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NEWSLETTER MARCH 2015


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Trans-Border Corruption: A Common Burden for the EU and Russia >>

TOP NEWS

Call for Applications: "Europe Lab" - Shaping Europe Together >>
What's Next for the Russian Civil Society: Tatiana Kursina and Sergei Lukashevsky in Berlin >>


STEERING COMMITTEE
Statement "Call for an Independent Investigation into the Murder of Boris Nemtsov" >>


WORKING GROUPS
Study Visit to Brussels >>

MEDIA

Ivan Pavlov (Freedom of Information Foundation): 'Everything Is Going to Be Alright' >>
Restoring Dialogue as It Drifts Away: A Publication on the Forum's Role in the EU-Russia Relations >>

MEMBERS' VIEWS
Moscow Helsinki Group: "Pro Dignitate Humana" Award for Liudmila Alexeeva >>
Civil Consent: International Seminar "Russian Realities and the European Vector" >>
Transparency International Lithuania: School on Integrity in Vilnius >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Trans-Border Corruption: A Common Burden for the EU and Russia

On request by the Secretariat of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Andrei Kalikh, an expert of the Fighting Trans-Border Corruption Group, prepared a description of what the current activities of the Group are.

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

 

The Fighting Trans-Border Corruption Group of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum unites experts in the anti-corruption field and investigative journalists from Russia, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and the UK. The efforts of the group are focused on exposing and publicising international corruption fraud as well as researching the impact of corruption on the environment, human rights, and politics. Furthermore, another aim of the group is dissemination of the information about the trans-border corruption cases.

In the EU, the cross-border corruption has long been a subject to independent expert research and media coverage. The number of anti-corruption conventions and relevant legislation in the EU member states adopted on the European level (PACE, the EU, etc.) are the direct results of the joint efforts of the general public, experts, media, and the competent authorities. As a rule, countering trans-border corruption in the EU includes measures to counter money-laundering, investigation of local corporations’ involvement in foreign projects as well as finding out the origin of the non-transparent capitals in the EU, etc.

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TOP NEWS

Call for Applications: "Europe Lab" - Shaping Europe Together

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 Forum "Europe Lab".

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 co-operation 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 23–26 July 2015 in Lithuania – in Vilnius and at the Raseiniai Local History Museum, a unique place for preservation of historical memory and a former jail for political prisoners in the times of the first Lithuanian independence (1918-1940) as well as under Communist and Nazi regimes.

The programme of “Europe Lab” 2015 includes five workshops:

•    Historical Memory and Culture of Remembrance – Dealing with Conflicts of Perception
•    Trans-Border Traffic, Visa, and Migration – European Borders in a Globalised World
•    Re-Thinking the Urban Space – New Outfit for Distressed Areas
•    Corruption – Common Burden or Stimulus to Progress?
•    Grassroots Journalism – Limits of Plausibility in the Times of Traditional Media Crisis

Every 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 moderators. The results will be presented at the General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum on 7-9 December 2015.

Finally, “Europe Lab” graduates are invited to start 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 before 15 May 2015 here.
 
Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us via e-mail.
 

See you in Lithuania!


Forum for Young Professionals “Europe Lab” is organised by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and supported by the European Commission and the Stefan Batory Foundation.

TOP NEWS

What's Next for the Russian Civil Society: Tatiana Kursina and Sergei Lukashevsky in Berlin

For a series of events and meetings on 2-5 March 2015, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and Amnesty International invited representatives of Russian NGOs - Tatiana Kursina (Executive Director, NGO “Memorial Centre of the History of Political Repressions “Perm-36”, Perm) and Sergei Lukashevsky (Director, Sakharov Centre, Moscow) - to Berlin. The proclaimed aim was to discuss the current position of historical memory and education in Russia, situation of both organisations as well as latest developments in the field of civil society activities in Russia in general.

Exactly on 2 March 2015, worrying news came from the Board of the NGO “Perm-36”, which announced shutdown of the organisation. The reasons behind are “unsuccessful negotiations with the Governor’s Administration of the Perm Region and their further hopelessness as well as impossibility to comply with the Charter” of the organisation, as long as the NGO hasn’t had access to the memorial complex owned by the state since 2014.

The preservation of the Sakharov Centre, which was put on the list of “foreign agents” in December 2014, is also endangered.  Sergei Lukashevsky joined the visit right after the ceremony of last respects for the murdered politician Boris Nemtsov, which took place on 3 March 2015 at the Centre. Naturally, this topic was highlighted by participants of meetings in a broader context of the Russian civil society field.

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STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Call for an Independent Investigation into the Murder of Boris Nemtsov"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum condemns in the strongest terms the murder of Boris Nemtsov, a prominent leader of the democratic movement in Russia. Nemtsov was shot on the night of 27 February 2015 in the heart of Moscow, at the bridge just meters from the Kremlin. We call on the Russian authorities to conduct a prompt, thorough, and independent investigation.

‘Boris Nemtsov is another name in the tragic list of those who lost lives in their struggle for fundamental rights and freedoms in Russia,’ says Katarzyna Batko-Tołuć, member of Forum’s Steering Committee. ‘There needs to be an efficient and impartial investigation into these killings. Every day of delay adds to the atmosphere of intimidation of independent critical voices and impunity for perpetrators of politically motivated crimes in Russia.’

Boris Nemtsov was an important ally and supporter of independent civil society in Russia. He was widely respected for his anti-corruption work and his consistent and clear position against the war in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, as he was critical of the war in Chechnya in the 1990s. It is particularly tragic and emblematic that Mr Nemtsov was assassinated on the eve of a major anti-war protest demonstration in Moscow, which he was a principal organiser of.  

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses its deepest condolences to Mr Nemtsov’s family and mourns the tragic loss of life of a politician who was one of the leaders of Russia’s democratisation efforts and an inspiration to many people.

WORKING GROUPS

Study Visit to Brussels

On 10-13 March 2015, representatives of the Working Group (WG) “Citizenship Education” of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum met in Brussels to discuss the current developments within the group and plan its future co-operations as well as to visit a number of European institutions.

In the course of the meeting, participants visited the European Commission, the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), and the European Civil Society Platform on Lifelong Learning. Furthermore, the group members listened to the presentation on the current EU-Russia Relations by Fraser Cameron, Director of the EU-Russia Centre. The participants took part in the parallel planning session on further steps in the group and co-operation programmes of the Theodor Heuss Kolleg of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the MitOst Association.

The participants decided to prepare an appeal to the EU and Russian authorities in order to express concern about the isolation of Russia as well as to stress the need and possibility to alleviate tensions through the development of civic education, including co-operation in this field on the official level.

During the discussions, the WG members unanimously elected a new Co-ordinator - Andrei Suslov from the Centre for Civic Education and Human Rights (Perm, Russia), who replaced Annegret Wulff from the MitOst Association (Berlin, Germany).

MEDIA

Ivan Pavlov (Freedom of Information Foundation): 'Everything Is Going to Be Alright'

To watch the interview in Russian please follow the link

In August 2014, the Freedom of Information Foundation was included on the list of “foreign agents”. How did this affect the activities of your organisation?

First of all, it changed the format of our work. We realised that it would make our work difficult, should we continue to operate as a Russian NGO. Our activities were almost paralysed by constant audits. We had to apply to the courts in order to appeal the results of the audits as well as decisions about our inclusion on the list of "foreign agents". Therefore, we decided to change the format of our activities. Now there are two organisations which exist within our project - an NGO abroad and a commercial organisation in Russia as well as a number of people working as civil society activists in Russia. The most important thing is not what has changed but what we have managed to preserve. We managed to preserve almost all the projects we have been implementing since 2004. Most importantly, we have preserved all our civil society activities.

The list of "foreign agents" has been constantly updated. The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation has included more than 40 organisations on it so far. What advice would you give to those NGOs which were ex delicto included on the list – just like the Freedom of Information Foundation?

As I already mentioned, we switched to the preservation of our activities, as these were them which were targeted by the laws passed in 2012 and supplemented by even more restrictions later. We knew that it would be hard to counter those, should we continue to operate as a Russian NGO, - if not impossible at all. Therefore, we would recommend to the organisations to primarily focus on the content of their activities rather than on the form. We must try to do everything to be removed from the operation of the legislation on "foreign agents" and that of NGOs. There are other legal forms and jurisdictions which make it possible to operate in Russia. For instance, one can register as an NGO in the EU. Finally, one can operate as an individual civil society activist being out of the coverage of these laws.

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MEDIA

Restoring Dialogue as It Drifts Away: A Publication in the Forum's Role in the EU-Russia Relations

Serena Bonato, a long-time volunteer and a member of the Communications' Team of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, updated the Paper "Restoring Dialogue as It Drifts Away - The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum Initiative at the Nadir of EU-Russia Dialogue" for the Portal on Central, Eastern, and Balkan Europe of the University of Bologna.

In the abstract it is stated that the abrupt developments in Ukraine has constituted one of the most serious geopolitical crisis on the European continent since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The escalation of confrontations has emphasised the tensioned relationships between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) with the Russian Federation since the start of Putin’s third presidential term. While diverging approaches and assertive stances are ditching progresses in the EU-Russia official dialogue, the conflict provokes reactive responses within societies either calling for prompt peaceful resolution or arousing sentiments of hostility, enmity, and friction often rooted in old stereotypes. Along with institutional and governmental actors, civil society is called upon to cooperate in endeavours of de-escalation and in promotion of mutual understanding. At the nadir of EU-Russia relations, a case in point is the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, a bottom-up initiative, to which the paper devotes a thorough analysis from its genesis to the consistent potential. 

Further information on the paper and possibility to download this are available here.

MEMBERS' VIEWS

Moscow Helsinki Group: "Pro Dignitate Humana" Award for Liudmila Alexeeva

On 3 March 2015, the Russian human rights activist Liudmila Alexeeva, Chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group, was awarded the "Pro Dignitate Humana" Prize for 2014 at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Moscow.

'Promotion of human rights ideas is a privilege and an obligation of all sentient threats and pains, the consequences of intolerance, ignorance, violence, and war,' said Katarzyna Pełczyńska-Nałęcz, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Russia, while handing out the "Pro Dignitate Humana" Award on behalf of Grzegorz Schetyna, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, to Liudmila Alexeeva.

 

Civil Consent: International Seminar "Russian Realities and the European Vector"

The Foundation for the Development of Political and Civil Liberties "Civil Consent" held the first international seminar in 2015 titled "Russian Realities and the European Vector". The event held on 21 February was conducted within the Projects "International Dialogue" and "Russian Realities: Trends, Tendencies, and Prospects". The seminar discussions were devoted to the topic of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

The experts of the workshops were Marek Paweł Dąbrowski, Professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow; Viktor Richter, Consul General of Germany in Novosibirsk; Irina Obukhova, Attaché for Science and Culture at the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Irkutsk.

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Transparency International Lithuania: School on Integrity in Vilnius

 
The call for applications for the next edition of the Transparency International School on Integrity (TISI), an annual state-of-the-art anti-corruption and accountability training for future leaders, is open. This year the School will take place on 6-12 July 2015 in Vilnius, Lithuania. TISI exposes its participants to the latest developments in the field of anti-corruption and accountability and offers real opportunities to try out and implement their ideas in practice.
 
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