults.  A separate topic was negative impact of those laws on  cooperation opportunities with civil societies from the EU countries. Finally, a representative from Kyrgyzstan expressed his concern on influence of Russian circumstances on neighbouring states, particularly attempts to adopt a "foreign agents" law in his country - an exact copy of the Russian legislation act.

After the remarks by the speakers, representatives of civil societies from different countries and OSCE delegations joined in the lively discussion.


Report on the state of the civil society in the Russian Federation is available here.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "A Solution for the Refugee Crisis Should Be Sought on Both Governmental and Non-Governmental Level"

Photo by Peter Tkac

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum calls on the authorities of the European Union and the EU member countries to develop sound policies for short- and long-term reception of asylum seekers and to comply with their human rights obligations. We urge the related institutions to closer cooperate with local authorities, NGOs, bottom-up initiatives, and human rights defenders worldwide.

We appreciate efforts of civil society across Europe aimed at assisting the refugees. The Steering Committee also calls on the EU and other international actors, including the OSCE, to cooperate with such initiatives and active citizens. Germany has an important role in leading such support: It  overtakes the OSCE presidency in 2016 and is one of the main final destinations for refugees. Latest efforts by the European Commission to relocate 120,000 refugees across all the EU member states and the decision of Switzerland to accept up to 5,000 individuals are steps in the right direction. However, it is only a temporary solution in the face of a daily arrival of thousands of people to Europe.

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FLASHBACK

EU-Russia Legal Dialogue: Innovative Working Formats and Project Ideas Discussed in Berlin

On 11-12 September 2015, another working meeting of the EU-Russia Legal Dialogue Project was held in Berlin. This time, the international project team of colleagues from Russia, Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Slovakia was actively working at the anthology, which is planned for the beginning of December and will be presented at the General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in Budapest.
 
The bilingual (English-Russian) publication aims to show the potential for further cooperation and exchange in the fields of environmental law and women’s rights, public control of social institutions and prisons, transparency in the lobby and advocacy work as well as preservation of acceptable working conditions for NGOs in general. In addition to the intense individual text work, the editor Natalia Golysheva offered a practical seminar on “legal feature writing”, which was positively evaluated by all the participants.  
 
The second important aim of the working meeting was the discussion oт future development of the “Legal Dialogue” Project. Specific topics and format ideas were first discussed in thematic groups and then presented in a plenum. For the first time, colleagues from the "German Women Lawyers' Association", the University of Applied Sciences at Fulda, the Transparency International Germany, the UfU Independent Institute for Environmental Issues, and "Germanwatch" joined the project meeting and discussions. 
 
The discussed ideas include developing an interactive online information platform for international lawyers and NGO experts, organising mutual working visits for colleagues from NGOs, and international moot courts for young lawyers as well as producing some analytical materials, for instance, on the impact of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights on the real situation in the working fields of NGOs (such prison conditions, for instance).
 
These first project ideas will be further developed in the coming months. Most potential projects are foreseen to be implemeted in 2016. Questions, comments and concrete proposals can be sent to legal.dialogue@eu-russia-csf.org.

MEDIA

Elena Bobrovskaya (INTERRA, Russia): 'In Siberia, Urbanism Becomes a Trendy Topic'

To watch the interview in Russian please follow the link

INTERRA has been working for more than 10 years so far. If I am not mistaken, it was established in 2004. But now your main activities are probably connected with urban space. How did you decide to start with topic?

I wouldn’t say that we mainly focus on urbanism. We still perceive ourselves as an organization, which is involved in non-formal education and international exchange projects. It is a different matter that this is often not too clear to people. But when we start communicating to our counterparts on another level by saying that ‘we are here for our city’ or that ‘we just want to make it better’, the positive effect and the positive impact evolve and people show their willingness to collaborate. They get interested in the topic. Generally speaking, all the topics that we were dealing with before could have incorporated in the urban space, because this subject is really broad - ranging from the space as such to decision-making procedures, cooperation of different people and different minorities. It is really a huge field of work. Everything that is de facto covered by the civic non-formal education is just simply included in urbanism, in the topic about the city. This subject is quite clear to people and this is a trendy topic in Siberia nowadays.

We have to explain what we are doing, ie in which field we provide international exchanges or programmes for young people. Afterwards, we spread this information. Talking about the city is largely talking about the urban space. It is important for us that people would inclusively work at the topic. There are a lot of local and regional programmes, which support youth initiatives, but they mostly are organised in the form of idea competitions, ie they are not educational programmes. And so, we receive complaints that applications are not of such a good quality, they are not interesting, or they copy each other. The organisers don’t get good or cool ideas, which would have a positive effect. That’s why we noticed how education was important in that case. When talking about urbanism, education is quite important for understanding various things.

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MEMBERS' VIEWS

GOLOS: Statement on the Public Observation of Elections in Russia on 13 September 2015

On 13 September 2015, more than ten thousand elections took place in Russia, including the elections of 21 governors, 11 deputies of regional parliaments, and elections of representative bodies of 25 regional capitals. The 2015 local elections are the last full-scale dress rehearsal of the Russian electoral system—in preparing, organizing, and conducting an Election Day—before the upcoming 2016 national elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

Representatives of the “Golos” Movement conducted public monitoring procedures for voting, counting of votes at polling stations, and tabulation at higher election commissions for elections in 26 regions.

 

Human Rights House Network: 20th Anniversary

In 1989, some Norwegian human rights organisations came together to create a human rights community that would help improve cooperation, share knowledge and expertise, and reduce operating costs.

A supportive business leader offered to the newly formed Norwegian Human Rights House a rent-free facility in Oslo. Six human rights organisations moved into the house at 50, Urtegata, which soon became a hub for human rights activities in Norway.

Read more

 

Moscow Helsinki Group: Liudmila Alexeeva Awarded the Václav Havel Prize

Liudmila Alexeeva, Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, was awarded the Václav Havel Prize.

It happened at the meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 28 September 2015. Presenting the award, the President of PACE Anne Brasseur said that Alexeeva was 'a symbol of struggle for human rights in Russia.'

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