Bianca, thank you for having agreed to give an interview for the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. You represent INLAR, a Forum member organisation. What is this initiative about?
I also am a former alumna of the “Europe Lab” Forum. Together with other colleagues from the EU and Russia, we developed the INLAR Project, which stands for “International Network of Legal Assistance to Refugees”. It is an online platform connecting legal counsellors or people working in the legal field with refugees.
When did the initiative appear? What are the INLAR’s achievements?
The initiative evolved during “Europe Lab” 2016 in Croatia. We submitted a project proposal, and INLAR turned out to be one of the winning projects. We needed six months to start the platform. We translated data received from the legal counsellors working in the EU and Russia. The main outcome would be that this platform is a useful tool for the lawyers as well as legal counsellors to learn about each other, share experiences, go to conferences and workshops together. Another target audience is refugees, who can get information on the existing focal points for legal advice in the countries, where they arrive.
What countries have been involved in the project so far?
Poland, Romania and Russia.
On your website, you also have translations into Turkish and Arabic, which is good. But I suppose that was also a challenge for you, wasn’t it?
It was. We did not figure out the amount of work at the beginning we would have to do. We had to find volunteer translators in all the languages of the website, which are English, Arabic and Turkish. However, we found many nice friends at “Europe Lab”, who were eager to help us with the translation.
Now we are talking with you in Berlin, on the margins of a meeting of coordinators of “Europe Lab” 2018. You are one of the workshop coordinators now. What is your workshop going to be about?
The title of the workshop is “Gender Blenders”. My co-facilitator and myself will be talking about LGBTIQ rights and the gender-based violence. We are going to do different activities in order to elaborate on these issues. I am very happy to be here in Berlin and be involved in the preparation of “Europe Lab” 2018. I am also curious to observe how the INLAR Project has developed. A couple of months ago, we became a Forum member organisation, and our involvement has significantly grown, also due to this fact.
This year’s “Europe Lab” is going to be in Romania, your home country. Do you have any special feeling to come with that?
I am very proud to host “Europe Lab” 2018 in Romania. We really hope for a long-term collaboration, also in the terms of that on the Romania–EU and the Romania-Russia level.
What are the major challenges Romania has been going through now? What are they in the EU-Russia relations?
The main challenges in Romania would be expectedly anti-corruption, struggles and protests on the streets nowadays regarding the legislative changes in the public field, gender-based violence… I wish for the future that people, especially in the EU, knew more about challenges the Eastern Europe and Russia are facing nowadays. I wish organisations from the European Union and Russia would work together on a long-term basis at sustainable projects, as well as draw more media attention.
You mentioned that INLAR had joined the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. Why is it important for your initiative to be in the Forum?
It gives more sustainability to the project and to the team to collaborate and to network with other peers from Russia and the EU.
What are your first impressions of the Forum, now as its plenipotentiary member?
We have also been to the General Assembly in Helsinki a year ago, some of the colleagues visited the GA in Sofia in May 2018. We are very eager to better know Forum members and collaborate with them in the future.
What would you like to wish to Forum member organisations?
I wish them to be more involved in the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum activities, to get more knowledge from both EU and Russia and to be more creative in order to draw more media attention to their projects.
The interview was shot on 31 May 2018 by the Secretariat of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in Berlin, Germany.