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NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2014


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
75th Anniversary of the Beginning of World War II and Its Meaning Nowadays >>

TOP NEWS
General Assembly in Tallinn: Register Before 25 October, 2014 >>
Meetings and Discussions in Moscow and Warsaw >>

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Stop the Persecution of "Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg" and the Institute for Freedom of Information Development" >>
Statement "The Pressure on NGOs in Hungary Undermines the Rule of Law in the European Union" >>

FOLLOW-UP
Reaction from the Ministry of Culture, Youth Policy, and Mass Communications of the Perm Region to the Statement on the ANO "Memorial Centre of History of Political Repressions "Perm 36" >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
Golos: Statement on Election Day, Regional and Local Elections, Russia >>
MitOst: 12th International MitOst Festival >>
Netherlands Helsinki Committee: Essay Contest on Prevention of Torture >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

75th Anniversary of the Beginning of World War II and Its Meaning Nowadays

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum would like to introduce a new format for the Newsletter – each month an essay will be dedicated to a special chosen theme. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War II in September 1939, the Working Group “Historical Memory and Education” was asked to reflect on how people have been remembering these historical events in Russia and the EU countries, how they have been depicted in mass media and what it means to such a platform as CSF.

The members of the History Group come from Russia, Poland, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic, and they stressed the difference they observe in dealing with the past. Historical events are perceived in an authentic way: some events have become national victories or defeats, some others have become traumas or the subjects of proud memories, some tending to be forgotten, and others, on contrary, are discussed intensively. Collective memory is unique for each nation.


The text of the essay may be downloaded here.

TOP NEWS

General Assembly in Tallinn: Register Before 25 October, 2014

In less than two months, on 27-29 November, 2014, the 5th General Assembly (GA) of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum will take place in Tallinn.

We are grateful to those colleagues, who have applied already, and encourage further Forum members, interested NGOs, and observers to do this before the deadline - 25 October, 2014 - by using the online application form.


Regulations for the Members of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

For the "early birds", who managed to apply before 1 October, 2014, we will cover all the travel, accommodation (twin room at the SOKOS "Viru" Hotel), and catering costs. For others, we can't guarantee the financial coverage.

We ask for your understanding that we can cover costs for one representative per organisation only. The costs for the accompanying person should be borne by the applicant.

All our members will have an opportunity to bring their presentation materials to distribute at the event.

Regulations for Non-Members and Observers

NGOs - non-members of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum - and observers from the EU and Russia pay for themselves.

Sessions may be attended by the representatives of NGOs only. Observers may participate in open formats only.


The GA Programme is available online. More information on the General Assembly may be found here.

Should you have any further questions, don't hesitate to contact us at events@eu-russia-csf.org.

TOP NEWS

Meetings and Discussions in Moscow and Warsaw

First days of autumn turned out to be busy for Forum members and the Forum's Secretariat.

In mid-September 2014, Forum's Executive Director Anna Sevortian and Head of Consortium Stefan Melle visited Moscow. There they met Sven-Olov Carlsson, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Russia, Russia's Ombudswoman Ella Pamfilova, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, embassies of Estonia, France, Germany, Great Britain, and the Netherlands as well as important civil society actors - Committee of Civic Initiatives founded by Alexei Kudrin, Donors' Forum, and the "Memorial" Society. The purpose of this visit was to ensure and develop co-operation with political and civic institutions, promote the Forum's General Assembly in Tallinn, Estonia, and discuss fundraising opportunities.

On 22-24 September, 2014, Anna Sevortian and Barbara von Ow-Freytag, EU-Russia CSF Coordinator of the Contact Group with the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, went to Warsaw. It was opened by the Round Table "Problems and Prospects of Civil Society Cooperation with Russia" at the Institute of Public Affairs. It was attended by Katarzyna Batko-Tołuc (Citizens' Network Watchdog), Krzysztof Bobiński (Unia & Polska Foundation), Joanna Fomina (Polish Academy of Sciences), Grzegorz Gromadzki (independent expert), Łukasz Jasina (columnist at the “Liberal Culture Magazine”), Artur Kacprzak (Grupa Zagranica), Paweł Lickiewicz (Common Europe Foundation/Eastbook.Eu), Laurynas Vaičiūnas (College of Eastern Europe), Alicja Wancerz-Gluza (KARTA) as well as Jacek Kucharczyk (Institute of Public Affairs, IPA), while Agnieszka Łada and Łukasz Wenerski of IPA helped to make this visit happen. Anna and Barbara also met officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, allies in the NGO sector, and collegues of the the Solidarity Fund.

The next big upcoming event is the Joint Seminar of the European Economic and Social Committee and the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum "Position and Role of Civil Society in the EU and Russia". It will happen in Brussels on 7 October, 2014 with participation of Forum members from both the Russian Federation and the European Union and followed up by a session of the Forum's Advocacy Group, etc.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Stop the Persecution of "Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg" and the Institute for Freedom of Information Development"

To watch the interview with Ella Polyakova, Chairwoman of "Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg" and member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, in Russian please follow the link.
To see its text version in English, please go here.

Reacting to the latest decisions of the Russian authorities concerning non-governmental organisations, the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum again strongly urges the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation and other relevant authorities to stop crackdown on NGOs, repeal or substantially revise the law No. 121-FZ (the so called “foreign agents” law) by removing the derogatory label of “foreign agent“, and restart dialogue with independent Russian civil society organisations. Moreover, the Steering Committee expresses its indignation and extreme concern about the instances of harassment of civic organisations and activists as retaliation or punishment for their activities, their position or their distribution of information on the conflict in Ukraine which is different from the official point of view.
 
On 28 August, 2014 the official list of NGOs registered as “foreign agents” was expanded by inclusion of two further prominent NGOs from St. Petersburg and members of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum: the St. Petersburg Regional Public Human Rights Organisation “Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg” and the Institute for Freedom of Information Development Foundation. By doing that, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation used its power to include NGOs in this list, which was given to it by the amendments to the Federal Law No. 121-FZ, adopted on 4 June, 2014.

Read more

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "The Pressure on NGOs in Hungary Undermines the Rule of Law in the European Union"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses serious concern at the new moves by Hungarian authorities against local NGOs. It calls on the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to stop all political pressure on civil society institutions. We also call on European Union authorities and other international institutions to intervene against the Hungarian authorities in view of recent developments.
 
The crackdown on Hungarian NGOs demonstrates a systemic violation of fundamental rights and suppression of political opposition. It is unacceptable for non-governmental organisations in an EU member state  – Ökotárs, a partner in the Environmental Partnership Association, which is a member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, and Demnet – to be accused of receiving foreign funds for so-called oppositional activities.
 
Earlier this year, some Hungarian NGOs were put on a blacklist of “problematic civic organisations”, including Transparency International Hungary, TASZ, Roma Press Agency. Since then, NGOs have been exposed to unannounced financial inspections. Prime Minister Victor Orbán even described some NGOs as “political activists paid from abroad” trying to “influence Hungarian politics”.

Read more

FOLLOW-UP

Reaction from the Ministry of Culture, Youth Policy, and Mass Communications of the Perm Region to the Statement on the ANO "Memorial Centre of History of Political Repressions "Perm 36"

Exactly 30 days after the publication of the Statement of the Steering Committee "The Memorial Centre of History of Political Repressions "Perm 36" Should Be Preserved" and the letter to Viktor Basargyn, Governor of the Perm Region, the official answer from the Ministry of Culture, Youth Policy, and Mass Communications of the Perm Region was received by the Forum's Secretariat.

In her letter, Acting Minister Irina Yasyreva states that 'the development and activities of the Memorial complex of political repressions on the territory of the historical landmark of regional significance "Perm 36" in the Village of Kuchino of the Chusovoi District fully expensed by the Government of the Perm Region.' The main reason for the dismissal of Tatyana Kursina, Executive Director of the NGO and former Director of the State Museum "Perm 36", is seen in 'recurring <...> financial violations by associates of the NGO "Perm 36".' Another reason is connected to negligence of duties by the former management, too, as long as 'no item of the NGO "Perm 36" has been included on the list of the Museum Fund of the Russian Federation.'

This view picture described by the Acting Minister might be far from reality. Several trials against the former management are on-going, while the Administration of the Governor of the Perm Region has been delaying the signing of the agreement with the NGO. The infamous NTV Channel kept  reporting on the "Perm 36" complex in the context of a commemoration site for supporters of Stepan Bandera, whose "fascist followers" fight in Eastern Ukraine against local peaceful population. The latest target of the NTV crew was Tatiana Margolina, Commissioner for Human Rights in the Perm Region.

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum will report on the development of the situation.

MEMBERS' VIEWS

Golos: Statement on Election Day, Regional and Local Elections, Russia

On 14 September, Golos conducted civic monitoring of the procedures associated with voting, the counting of votes and the tabulation of election results in the higher-level election commissions in 21 of the 83 (with Crimea: 85) subjects of the Federation. This election observation was carried out in the krais Altai, Krasnodar and Stavropol, in the oblasts Astrakhan, Volgograd, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Irkutsk, Kirov, Kurgan, Lipetsk, Nizhniy Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Oryol, Samara, Tver, Tchelyabinsk and in Moscow Oblast, in the Altai Republic and the Bashkortostan Republic and in the City of Moscow. Trained long-term observers, correspondents of the newspaper Grashdanskiy Golos and activists conducted the observation.

The fact that the outcome of the elections was predictable and that no real competition was involved resulted in reduced interest among voters. Voter turnout in most regions came is at between fifteen and thirty per cent.

 

Read more

 

MitOst: 12th International MitOst Festival

 

For the 12th time, MitOst invites its members and everyone interested in cultural and civil society exchange in Europe and its neighboring countries to the International MitOst Festival. The festival will take place on 1 - 5 October 2014 in Novi Sad, Serbia.

Around 200 MitOst members and guests engage in dialogue with the city and its inhabitants. They present their volunteer projects, implement campaigns and mini projects, organize workshops and establish connections. It provides much space for self-designed, vivid, intercultural cooperation. A cultural program, an integral part of the festival, with film screenings, exhibitions, discussions, lectures, guided tours and concerts brings the MitOst spirit to the city and at the same time brings together MitOst members, partner organizations and local people.

Read more (in German)
 

Netherlands Helsinki Committee: Essay Contest on Prevention of Torture

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee launches an essay contest on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). The prize winners will be announced at a conference on the prevention of torture and other forms of ill-treatment in Europe, which is being organized by the NHC. The conference will take place in The Hague in January 2015.

The jury will be composed of CPT representatives and prominent academics in the field. The author of the winning essay will be announced during the conference and will receive a prize of € 1,000.

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