Although the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum marks its 5th anniversary on 29 March 2016, the Forum’s Secretariat used an opportunity to start the celebrations on 16-17 March already, when representatives of the Forum’s member organisations – winners of the Open Call Mechanism for support of the EU-Russia projects – came to Berlin.

Associates of such NGOs as "Antigone" (Rome, Italy),  Antikomplex (Prague, Czech Republic),  BELLONA (St. Petersburg, Russia), German-Russian Exchange (Berlin, Germany and a partner organisation in St. Petersburg, Russia), Independent Institute for Environmental Issues (Berlin, Germany), INTERRA (Krasnoyarsk, Russia), Netherlands Helsinki Committee (The Hague, Netherlands), Plotina.Net (Krasnoyarsk, Russia), Polish Forum of Young Diplomats (Warsaw, Poland),  Szubjektiv (Budapest, Hungary), UNITED for Intercultural Action (Amsterdam, Netherlands) took part in a project management workshop and site visits. Some of the guests were also interviewed by journalists of "Deutsche Welle" and "Die Tageszeitung".

In the evening of 17 March, the colleagues were invited to join the reception at the Schankhalle Pfefferberg, which was also attended by other Forum members, partners, and donors as well as representatives of foundations and authorities.

Marking an important milestone in history of the network, Anna Sevortian, Forum’s Executive Director, couldn’t leave recent warning developments in the civil society field unmentioned. ‘While preparing this reception, we heard about an attack on Igor Kaliapin, Chairman of the Committee for Prevention of Torture, on 16 March. All of you are also aware of the latest wins for far-right parties in Slovakia and German lands or of disturbing situations with NGOs and media in Hungary and Poland,’ she said. ‘We have no other choice than to react to such challenges and to make a civil society beyond borders stronger to tackle them. We know that the darkest hour is just before the dawn – and we wish to all of us to meet together in five years under more auspicious circumstances.’

The celebrations in Berlin were just the beginning in a series of events dedicated to the 5th anniversary of the Forum throughout the year. On 19 March 2016, the torch was passed to Novosibirsk, while on 21 March 2016 the "Different Wars" Exhibition was opened in Moscow. More interesting discussions, exchanges, and events are still to come.