The EESC and CSF meeting in Brussels: support to Russian civil society important more than ever

The 2nd joint meeting between the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) was held in Brussels on 30 June 2015 to discuss themes of common interest for the Europe Union and Russian civil society.

Providing as much support as possible to Russian NGOs has never been more important than at this time of severe crisis in EU-Russia relations. According to Mall Hellam, Executive Director of Open Estonia Foundation and the Member of EESC, and rapporteur of the opinion on the State of Civil Society in Russia, one of the discussion topics was the current EU funding to Russian civil society, which the participants consider still inadequate. EU authorities should review the terms and increase the amounts available, taking into account that the institutional support is essential for the sustainability of civil society. An urgent action should also be undertaken for groups and individuals in danger or acute need, including for instance better access to asylum, granting of visas and visa extensions, and also supporting civil society activists who have already been forced to leave Russia for political reasons.

“The EU authorities should pay increasing attention to negative developments regarding freedom of speech and freedom of association in Russia, resulting in repeal of the "foreign agents law", the law on "undesirable" organisations, and the "foreign agents" registry by the Russian Government,” emphasized the Members of EESC and the EU-Russia CSF.

Focus on fighting the trans-border corruption

The Members of the EESC and the EU-Russia CSF feel it is important that contacts between citizens from the EU and Russia should not suffer because of the deterioration of official relations.

“On the contrary, stepping up people-to-people exchanges would contribute to moving Russian society closer to European values and would help to counteract propaganda. Also the interaction and addressing the issues of equal importance for both sides such as human rights, migration, the fight against corruption and extremism, and far-right nationalism should be continued in civil societies,” the participants underlined.

Both organizations recommend that European governments and institutions should press for greater transparency to prevent the use of private or public funds to finance corrupt activities abroad.

 All in all the topics such as the restrictive legislation for civil society development in Russia, the role of media in influencing social and political processes, trans-border corruption and the impact of tensions in the EU-Russia relations on the EU and Russian societies were discussed as well.

Read the report presented at the Brussels meeting about cross-border corruptive relations in financing environmentally hazardous Western business projects in Russia.