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NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 2016


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Let's Celebrate Together! Anniversary Address by Anna Sevortian >>

TOP NEWS

Greetings from All Over Europe >>
Wishes from Our Members >>
Open Call Mechanism: From Krasnoyarsk to Rome >>
Call for Applications: "Europe Lab" Goes Croatia >>

STEERING COMMITTEE
Statement "New Forms of Crackdown on NGOs Undermine the Existence of Russia's Third Sector" >>
Statement "Summoning Employees of Nonprofit Organisations to Security Agencies for "Questioning" Has No Basis in the Law" >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
Amnesty International: Campaign in Support of Oleg Sentsov at the "Berlinale" Film Festival >>
Civic Assistance Committee: City Property Department Employees Broke Down Children's Centre Doors >>
Legambiente: Mall'aria di Città - The 2016 Report on Air and Acoustic Pollution Is Out >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Let's Celebrate Together! Anniversary Address by Anna Sevortian

Dear colleagues, / Dear subscribers,

On
29 March 2016, we will celebrate the first big anniversary of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, a bottom-up initiative and a network of non-governmental organisations from 18 EU countries and Russia.

Looking back at our 5-year history, I see one very important thing that has been holding us - currently 156 thematically diverse NGOs - together and letting us work for the benefit of our societies. This thing is trust, something invaluable nowadays. While political and economic relations between Russia and the European Union are put on hold, cooperation of civil societies has even intensified. People-to-people contacts should persist regardless of other circumstances - and this is the only way for us to go.

In this newsletter edition, we quote only few greetings sent to the Forum by our members and the people, who were standing at its origins, - Steering Committee members, representatives of founding organisations, faithful supporters, - but also our colleagues, who joined the Forum only some months ago.

We encourage all of you to share your impressions of the Forum with us, organise events connected to Forum topics in your countries and cities, and - should you happen to be in Berlin at that time - join us for a reception on
17 March 2016, 7pm, at Schankhalle Pfefferberg (2nd Floor, 176, Schönhauser Allee, 10119 Berlin)

Yet, while contemplating this important day for the Forum, we cannot ignore recent developments in the civil society situation in Russia. These are new restrictions posed by the "foreign agents" legislation draft amendments and worrying practices of inviting representatives of human rights NGOs for "questioning" by the security agencies. We publish the Steering Committee position about these in this issue and call for putting an end to persecution of civic activists.

Good news is the announcement of the winners of the Open Call Mechanism. Eight projects won support through OCM and will be implemented by partnerships of members, covering an impressive territory - from Krasnoyarsk to Rome, from Budapest to Yoshkar-Ola. Forum is also proud to have initiated a Call for Applications for the 2nd edition of the Forum for Young Professionals "Europe Lab" in July 2016, this time the meeting point is Croatia (Zagreb and Vukovar).

For a human being and for an organisation alike, five years can be seen as an age of reason, but more often it is seen as a beginning of a life journey. Let us celebrate this moment - with new cooperation ideas, fruitful discussions, and encouraging actions - throughout this year and contribute to building up a common civil society space from Madrid to Vladivostok, where our members come from, and beyond.


Yours Sincerely,
Anna Sevortian
Executive Director
EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

TOP NEWS

Greetings from All Over Europe

Pavel Antonov, Co-Founder and Executive Editor at the BlueLink Foundation (Sofia, Bulgaria):

My organisation joined the Forum a couple of months ago. And I am happy to have found such a great network of active organisations and like-minded people. I even ask myself how come that we haven't known about this Forum for almost five years!

Mikhail Fedotov, Chairperson of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights (Moscow, Russia):


I attended virtually all the General Assemblies and can see a certain progress in the Forum's work. As long as Russia is a part of Europe, we have to move towards a common economic, legal but also civic space - and my vision of the future is not a EU-Russia Civil Society Forum but an All-European Civil Society Forum.  

Stefan Melle, Director at the "German-Russian Exchange" (Berlin, Germany):


I believe that a great achievement of the Forum in this first five years is that it became visible in Europe - both on the national and the international level - not only in the third sector but also in the fields of politics, culture, or education. One of the initial Forum goals was to be heard by authorities and governments. And it seems to me that this voice of an all-European civil society is heard already, and I wish that it will be getting stronger in the next five years.

Karel Schwarzenberg, Honorary Chairman of the TOP 09 Party, former Minister of Foreign Affairs (Prague, Czech Republic):


In Europe, we have always neglected further cooperation with the Russian civil society, which made a remarkable progress in the course of the last 25 years. However, European leaders are still more interested in dealing with those in power than with those who struggle for the rule of law as well as for the society on the ground. It is, therefore, necessary to discuss those issues, and I would like to thank you for your truly dedicated efforts.

Natalia Taubina, Director at the Public Verdict Foundation, member of the Forum's Steering Committee (Moscow, Russia)


As a human rights defender, I really like the HR Agents Project implemented by the Working Group "Human Rights and the Rule of Law". In short videos, representatives of human rights organisations explain to the public what their work is about and by that overcome existing prejudices in the society. Certainly, such educational projects are vital for Russia, where the field has been marginalised, but it also can be transferred to other countries. And I hope that this important work will be also continued in the future.

Elena Topoleva-Soldunova, Director at the Agency for Social Information (Moscow, Russia):

An undoubtful achievement of the Forum is that it succeeds in bringing together NGO people from different fields of work. Even within one country, namely, Russia, it is always a challenge to have representatives of organisations working with human rights, social issues, or migration at one table. But the Forum has been doing it - and doing it on an international level. My wish for the next years is to involve more people from the authorities and business in a dialogue with the civil society actors. Certainly, they shouldn't replace functions of each other, but a more constructive approach has to be aimed.

Vygaudas Ušackas, Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to the Russian Federation


It is our hope and wish that the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum will continue developing its outreach activities with all relevant stakeholders and foster solidarity and cooperation among civil society actors. In view of the current difficulties in the EU-Russia relations, it is all the more important that our civil societies continue to dialogue and cooperate on issues of common concern and interest. Civic engagement on shared values and people-to-people contacts shall remain important components of our relations as they are instrumental for the mutual understanding of our societies.

Łukasz Wenerski, Analyst and Project Coordinator at the Institute of Public Affairs, member of the Forum's Steering Committee (Warsaw, Poland):

I am personally impressed of the diversity of the topics the Forum has been dealing with - human rights, environmental issues, democratic structures... And we are very fast in reacting to evolving challenges our societies are facing, like it is the case with the refugee crisis. This is what I like the most about the Forum.

TOP NEWS

Wishes from Our Members

Success and good achievements!
BELLONA (St. Petersburg, Russia)


Congratulations on your accomplishments in bringing civil societies in Russia and the EU together. We wish you a further dynamic growth of this outstanding initiative that the East and the West of Europe would draw even closer. 

Centre for International Relations (Warsaw, Poland)


We wish you a professional cooperation, optimism, good luck, solidarity actions, success, power, and good achievements.

Centre of Social and Educational Initiatives (Izhevsk, Russia)


Together for the rights!
Free Coast (Pskov, Russia)


Success and prosperity!
Future for Everyone (Moscow, Russia)

Good job and good progress!
Healthy Society
(Vladikavkaz, Russia)

All the best! Be healthy and joyful!
INTERRA (Krasnoyarsk, Russia)

Success! Prosperity! Good achievements!
Man and Law (Yoshkar-Ola, Russia)


Keep on building bridges between Russia and the EU.
Memorial Italy (Milan, Italy)


A great ship asks deep waters. We wish new horizons to the citizens' dialogue.
Civil Consent (Novosibirsk, Russia)


These were five years of creativity, inspiration, learning, and making friends. We are proud to be a part of it. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Sakharov Centre (Moscow, Russia)


It's great to work with you. Wish you all the best!
League of Womens' Voters of the Kaliningrad Region (Kaliningrad, Russia)

TOP NEWS

Open Call Mechanism: From Krasnoyarsk to Rome

In February 2016, an independent jury announced the results of the selection of projects by Forum member organisations and its partners within the Open Call Mechanism procedure.

Out of 14 proposals, eight were selected for further implementation in 2016-2018 with budgets ranging from 14 to 30 thousand euros. The geographical outreach of the projects is quite impressive - with locations from Krasnoyarsk to Rome and from Budapest to Yoshkar-Ola. 

The projects will be dealing with various thematic areas - protection of fundamental rights in prison in the EU and Russia (lead organisation - "Antigone", Rome); exhibition on differences in narration and perception in national school textbooks to be displayed in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia (Antikomplex, Prague); civilian oversight on radioactive waste disposal in Russia and the EU (BELLONA, St. Petersburg); space for interaction between schools and NGOs (INTERRA, Krasnoyarsk); improvement of skills and knowledge of investigators in commercial projects with a transborder corruption component (Netherlands Helsinki Committee, The Hague); creating comics on social topics by orphans in Budapest and St. Petersburg (Szubjektiv, Budapest); highlighting the topic of migration and related actions in the Forum's work (UNITED for Intercultural Action, Amsterdam); enhancing the election observation procedures by young professionals (Polish Forum of Young Diplomats, Warsaw).

A workshop on project management skills for the teams of selected projects will take place on 16 March 2016 in Berlin. The first results of their implementation will be presented at the 7th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum on 1-3 February 2017 in Helsinki, Finland. 

TOP NEWS

Call for Applications: "Europe Lab" Goes Croatia

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 2nd edition of the "Europe Lab" Forum, a successor format of the "Pilorama Lab" Project held at the Memorial Centre of the History of Political Repressions "Perm 36" (Russia).

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 networks, and encourage common projects of young professionals in Europe in several areas.

The working language of the Forum is English.

“Europe Lab” will take place on 21–24 July 2016 in Croatia – Zagreb and Vukovar – with an excursion to the local Memorial Centre of the Homeland War, which keeps memory of all the victims of the Homeland War in former Yugoslavia (1991-1995) and of the Battle of Vukovar (1991) – as a place of mourning and warning for future generations not to repeat fatal faults and atrocities of the past.

The programme of “Europe Lab” 2016 includes four workshops:

•    Wars After 1989 – Is There a Chance for Reconciliation?
•    Brave New Media – A Jilted Generation
•    Refugees (Un)Welcome – Caught in a Trafficking Jam
•    Social Entrepreneurship – Rooted in Community

Each workshop will be curated by a coordinator.

The best common projects, whose ideas were elaborated during the workshops, will be granted. The winners will receive advice from prominent experts in their area as well as coordinators and speakers. The results will be presented at the 7th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum on 1-3 February 2017 in Helsinki, Finland.

Finally, “Europe Lab” graduates are invited to join the permanent 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 2016 here.
 
Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us via e-mail.

See you in Croatia!


Forum for Young Professionals “Europe Lab” is organised by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in cooperation with the "Documenta" Centre for Dealing with the Past and the Memorial Centre of the Homeland War as well as supported by the European Commission and the Oak Foundation.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "New Forms of Crackdown on NGOs Undermine the Existence of Russia's Third Sector"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses its profound concern and indignation over the rapidly mounting pressure on Russia's non-governmental sector over the past few weeks and urges the Russian authorities to stop their crackdown on NGOs and civil society actors, radically revise the current legislation, and abandon all plans to tighten the “foreign agents” law even further.

The situation of NGOs in Russia, already weakened by the enforcement of the repressive 2012 "foreign agents and 2015 "undesirable organisations" laws, has substantially worsened since the beginning of 2016.

On 14 January 2016, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture, established a few months ago to replace the Committee Against Torture – a member of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum – closed due to government's pressure, was involuntarily listed as a "foreign agent" by the Russian Ministry of Justice – despite the fact that the organisation has neither engaged in political activity nor received foreign funding, i.e. clearly does not meet the criteria for including it in the "foreign agents" register. However, the Russian authorities used the fact that the Committee had accepted donations from Russian citizens receiving salaries from other organisations, including those supported by foreign funding, and a broad interpretation of “political activity” as formal grounds to list the Committee as a “foreign agent.” For the first time ever, the Russian Ministry of Justice applied this interpretation of the law, which had already come under sharp criticism from Russian and international experts and organisations.

Read more

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Summoning Employees of Nonprofit Organisations to Security Agencies for "Questioning" Has No Basis in the Law"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses its profound concern and indignation over the reports that the leaders of the “Citizens’ Watch”, a highly respected Russian human rights NGO and a Forum’s member, were summoned to the Federal Security Service (FSB) for questioning. 

On the evening of 19 February 2016, an FSB officer visited the office of the “Citizens' Watch” in St. Petersburg and handed notices to Elena Shakhova, Chair of the organisation, and Maria Razumovskaya, Deputy Chair, requiring them to come to the FSB for questioning. While the notices did not mention the reason, there are substantial grounds for believing that the would-be questioning is connected with the NGO's human rights activities and its listing in the "foreign agents" register.

A few days before the incident, on 14 February 2016, two FSB officers accompanied by a policeman visited Maria Razumovskaya in her home and attempted to interview her, as they said, about the activities of the “Citizens' Watch” in connection with its listing in the "foreign agents" register. Razumovskaya then refused to speak to them informally, advising them that they should serve her  official summons. A few days later, the story continued when the NGO's leaders were officially called to the FSB for questioning.

Read more

MEMBERS' VIEWS

Amnesty International: Campaign in Support of Oleg Sentsov at the "Berlinale" Film Festival

 

On 14 February 2016, a campaign in support of the Ukrainian filmmaker and political prisoner Oleg Sentsov was held at the "Berlinale" International Film Festival in Berlin. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Russia.

According to Deutsche Welle, the protest campaign took place at the Sony Centre in Berlin just before the premiere of the film “Mariupolis” by the Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius.

The famous film stars Meret Becker and Katja Riemann participated in the campaign, which was organised by the German Section of Amnesty International as well as the German and the European Film Academies.

Read more

 

Civic Assistance Committee: City Property Department Employees Broke Down Children's Centre Doors

On Thursday, 18 February 2016, employees of the City Property Department broke down the door of the Centre for Adaptation and Learning of Refugee Children of the Civic Assistance Committee at Dolgorukovskaya Street (Moscow), changed locks and set up their own alarm system. Civic Assistance Committee considers Department’s actions unauthorised and intends to fight for its rights.

Read more

 

Legambiente: Mall'aria di Città - The 2016 Report on Air and Acoustic Pollution Is Out

It has been indeed a polluted year for Italy, no doubt about that as the data in the new report on air and acoustic levels shows. But just how bad 2015 was for the health of citizens living in towns full of cars (65 cars for 100 person on average) and therefore traffic?

Read more
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