Fast Forward to 2017. New Year Address by Anna Sevortian >>


#GAHelsinki: Forum in Transition and Call for Steering Committee Nominations >>
From Versailles to Paris: Joint Meeting with EESC and Outreach Activities in France >>

First Issue of the Quarterly Journal Has Come Online >>

Elena Shakhova (Citizens' Watch, St. Petersburg, Russia): 'As Soon As Russia Has an Independent Professional Court, the Other Problems in the Field of Human Rights - Sooner or Later - Will Be Solved'

Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg (Russia): 25 Years of History - Reviews, Facts, and Figures >>
German-Russian Exchange (Berlin, Germany): European NGO Coalition Initiated  >>
Russian Socioecological Union (St. Petersburg, Russia): Conference "Climate and Energy. Solutions for the Future" >>

"Different Wars" in Milan, Public Discussion in St. Petersburg, General Assembly in Helsinki >>


Fast Forward to 2017. New Year Address by Anna Sevortian

Dear partners and friends,

2016 is coming to an end. For the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the whole world, a rare day of the departing year passed without news that challenged us - our perceptions, our views of the world and ourselves, our actions.

This year was marked by an even more narrowing space for the civil society, in particular in Russia and Poland, but also the adoption of the Civic Charter - a new global framework for citizens' participation. War conflicts in Ukraine and Syria have been a constant source of death, destruction and grief. Growing populism and conservatism all over Europe merged into obvious political trend. However,  many campaigns started to promote alternatives - the values of peace and openness in the societies.

It has been an eventful time for the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. We are grateful to all who supported us and contributed to the highlights of this year - the "Domestic Law in the Global Upswing" Symposium and the 40 Years of the Helsinki Movement Conference, touring of the "Different Wars" Exhibition in five Russian cities and showing it in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the 2nd Forum for Young Professionals "Europe Lab" in Croatia. In 2016, the Forum celebrated its 5th year in action - by starting several excellent projects within the Open Call Mechanism and Study Tours Programme, organising activities in 11 countries and expanding its network.

We look forward to spending yet another dynamic year with you. In a few weeks from now - on 1-3 February 2017, at the General Assembly (GA) in Helsinki - several important decisions are to be made on the future structure of the Forum and our legal entity. New members of the Steering Committee are to be elected and - possibly - new working groups initiated. For the first time GA will symbolically connect the EU and Russia - through our pre-GA events in St.Petersburg. Let us make this important meeting and this coming year special and memorable! 

We wish you all a healthy, peaceful, joyful New Year. Stay with us in 2017!

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


#GAHelsinki: Forum in Transition and Call for Steering Committee Nominations

On 16 December 2016, the application process for the 7th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum has officially ended. In total, more than 230 online forms were filled in - by Forum members and observers - representatives of NGOs, research and donor organisations, media, etc.

The General Assembly will be held on 1-3 February 2017 in Helsinki, Finland - with a run-up programme planned for 30 January 2017 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The major topics to be discussed are 100 years of civil society evolution in Finland; nationalism, conservatism, and changing borders of Europe; situation of the Russian civil society; contemporary news consumption; war memories; sustainable development and poverty reduction; future scenatios for the Baltic Sea Region. Besides, current projects and new products of the Forum - such as the "State of the Civil Society" Report - will be presented to the public. Finally, side events by Forum members and site visits to local NGOs will build another part of the Programme.

As usual, a special attention will be paid to the work in groups and closed sessions for members on 2 and 3 February. In 2017, the Forum will be going through a complex transition process to an independent legal entity - as decided in a remote voting procedure by Forum members. Hence, all of them are encouraged to actively participate in those sessions.

Finally, the credentials of four Steering Committee (SC) members - two from the EU and two from Russia - are expiring. All those, who would like to candidate for a SC position, are requested to send a letter of intent in either English or Russian (in a free form) to until 25 January 2016.

To see the Programme of the event, please follow the link.

The 7th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is supported by the European Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the British Embassy in Moscow, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Oak Foundation. The official local partner is Kehys, the Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU. The official media partner is Deutsche Welle.


From Versailles to Paris: Joint Meeting with EESC and Outreach Activities in France

On 23-25 November 2016, a series of events organised by the Secretariat of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and attended by representatives of ten Forum member organisations took place in Versailles and Paris, France.

On 23 November, the 3rd Joint Seminar with the European Economic and Social Committee was held in Versailles. Russian and EU activists and experts discussed the topic “Migration Policies and the Situation of Civil Society in the EU and in Russia”. They especially focused on the issue of integration of newcomers into host societies, shared own experiences and good practices.

On 24 November, the Public Discussion "Russian Civil Society: Sealed Off?" was organised in cooperation with Amnesty International France in Paris. The next day, another public discussion on the same topic of the state of the art of the Russian civil society was hosted by the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS).            

At the same time, colleagues had an opportunity to take part in various advocacy visits. On 24 November, the complete delegation was received by Patrizianna Sparacino-Thiellay, Ambassador at Large for Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The participants addressed such topics as EU trending issues, the state of civil society in Russia as well as French representation and involvement in supporting human rights and activists. Four members went to a meeting at the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), where they talked to Magali Lafourcade, Secretary General, Morgane Coulon, Advisor on International Affairs and International Humanitarian Law, and Hughes de Suremain, Legal Advisor.

The next day, the delegation joined an exchange with representatives of the Centre for Analysis, Planning and Strategy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Several topics were addressed - such as migration, EU-Russia cooperation, Russian legal framework, the current situation of Russian NGOs. Afterwards, another meeting took place at the Paris City Hall - hosted, inter alia, by Jean-Yves Camus, Head of Diplomacy and Europe Department, and Anne-Charlotte Leluc, Advisor for Solidarities. The discussants elaborated more on city level integration practices regarding migrants and refugees, possible frameworks of cooperation as well as vulnerable groups and hate crimes in France and in Russia.

Finally, a working meeting of the “EU-Russia Legal Dialogue Programme was organised at the Institute for Slavic Studies in Paris. Eleven participants representing law clinics and NGOs working on migration from France, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia held talks on potential cooperation and concrete project ideas for 2017. More information is available here.

All in all, the first Forum mission to France may be considered as a big success. Apart from useful contacts and fruitful discussions, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum received two new membership inquiries - from the "Génériques" Association and "Destination Est". Both applications were endorsed by the Steering Committee just in time before the General Assembly in Helsinki (1-3 February 2017).


First Issue of the Quartely Journal Has Come Online

The EU-Russia Legal Dialogue Programme is proud to present the first issue of the quarterly Legal Dialogue Journal.

After a big success of our publication last year (“Voices from Civil Society”), it was our aim to create this year a platform for vivid dialogue about relevant legal issues for representatives of NGOs, lawyers, law students and interested general public, thus expanding the range of active participants and beneficiaries of the EU-Russia Legal Dialogue Programme.

Like the Programme itself, the quarterly journal will cover a wide range of topics using the different formats foreseen - analytical articles, background information digests, presentation of best practices, open discussions of current issues, practical advices, etc.  

In the first issue, you will find information and reflections about the "Yarovaya Package" in Russia; legalisaion of same-sex civil unions in Italy; constitutional crisis in Poland; pro bono legal help for refugees in Poland, Romania and Russia; advices for human rights activists facing trouble in their countries; and much more.

Read more


Elena Shakhova (Citizens' Watch, St. Petersburg, Russia): 'As Soon As Russia Has an Independent Professional Court, the Other Problems in the Field of Human Rights - Sooner or Later - Will Be Solved'

To watch the interview on YouTube in Russian, please follow the link

 Ms Shakhova, thank you very much for agreeing to give an interview for the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. “Citizens’ Watch is one of the oldest human rights organisations in St. Petersburg. What current projects have you been implementing? What challenges does your organisation face?

“Citizens’ Watch” was established in 1992, i.e. 24 years have passed since then. When the idea for the organisation arose, we believed that Russia had become a member of the international community, had accepted its obligations to defend human rights but the officials hadn’t changed. We suspected – as we can see now, this suspicion was correct – that they were unlikely to work within the new democratic system. Thus we founded an organisation targeting at conducting civilian oversight, as the Russian government has the responsibility to fulfil its obligations in the field of human rights.

Around 2000, we realised that we would like to focus on one fundamental right - the right to fair trial. We are convinced that as soon as Russia has an independent professional court, the other problems in the field of human rights - sooner or later - will be solved, thus, this instrument will help to solve other problems.

As of today, we are still focusing on the same subject, though it became quite hard. We are trying to work more with lawyers, journalists, who write on legal topics, and young activists, who are interested in human rights work and want to be professionals in this field. We offer our expertise providing independent monitoring of courts, hearings, and court’s websites. I have to admit that to carry out work has become more difficult than it was in the 2000s. We are trying to continue our work, complete our mission, and, certainly, not to reduce its scope. Now the major task and simultaneously challenge for us is to keep all kinds and scopes of our activities, to carry on the mission of the organisation in the same form we had implemented before the start of repressions wave against NGOs in Russia. 

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Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg (Russia): 25 Years of History - Reviews, Facts, and Figures

On 10 November 1991, the first meeting of the initiative group was held that established the organisation "Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg". On the anniversary of the creation of the human rights organisation, sociologists Roman Mogilevsky and Tatiana Shaidarova from St. Petersburg published a book on the difficulties faced by organisations from their formation to the determination of the guiding principles of their activities. The book also reflects on the rescued and the rescuers and on how time affects the work of human rights defenders. 

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German-Russian Exchange (Berlin, Germany): European NGO Coalition Initiated

The German-Russian Exchange organised an initiating meeting for a new European platform of NGOs ready to cooperate on the conflict resolution in Donbas and to monitor the international negotiations on the issue.

NGOs with working experiences in these topics and interested in participating in the work of the coalition are very welcome to join.

Read more
Russian Socioecological Union (St. Petersburg, Russia): Conference "Climate and Energy. Solutions for the Future"

On 1-3 November 2016, in the suburbs of St. Petersburg, the Russian Socioecological Union  / Friends of the Earth Russia held the Conference "Climate and Energy. Solutions for the Future". The event was attended by 62 representatives of 30 environmental NGOs from 7 Federal districts of the Russian Federation.

The International seminar on NGO cooperation within the EU-Russia Civil society Forum "Energy Sustainability and Climate Adaptation of Regulated Aquatic Ecosystems Management" and the International Seminar "Strengthening NGOs in Promoting Energy Efficiency to Local Communities Development and Climate Protection" were also parts of the conference.

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10-27 January 2017, Milan, Italy
Exhibition "Different Wars: National School Textbooks on World War II"

30 January 2017, St. Petersburg, Russia
Public Discussion "Fortress Europe? Myths and Truths at First Hand"

1-3 February 2017, Helsinki, Finland

7th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

More events in our Calendar

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