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NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 2014


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Is It Possible to Imagine Russia without Political Prisoners? >>

TOP NEWS
General Assembly in Tallinn: The Final Countdown >>
Trip to Brussels. A Review >>

STEERING COMMITTEE

Appeal to the European Commission on Policies Relating to Civil Society in Russia and in the European Union >>
Statement "The Lawsuit by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to Shut Down Russian "Memorial" Society Is Unlawful and Unconstitutional" >>

MEDIA
Interview with Ralph du Long, Spokesman at the UNITED for Intercultural Action >>
New Media Tools - Advocacy Bulletin and EU-Russia CSF Daily >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
Transparency International: Election of Elena Panfilova as Vice Chair of the Board >>
Agency for Social Information: 20th Anniversary and Further 20 Years to Follow >>
FRIDE: Policy Brief "The EU and Its Partners on Development: How Strategic on the Ground?" >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Is It Possible to Imagine Russia without Political Prisoners?

Special for the October edition of the newsletter, representatives of the Working Group "Human Rights and the Rule of Law" prepared an essay marking the 40th Anniversary of the Day of Political Prisoners in the USSR on 30 October 2014.

Please note that the contents of the essay are sole responsibility of the authors and don't necessarily reflect the views of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum as a whole:

There have always been political prisoners in Russia because the regime in the country has never been liberal enough. Political repressions of varying scale and type are connected directly to the lack of the rule of law, disregard to personal freedoms, obsession with collective values, mythologising of special Russian spirituality, and a special path for the Russian people. Thus, elimination of one of these factors will be useless to society, whose collective memory is so limited that, according to numerous public statements, the whole 20th century comes down to victory in the World War II. Only thoughtful understanding of historical events, including the most shameful ones, can give this country a new impulse for development. But instead, we keep playing the favourite game of totalitarian societies i.e. re-writing history: public speeches about the  “controversial” role of Stalin, appeals to “stop black-washing the entire Soviet period”, bringing back the anthem of the failed state, discussions about the re-erection of the monument to Dzerzhinsky, etc. Instead of being considered as extravagant initiatives, these appeals are treated as logical steps under new political circumstances.


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TOP NEWS

General Assembly in Tallinn: The Final Countdown

On 25 October 2014, the application campaign for the 5th General Assembly (GA) of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum finished. The Secretariat received more than 150 applications and unfortunately was not in the position to invite all those who wished to come. The final list of attendants will be available online soon.

This year, the General Assembly will take place on 27-29 November 2014 in Tallinn, Estonia. It will be opened by the President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves. The participants will be greeted by Mikhail Fedotov, Head of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, and Vygaudas Ušackas, Head of the EU Delegation to the Russian Federation.

The open formats will include the Plenary Session "EU and Russia - Together or Apart?" on 27 November and the Panel Discussion "Solidarity and Civil Society" on 28 November. Besides this, two formats are offered in the run-up of the GA's main programme on 26 November already - parallel workshops by Forum members, in particular "404 Error - Why Protecting Online Freedoms Is Everyone's Business" by IREX Europe, and Informal discussion "EU-Russia-Ukraine: How to Break a Deadlock?".

The full version of the Programme is available here. More information on the General Assembly may be found here.

We look forward to seeing many of you soon in Tallinn and discuss the current agenda in the EU-Russia relations as well as - with our members – the Forum's internal and external development and strategy.

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

TOP NEWS

Trip to Brussels. A Review

On 7 October 2014, representatives of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) met with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) to discuss opportunities for civil society actors in the EU and Russia to have a positive impact on developments on the local and state level. The seminar “Position and Role of Civil Society in the EU and Russia” was held at the EESC headquarters in Brussels.

‘That was the first joint event of the Forum with the European Economic and Social Committee,‘ said Anna Sevortian, Executive Director at the EU-Russia CSF. ‘The major aim was therefore to define possible directions for the future cooperation in such fields as monitoring role of civil society, strengthening relations between the EU and Russian civil society as well as environmentally and socially responsible policies.’

The visit to Brussels was also connected with the first session of the Forum’s Advocacy Group, added Stefan Melle, Head of the CSF Consortium. A member of the Consortium – the Netherlands Helsinki Committee – is the Group Coordinator, which also co-organised the event at the EESC. On this occasion, the first edition of the Policy and Advocacy Bulletin was prepared. According to Stefan Melle, further meetings in Brussels were devoted to discussions with different units of the European Commission, Members of the European Parliament, and further potential partners.

The joint seminar was opened by José Maria Zufiaur, President of the External Relation Section at the EESC, and Vincent Degert, Director for Russia at the European External Action Service (EEAS). The Forum's delegation included Anna Sevortian, Executive Director, Stefan Melle, Head of Consortium, as well as CSF members - the Netherlands Helsinki Committee (The Hague), “Bellona” (St. Petersburg), the Institute of Public Affairs (Warsaw), Agency for Social Information (Moscow), and others.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Appeal to the EU Commission on Policies Relating to Civil Society in Russia and in the European Union 

Your Excellency Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, President-elect of the European Commission,

Dear Members of the European Commission,

 

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum congratulates you on your appointment as members of the European Commission. On this occasion, we want to address you on several issues of great relevance to civil society in Russia and in the European Union and ask for a number of concrete steps. For ease of reference, our conclusions and proposals are included in separate sentences in italic letters.

Developing Europe as a continent, in which the European Union and Russia peacefully and productively cooperate and both adhere to jointly agreed standards, should have a central place in the policies of the European Union. We refer in particular to standards developed by the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Human rights and rule of law need great attention in the internal policies of the European Union as well as in its relations with Russia.

More generally, tremendous efforts are needed to move Europe and the world towards a just and sustainable economic, social, and environmental model.

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STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "The Lawsuit by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to Shut Down Russian "Memorial" Society Is Unlawful and Unconstitutional"

The Working Group “Historical Memory and Education” and the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum urge the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to recall its lawsuit, submitted to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, to close the Russian Historical, Educational, Charity and Human Rights Society “Memorial” as well as to stop the crackdown on its member organisations. If the Ministry does not recall its lawsuit and the Supreme Court will review the case, we expect the Supreme Court to act in full accordance with the rule of law, norms of the Russian Constitution and the international law. 

Registered in 1992, the Russian Society “Memorial” is one of Russia's oldest and most prominent human rights and research organisations. With a broad spectrum of activities ranging from work on historical memory, culture of remembrance, gathering of and verifying information on victims of political repression, and investigations of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and other crimes in the conflict regions nowadays, it is one of the few organisations which for many years has advocated for historical truth in Russia and support for political prisoners.

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MEDIA

Interview with Ralph du Long, Spokesman at the UNITED for Intercultural Action

To watch the interview please follow the link

EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF): What are the reasons for spreading of far-right movements in the EU and Russia and how can these tendencies be discontinued?

Ralph du Long: I think there are a number of reasons. First of all, societies are changing and populations are changing. In the EU, for example, there’s a freedom of movement, of people – it’s amongst the basic freedoms of the EU, but it also means that societies are affected by this. It has an influence on societies. Not only for the EU is this true, but it’s also true for other countries in Europe - and for Russia.

Then, a second one is, after 2001, there has been a widening gap between Islamic populations and other groups, other populations in the EU, and I guess, I’m afraid, not enough was done to ensure that these gaps were being bridged. Then we have the issue of asylum seekers and refugees. There’s still high number of them trying to enter Europe. For many of them, Greece and Italy are the first points of entry. For Greece especially, it is a big problem, the number of refugees combined with the crisis combined with the EU that has looked away for far too long, combined with a lack of good policies in Greece itself. It has really led to big problems.

And then, the last one, I would say is that mainstream parties did not come up with solutions or were not willing to discuss any of the problems I mentioned before. Far-right parties and racist parties, populist parties, thus, were able to set the political agenda - not for the good but in a very negative way. But they got a lot of support for it being the ones – seemingly the only ones – willing to address these problems. Again, this is not only in the EU, but we see this in other European countries and Russia as well. And I think, to discontinue this trend, we’ll need first of all that mainstream political parties and political institutions across Europe will pick up this challenge and really start discussing, what our societies should look like and how the differences, first of all, the differences between populations can be bridged, and as far as I’m concerned, of course, on the base of human rights, it requires these key players to go into the mainstream of society, to get into, for example, Athens neighbourhoods or any other similar city that has these problems and to listen and really hear what is going on there.

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MEDIA

New Media Tools - Advocacy Bulletin and EU-Russia CSF Daily

In October, two new Forum media tools were launched - the quarterly Policy and Advocacy Bulletin and the online newspaper "EU-Russia CSF Daily".

The Policy and Advocacy Bulletin has been published by the Forum's Policy and Advocacy Team led by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee. The publication will update our readers, including Forum members, on relevant policy developments and advocacy opportunities for civil society, both in the European Union and Russia.

The first edition of the bulletin was presented on 7 October 2014 in Brussels at the joint seminar of CSF and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) of the European Union. The next edition is due to be ready in time for the Forum's General Assembly in Tallinn on 27-29 November 2014. 
  

Another valuable tool for updating colleagues who are interested in news from and around the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is going to be the online newspaper "EU-Russia CSF Daily". Thanks to the Paper.Li service generating daily content based on tweets from the Forum and Twitter accounts to which it is subscribed, you will always be updated on what is happening in the EU, Russia, and the whole world. The newspaper comes online every day, including at weekends, at 11:00 a.m. CET.

MEMBERS' VIEWS

Photo: Heinrich Böll Foundation (Creative Commons, modified)

Transparency International: Election of Elena Panfilova as Vice Chair of the Board

Elena Panfilova was elected as Vice Chair of the Board of Transparency International at its annual membership meeting, which brings together the movement's national chapters and individual members.

Elena Panfilova founded Transparency International’s national chapter in Russia in 1999, serving as its executive director until July 2014, when she became the chapter’s chair.

She has been an academic, consultant and activist, held positions in the OECD and became a member of the Russian Governmental Commission on Open Government. Since August 2014 she has been the head of the Laboratory for Anti-Corruption Policy (which she founded in 2008), working to promote transparency and civil society.

 

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Agency for Social Information: 20th Anniversary and Further 20 Years to Follow

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum warmly congratulates its member organisation - Agency for Social Information - on occasion of its 20th anniversary and would like to wish to our colleagues further success in their activities, growth and prosperity as well as an inspiring development of interesting social and civic initiatives in Russia, which would be worth of reporting on.

Agency for Social Information founded in 1994 is one of the leading expert and information organisations in the field of civic sector development. It is a specialised information agency for the third sector - unions of human rights defenders and ecologists, charity funds, women's and youth unions, associations of scholars, cultural and educational activists. The Agency for Social Information has a network of reporters in more than 20 Russian regions. 

Read an address by Elena Topoleva-Soldunova, Director of the Agency for Social Information (in Russian)

 

FRIDE: Policy Brief "The EU and Its Partners on Development: How Strategic on the Ground?"

Most of the EU’s strategic partnerships include dialogues on development, and in some cases commitments to collaboration. This policy brief examines whether such dialogue and commitments are reflected in EU-strategic partner interaction on the ground in two developing countries – Nepal and Mozambique. In both countries, the space for EU engagement with strategic partners is highly limited and largely determined by strategic partners’ economic, security or political interests.

The EU needs to enhance dialogue with its partners at capital level and EU delegations require support to adapt to the new context created by the presence of emerging powers and to use the strategic partnership framework to engage with them.

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