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NEWSLETTER MARCH 2017


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Our Misconceptions Regarding Modern Russia >>

TOP NEWS

#EuropeLab in Gdańsk: Apply Until 1 May 2017 >>
"Legal Dialogue" Starts a Travel Grants Programme >>
Kristina Smolijaninovaitė Promoted to the Position of Deputy Director >>


STEERING COMMITTEE
Statement "Call for Immediate Release of Participants in Peaceful Protest against Corruption in Russia" >>
Statement "The "Different Wars" Exhibition Has to Be Continued in Lithuania" >>


WORKING GROUPS
Study Tours: Winners 2017 Announced >>
Radioactive Waste with Civilian Oversight >>


MEDIA
Stefan Melle (DRA / German-Russian Exchange, Berlin, Germany): 'We Hope that Europe Will Remain an Open Society with Open Borders, Good Interstate Relations, and Mutual Respect'
 >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
Centre for Development of Non-Governmental Organisations (St. Petersburg, Russia): White Nights of Fundraising 2017 >>
CEE Bankwatch (Prague, Czech Republic): Tackling Gender Inequality at the EU's Flagship Energy Project  >>
Various Organisations: ECtHR Proceeds with 48 Appeals Filed by Russian NGOs over "Foreign Agents" Law >>

COMING SOON
"State of Civil Society" Report Meeting in St. Petersburg, "Different Wars" in Münster, Forum's Conference in Berlin >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Our Misconceptions Regarding Modern Russia

On request of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Francisco de Borja Lasheras, Director at ECFR Madrid Office (Spain), reflects on Russia and misconceptions on it in the West:

 

It is well-known that relations between the EU and the West in general and Russia suffer from mutual mistrust fanned by conflicting assessments of each other’s actions and intentions in the European space and in each other’s domestic politics. The role here of propaganda and misinformation spearheaded by powerholders and spin doctors in Moscow and their allies no doubt contributes negatively to the profoundly distorted vision that many ordinary Russians seem to have on Europe and our politics - not to mention the conflict in Ukraine or Syria, or institutions, such as NATO.

Yet one thing that has struck me ever, since I became interested in Russia and the post-Soviet space, is how much our understanding on Russia is overwhelmingly dominated by a sort of geopolitical or strategic thinking prism that it leaves little room for other angles. This perspective stresses notions of power, Grand Strategy and geopolitics (e.g. Russia’s strategic interests and history as an empire, NATO’s posturing, etc.) over a more societal or, if you will, a bottom-up approach that also lays emphasis on people-to-people interaction, societal understanding, impact of globalisation on popular perceptions, etc. At least in my experience, many Western pundits and policymakers, whether they favour a rapprochement with Russia or they see it as a challenge, tend to equally fall in this conceptual trap. Further, such debates are many times suffused by a mixture of pre-conceptions, common places, and clichés that certainly do not help to better understand modern Russia.

Read more

TOP NEWS

#EuropeLab in Gdańsk: Apply Until 1 May 2017

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum invites young professionals aged between 25 and 35 from the EU, Russia, and other European states to apply for the Annual "Europe Lab" Forum.

Forum for Young Professionals "Europe Lab" is a unique communication and exchange platform for change makers from all over Europe working in public administration, business, NGOs, universities, think tanks, and other fields of professional engagement.

Main goals of “Europe Lab” are to enable cross-sector cooperation and promote exchange of ideas, develop partner and professional networks, and encourage common cross-border projects and initiatives all over Europe.

The working language of the Forum is English.

“Europe Lab” will take place on 27–30 July 2017 at the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, Poland.

The programme of “Europe Lab” 2017 includes:

Workshops:

  • Freedom and Captivity - Solidarity in the Present and in the Past
  • Climate Change – Where Are You Going?

Innovative Formats:

  • Gdańsk in the Spotlight – City Development Hackathon
  • 360° Story – Multimedia Telling

Each format will be curated by a coordinator.

The best common projects, whose ideas were elaborated during the Forum, will be granted. The results will be presented at the 8th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in 2018.

Finally, “Europe Lab” alumni are invited to join the young professionals’ platform at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, to lead and play a role in a number of future initiatives.

Costs for workshops, accommodation, and meals are covered by organisers. Travel costs are borne by participants themselves.

Please submit your application until 1 May 2017 here.
 
Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us via e-mail.

See you in Poland!


Forum for Young Professionals “Europe Lab” is organised by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in cooperation with the European Solidarity Centre and DRA / German-Russian Exchange as well as supported by the European Commission and the Oak Foundation.

TOP NEWS

"Legal Dialogue" Starts a Travel Grants Programme

"EU-Russia Legal Dialogue" starts a travel grants programme for conferences, court hearings, seminars, workshops, and other similar events with a legal thematic reference and a special interest for civil society. The aim is to support networking, exchange of successful practices, and professional training on use of existing legal mechanisms for civil society and legal expert communities in Russia and the EU.

The programme is able to fund both your personal travel to thematic events and invitation of experts to events organised by your organisation (up to 850 euros). This applies to travels from Russia to the EU or vice-versa only. No travels within Russia or the EU may be funded! Another important pre-condition is to compose a report or a thematic article for the Legal Dialogue Journal.  The travel grants programme is open not only for Forum members. However, applications from them will be treated with priority.

Next deadline for applications is 30 April 2017. The selection of stipendiaries will be carried out by an independent international jury. You will find more detailed information about the application process here.


Some announcements of events are available in the Legal Dialogue Journal Calendar. Please feel free to send us your information, we would be happy to publish it.

TOP NEWS

Kristina Smolijaninovaitė Promoted to the Position of Deputy Director

Kristina Smolijaninovaitė, a longest serving member of the Secretariat of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, was promoted to the position of Deputy Director. The decision was endorsed by the Forum's Steering Committee.

Kristina's new administrative role is very important for keeping Forum's base sustainable - which is one of the essential elements for the successful transition and growth of the Forum. Her area of concentration in 2017 would be ensuring smooth execution of various activity components of the project funded by the European Commission and continuing to build up Forum's Programmes and Operations Unit.

Kristina Smolijaninovaitė has been taking an active part in the work of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum since its origins in 2011 and has contributed to the formation of the Secretariat as a Project Coordinator since 2014. She was involved in several Forum projects, including "Pilorama Lab"/"Europe Lab", "Visa Experts Focused on Visa Facilitation and Liberalisation", and "Youth Exchanges". Since 2015, Kristina has been leading a Capacity Building Programme and a Grant Programme for Forum members as well as coordinating a new research area of the Forum on State of Civil Society in the EU and Russia. In 2013, Kristina initiated the Forum's Working Group "Historical Memory and Education" that she had been coordinating until January 2017 and is one of the authors of the Exhibition "Different Wars: National School Textbooks on World War II". Kristina studied cultural heritage and languages in Lithuania, Germany, and Turkey.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Call for Immediate Release of Paricipants in Peaceful Protests against Corruption in Russia"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is concerned about the reaction by Russian authorities to the peaceful protests against corruption, which took place on 26 March 2017 in numerous regions of the Russian Federation.

On 26 March 2017, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in towns and cities across Russia to join peaceful protests against corruption. Of 80 demonstrations, only 21 had formal permission from local authorities. The denial of permission for such public events is per se in violation of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, fundamental rights of citizens as guaranteed inter alia by the Constitution of the Russian Federation (Articles 29 and 31).

In the course of the peaceful demonstrations, police detained about two thousands of citizens throughout the country – including in Chelyabinsk, Kazan, Khabarovsk, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Krasnodar, Makhachkala, Moscow, Naberezhnye Chelny, Nizhny Novgorod, Pskov, Samara, St. Petersburg, Tambov, Vladivostok, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, and other cities. The authorities’ actions against the demonstrators not only were in violation of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, but often accompanied by excessive use of force and appeared to be quite random in nature, as among those arrested were people who were not a part of the protest.

Read more

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "The "Different Wars" Exhibition Has to Be Continued in Lithuania"

As a reaction to the request to close down the Exhibition “Different Wars: National School Textbooks on World War II”, which was opened to the public on 6 March 2017 at the Vilnius Town Hall, the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the Working Group “Historical Memory and Education” issued on 17 March 2017 a statement (see below).

We are grateful to the Vilnius Municipality, the Vilnius Town Hall, the European Commission, and local media for their support and appreciate much that - thanks to joint efforts - the exhibition continued its work until 31 March 2017, as originally scheduled.

'The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the Working Group “Historical Memory and Education” condemn the request by Žygimantas Pavilionis and Povilas Urbšys, MPs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, to close down the Exhibition “Different Wars: National School Textbooks on World War II” published on 16 March 2017 on the Seimas’ webpage.

The “Different Wars” Exhibition is the common product of scrupulous work by representatives of independent civil society organisations and historians from six European countries – the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. No government officials or advisors from any country were involved. The exhibition was financially supported by the European Commission and other institutions and donors.

The exhibition reveals the differences in the narration and perception of the history of WWII in modern high school textbooks. None of them is presented in the exhibition as the only one holding the ultimate truth. That is why it is absolutely incorrect to say that ‘Soviet crimes presented at the exhibition are not only not condemned but justified’, as said in the request by Žygimantas Pavilionis and Povilas Urbšys.

We are upset by the fact that the participating NGOs, some of which have to operate under difficult conditions in their countries, specifically in Russia, are subjected to ungrounded accusations in an EU member state. Furthermore, the call to close down the exhibition goes against the spirit of European values, in particular the freedom of expression. Intolerance to critical thinking, pluralism of opinions, and dissent is something one does not expect from politicians of a democratic country.

Read more

WORKING GROUPS

Study Tours: Winners 2017 Announced

An independent jury announced the winners of the second cycle of the Study Tours Programme for the Forum members for April–October 2017. The Call was organised by the Operations and Programme Department of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.

The following visits received funding from the Forum:


Baikal Green School - Seminar on Sustainable Development for Socially Orientated and Environmental Initiatives / Buriat Regional Baikal Movement, Ulan-Ude, Russia    

The Project "Baikal Green School" is aimed at discussions and educational events on sustainable development and spreading of innovations for small regional environmental initiatives in South Siberia. The programme in Ulan-Ude on 4-6 July 2017 will include a 3-day seminar for representatives of 20 non-governmental organisations, ethnocultural and environmental projects from the regions of South Siberia, inlcuding Republic of Buriatia, the Baikal Region, the Irkutsk Region, and the Altai Region. Regional exprets from member organisations of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, representatives of the EKA Movement, the "Decembrists" Association (Germany) as well as experts from the Committee of Civic Initiatives, the BMW Foundation (Germany), and Impact Hub Moscow will be conducting a series of workshops on project management, basics of social entrepreneurship, development of independent environmental initiatives.


Civic Education Workshop / Subjective Values Foundation, Budapest, Hungary

A civic education workshop in Budapest will help to strengthen the Forum's Working Group (WG) "Citizenship Education" and broaden its networking opportunities among the members. The 3-day workshop for 20 participants will be an opportunity for WG members to learn about the experience of Hungarian organisations operating in the field of civic education as well as to share experiences among workshop participants.

History of Migration / Antikomplex, Prague, Czech Republic

At the Forum's General Assembly in Helsinki (1-3 February 2017), the Working Group “Historical Memory and Education” decided that its members would like to implement a new project, which should focus on the history of forced migration and how countries dealt with it in the past and deal with it in the present. During the study tour to Berlin, the group will look for inspiration for a new project, while visiting museums, institutions, and other stakeholders working with migration.

WORKING GROUPS

Radioactive Waste with Civilian Oversight

On 28 February 2017, “Bellona” presented its new report in St. Petersburg. The report is dedicated to the experiences of European countries and Russia with the radioactive waste disposal. The report was prepared within the project “Public Participation and Civilian Oversight on Decision-Making Concerned with the Radioactive Waste Disposal in the EU and Russia” supported by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, the German-Russian Exchange, and the Rosatom State Corporation.
 
Project participants from NGOs visited several EU countries, where the problem of radioactive waste disposal is acute. These countries included Finland, Sweden, Germany, and France. The data collected was compared with those from Russia. These findings laid the foundation for the report “RAW Handling in Some EU Countries and Russia. Public Participation”. It is devoted to the public role in the decision-making on the radioactive waste disposal: how the public learns about projects; whether NGOs, local authorities, and citizens can take part in discussions; whether their views are taken into account by the state and the nuclear industry.

Read more

MEDIA

Stefan Melle (DRA / German-Russian Exchange, Berlin, Germany): 'We Hope that Europe Will Remain an Open Society with Open Borders, Good Interstate Relations, and Mutual Respect'

To watch the interview on YouTube in Russian, please follow the link

Mr Melle, thank you very much for agreeing to give an interview to the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. In March, DRA / German-Russian Exchange celebrates its 25th anniversary. Which projects and programmes can you emphasise throughout these 25 years? And what can the German-Russian Exchange be proud of?

I think that there are quite a few things to be proud of. The organisation started its operation in 1992. It was a time, when civil initiatives and organisations were appearing throughout Eastern Europe, particularly in Russia. For us, it was clear from the very beginning that supporting the growth of civil society was our main task. Thus, our range of activities was quite wide - starting with the NGO support centres in a number of Russian regions (St. Petersburg, Perm, Volgograd, Novosibirsk), which in the middle of the 1990s were transferred to Russian colleagues, who at that time were already able to do the work on their own. Since then, our focus has been on joint programmes developed in collaboration with various NGOs as well as on a cross-sectorial cooperation with educational institutions, regional and other agencies. Our topics changed as well. Initially, we focused on social aspects – programmes for homeless people, socially disadvantaged groups, etc. Our activities now also include an environmental programme, a history programme, and work with municipalities. There are new areas of our engagement - such as peacebuilding and mutual understanding, which is very important today. I think that one thing that has made a great contribution to the relations of Eastern European countries with Germany is a volunteer exchange. We invited volunteers to Western Europe, to Germany, and also sent volunteers to various Eastern European countries, primarily to Russia. We have worked with around 700 people during these years. Many of them have remained in this field. And I am talking not only about supporters but about active people, who now work in their own organisations, foundations, private companies, public service institutions or embarked upon a political career. A notable part of the German professional community working on Eastern Europe is alumni of the German-Russian Exchange programme.

Now the activities of the German-Russian Exchange include not only a volunteer exchange programme, not only Germany and Russia, but also other countries. What are the most relevant activities of your organisation at the moment?

Since the 1990s, we have been working not only with Russia. In 1998, we extended our programme range to Belarus and Ukraine. Then, step by step, cooperation with our partners in various European countries has developed. We have been engaged in quite big projects – citizens’ participation at the local level, civic education, etc. We realised the importance of our work with the renewed vigour from the beginning of 2014, when the annexation of Crimea took place and the war in the East of Ukraine broke out. Then, it became clear that it was vital to deal with the common European issues, try to restore peace and repair relations. Thus, we are now working quite a lot with Ukraine and dealing with the issues of Donbas. We are building a coalition of European organisations including Russian and Ukrainian NGOs for overcoming the war in Ukraine. There is another programme on civic education, which covers Ukraine, Georgia, and Russia and includes the topics of youth participation in civil activities and political initiatives. And there is a programme on environmental work with local civil society organisations at the city and regional level in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.

Read more

MEMBERS' VIEWS

Centre for Development of Non-Governmental Organisations (St. Petersburg, Russia): White Nights of Fundraising 2017


The "White Nights of Fundraising" Conference is taking place on 22-25 May 2017 in St. Petersburg.

The conference is going to cover the following topics:

- Ready-made solutions and tools for their creation from fundraising experts

- International experience as adjusted to the Russian realities

- Experience of fellow practitioners and specialists in related fields

- Getting to know investors, private philanthropists, and donor foundations

This is an excellent platform for networking and immersing into fundraising field. Early bird registration is open until 20 April 2017, please register here

Read more (in Russian)

CEE Bankwatch (Prague, Czech Republic): Tackling Gender Inequality at the EU's Flagship Energy Project

Adopted in the beginning of this year, the European Investment Bank’s new Strategy on Gender Equality and Women's Economic Empowerment complements the bank’s existing social policy and reflects the equality principle of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

A good place to start with applying the new gender strategy is the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

Read more
 
Various Organisations: ECtHR Proceeds with 48 Appeals Filed by Russian NGOs over "Foreign Agents" Law

The European Court of Human Rights has combined forty-eight appeals filed by sixty-one Russian non-governmental organisations over the national “foreign agents” law and has communicated them.

Among the NGOs behind the appeals are the Moscow School of Civic Education, the Kostroma Centre for Support of Civic Initiatives, the Regional Press Institute, the Freedom of Information Foundation, "Man and Law", "Golos - Volga Region", and numerous other organisations.

Read more

COMING SOON


20-21 April 2017, St. Petersburg, Russia
"State of Civil Society" Report 2017 Meeting

24 April - 12 May 2017, Münster, Germany

Exhibition "Different Wars: National School Textbooks on World War II"

15-16 May 2017, Berlin, Germany
Forum's Conference



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