Russian Asylum System in 2014-2015 >>


"Pilorama" Has Been Going On: "Europe Lab" in Lithuania >>
New Forum Strategy Endorsed >>

Second Joint Meeting with the EESC in Brussels >>
Prospects for NGO Work in Russia Discussed at the French Embassy in Moscow >>

Report "Lack of Transparency and Indicators of Transborder Corruption in Investment Projects in Russia" >>


Tereza Vávrová (Antikomplex, Czech Republic): 'We Have to Deal with Skeletons in Our Closets to Be Able to Build Up an Open Society' >>

Youth Centre for Consultancy and Training Excluded from the List of "Foreign Agents" >>
Robert Bosch Stiftung and MitOst Association: Call fo Applications - New Edition of the "Actors of Urban Change" Programme >>
Romanian Centre for European Policies: EaP PLUS - A New Association Package for Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine >>


Russian Asylum System in 2014-2015

Svetlana Gannushkina, Chairperson at the Committee "Civic Assistance to Refugees and Asylum Seekers" (Moscow, Russia), reflects on recent trends in the Russian asylum system:

Russia adopted first laws for protection of refugees in 1993. However, these laws (a law on refugees and a law on forcibly displaced persons) were rather declarations of intention. Later on, the Federal Migration Service (FMS) was established, and Russia joined the 1951 Refugee Convention by the United Nations. The law acquired a more detailed description, but it did not oblige the state to assist refugees. It was still not only unclear, how the state would grant the refugee status, but also how it would protect a person, who already obtained this status. Refugees often received temporal shelter for one year. However, they received no social benefits. Still, even that status was granted very reluctantly.

In the recent years, the nature of asylum seekers has changed. In 2011-2013, the main group, which was willing to get an asylum in Russia, was formed by citizens of Syria. Before 2014, the UNHCR had upheld a position formulated in 2012 that citizens of Syria might not be sent back to their homeland due to an on-going war. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the FMS repeatedly expressed their support for this position. Nevertheless, FMS local departments did not follow this recommendation: Syrians rarely were granted an asylum, many of them were deported to Turkey or even back to Syria. By the end of 2013, only 1,162 Syrian nationals had been granted an asylum in Russia. In 2014, the UNHCR issued a new document, which prescribed that not only deportation back to Syria was unacceptable but also deportation to the neighbouring countries, as long as Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey had already received around 2 million Syrian nationals. In 2014, 3,500 Syrians applied for an asylum status in Russia, but only 1 thousand got this. By the end of 2014, 2,021 persons had had a temporary shelter. Needless to say that no one was granted a refugee status.

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"Pilorama" Has Been Going On: "Europe Lab" in Lithuania

On 23-26 July 2015, the “Europe Lab” Forum in Lithuania brought together around 80 young professionals aged between 25 and 35 from Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, and other countries.

The opening of the Forum took place on 23 July in Vilnius, but its major events were held at the Raseiniai Local History Museum – a symbolic site for historical memory in Europe: The museum building used to serve for detention of political prisoners in 1932-1952. By that, the succession format of the Forum was underlined: In 2012, a similar event took place at the “Perm-36” Museum (Russia).

’”Europe Lab” turned out to be a dignified continuation of the International Civil Forum ”Pilorama” initiated and carried out by the NGO ”Perm-36” since 2005 and discontinued by the authorities in 2013,’ says Tatiana Kursina, guest of honour at the Forum, Executive Director at the NGO “Perm-36”. ‘For my colleagues and me, that was a positive surprise to see the ”History of a Camp” Exhibition in Raseiniai. This exposition was created at “Perm-36” as early as in 2013, but last year, after an infamous report on the Russian NTV Channel, the new management of the museum shut down the exhibition. That was a chilling feeling to see the exhibition, which fell victim to repressions in our motherland, here.’

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New Forum Strategy Endorsed

On 21 July 2015, the members of the Election Committee - Ralph du Long (UNITED for Intercultural Action, Member in the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Netherlands), Igor Makarenko (Foundation "Civil Consent", Novosibirsk, Russia), and Leszek Pochroń-Frankowski (Polish Forum of Young Diplomats, Poland) - officially announced the voting results for the Forum's strategy 2015-2018.

The Election Committee received 75 ballots from the Forum members in total, ie a minimal requirement of 50 per cent of all the members (as of today, the Forum counts 147 members) for a legitimate vote has been fulfilled. The majority of the Forum members - 67 organisations - endorsed the strategy, 3 members rejected it, and 5 members abstained. As a result, the Forum's strategy for 2015-2018 has been endorsed by the majority of votes.

Now the task of the Strategy Group is to prepare a road map for the strategy implementation taking into account comments and suggestions expressed by Forum members. The road map is due to be presented at the 6th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum on 7-9 December 2015 in Budapest, Hungary.


Second Joint Meeting with the EESC in Brussels

On 30 June 2015, the Joint Meeting between the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the EU-Russia Civil Scoiety Forum took place in Brussels. This was the follow-up meeting after the first event had taken place here on 7 October 2014. 

The topic was declated as “Civil Society’s Potential to Influence Relations between Russia and the EU”. The paricipants discussed such issues as recent developments in the EU-Russia relations and changes in the position of the Russian civil society under current political restricitons; transborder corruption in investment projects in Russia (see below); socioeconomic and labour rights in today's Russia and the impact of EU policies on those.

Apart from the main programme, Forum members also used the opportunity to separately talk to EU officials and institutions.

At the end of the meeting, several joint conclusions were presented. In particular, the participants on both sides agreed on continuation of the dialogue with the Russian civil society and people-to-people contacts; pointed out dissatisfaction with deterioration of situation with fundamental rights and freedoms in the country and insisted on abolishment of so-called laws on "foreign agents" and "undesirable organisations"; mentioned visa facilitation and better access to asylum in the EU countries as one of the ways for assisting people in need from Russia; promised to address issues of common interest in the future - such as migration, far-right nationalism, or fight against corruption and extremism. The entire text of these joint conclusions may be downloaded here.


Prospects for NGO Work in Russia Discussed at the French Embassy in Moscow

Photo by the Embassy of France in the Russian Federation
On 25 June 2015, the NGO Forum "Self-Financing, Self-Education, and Common Work: Prospects for Work of Non-Governmental Organisations in Russia" was held at the Embassy of France in Moscow. The meeting gathered more than 100 NGO representatives operating in various fields and Russian regions as well as their French colleagues.

The Forum was opened by Jean-Maurice Ripert, Ambassador of France to the Russian Federation. Michel Forst, Secretary General of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, and Jean-Jacques Bossou, Commissioner for Civil Society at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reported on the role of non-governmental organisations in cooperation with international and national institutions.

Bénédicte Hermelin, Director at the Coordination Sud Association, devoted her speech to opportunities for diversification of NGO activities, whereas her colleagues Laurent Delcayrou and Perrine Duroyaume from the F3E Network shared their experiences of how evaluation of projects and programmes enabled improvement of effectiveness of efforts by the civil society. Magda Toma from the Secretariat of the International Forum of National NGO Platforms reported on opportunities of support through the NGO networks, whereas Anna Sevortian, Executive Director at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, described Forum's experiences and current challenges for civil societies in Russia and the EU.

'In the course of the meeting, cooperation opportunities for Russian and French NGOs were reiterated a couple of times,' so was a comment from the Embassy of France in Moscow. 'One of them is youth exchanges, for instance, within the European Voluntary Service or the French Civil Service. By using this mechanism, Russian NGOs are able to host French volunteers for some months - and vice-versa.'

Besides, the Embassy of France in the Russian Federation reconfirmed its intention to go on with searching for best cooperation formats in this field: The 2nd Forum for non-governmental organisations "Civic Participation and Inclusion in the NGO Work" will take place on 9-10 November 2015.

'I rarely observe a possibility for interaction between Russian and French NGOs. That's why I consider this initiative useful and prospective,' tells Natalia Zabrodotskaya, Project Coordinator at the EU Delegation to the Russian Federation. 'We are happy that this seminar enabled interaction between the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and French NGOs. I do hope this is a start of a fruitful friendship.'


Report "Lack of Transparency and Indicators of Transborder Corruption in Investment Projects in Russia"

At the Second Joint Meeting with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 30 June 2015 in Brussels (see above), members of the Fighting Transborder Corruption Expert Group presented their report "Lack of Transparency and Indicators of Transborder Corruption in Investment Projects in Russia".

The report is focused on two case studies - building of an oil, petrochemical, and LNG terminal on the Taman Peninsula in the Krasnodar Region and construction of a nickel mining plant on the Khopior River in the Voronezh Region. Both projects funded by international investors have devastating consequences for environment and simultaneously bring a low profit to investors revealing classic corruption schemes. Besides, activists, who were trying to oppose both projects, received threats and have been persecuted.

The report deals with corruption backgrounds of both construction works as well as provides a deeper insight into transborder corruption practices in investment projects in Russia. At the end of the publication, overall indicators for transborder corruption are given. The full text of the report may be downloaded here.


Tereza Vávrová (Antikomplex, Czech Republic): 'We Have to Deal with Skeletons in Our Closets to Be Able to Build Up an Open Society'

To watch the interview please follow the link

You are Director at the NGO “Antikomplex” from the Czech Republic mostly dealing with the memory issues between Germany and the Czech Republic. How far is this work of culture of remembrance advanced in the Czech Republic, namely in respect to the Sudetes Region - one of the major topics for “Antikompex” – as well as the Nazi occupation and the Beneš decrees? 

“Antikomplex” was founded in 1998 and has been dealing with a trauma evolving in the Czech society. It was a trauma of the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from the Czech Republic, which took place right after the World War II and at the beginning of the so-called “wild explosion”, namely the atrocities of the German speaking population. Three million of Germans were expelled from the Czech lands. It creates a trauma in the society in a way that people know and feel a bit guilty for this because innocent people were expelled from their homes. On the other hand, people said we had the right for that because of the World War II and it was Germany, which had gone to the war. I think this problem damaged the relationship between the Czech Republic and Germany. People were not talking to each other and had fear. The topic was also widely used by politicians. It is political instrumentalisation, which somehow influenced many outcomes of the elections, cross-border cooperation, mutual relationship between societies. We thought it would be good to establish an organization, which would assist in dealing with this kind of wounds, to overcome them, to deal with the past. Therefore, we started activities - such as exhibitions or public debates - and opened this question for the Czech society. I would say the young generation is already open to it. They understand what happened, they know that it was kind of atrocity, that there was no right to do this. On the other hand, they certainly understand that it was almost an unbearable idea for the Czech people with their experiences that they would have had the same status with a group, which was so tightly connected to the perpetrator. I think to open these conflicting memories to the public and to show to them the national narrative, the dominant one we live in, is highly recommendable. It can heal the society. It can give you a feedback that we are perhaps not as democratic as we thought. Hence, we should work at our tolerance and openness towards the neighboring country.

You also work with the older generations and local communities. How would you describe this work? How is it progressing?

Of course, the work with the older generations is always more difficult because the “Antikomplex” team is quite young. We may be suspicious towards older people, because they had their own experiences. We organise events with Germans and Czechs simultaneously. They talk to each other, and they do not need us as an intermediary. I think that this is the most fruitful approach: If they talk, they see each other - and the past suddenly acquires a face in their former neighbours, what can help to reconcile and to think about the past in a different way.

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Youth Centre for Consultancy and Training Excluded from the List of "Foreign Agents"

The Russian Ministry of Justice has not reimbursed the Volgograd Youth Centre for Consultancy and Training the fine earlier collected for its work without getting registered as a "foreign agent" but excluded the centre from the register, said Temur Kobaliya, the founder of the Centre.


Robert Bosch Stiftung and MitOst Association: Call for Applications - New Edition of the "Actors of Urban Change" Programme

Until 13 September 2015, the Call for Applications for the new edition of the "Actors of Urban Change" Programme has been open. The programme is aimed at achievement of sustainable and participatory urban development through cultural activities. Actors from the cultural scene, administration, and the private sector are given an opportunity to strengthen their competencies in cross-sector collaboration. Through local projects, process-related consulting, and Europe-wide exchange, the programme participants put their skills into practice. The programme is implemented by the Robert Bosch Stiftung in cooperation with the MitOst Association.

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Romanian Centre for European Policies: EaP PLUS - A New Association Package for Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine

Two European think tanks - Institute for European Politics (Germany) and the Romanian Centre for European Policies (Romania) - join forces to propose ”Elements for an Eastern Partnership Plus: A New Association Package for Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine”.

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