Anikó Bakonyi, Nikola Mokrović, Co-Chairs of the Board, EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

We dubbed last year as „A Year Like No Other“. The spirit of that statement contained an implicit expectation that we would overcome at least the political and social problems caused by the pandemic. The pandemic created an open-ended situation where huge social and political changes and interventions became an everyday phenomenon, but often with no foreseeable outcomes. Uncertainty is the new habit, which we all had to get used to. Our experience of this year has shown us that in many respects the situation can become even worse and more uncertain, or at least, more complex.

During this period, we were forced to learn new skills and to adapt – to raise our capacity to prepare for all possibilities. At the same time, this understanding does not contain the entire truth about our situation. Vital political intervention does not only strive for survival, or does not just aim at defending its position. It rather means to creatively and critically reimagine its standpoints and their own values. This is the task we must bear in mind at all times. And by no means, it is a small task.

The Forum is created under the assumption that despite all the debates and obstacles, dialogue between the communities is possible; that the international legal order can be an efficient tool to provide means not just for political pressure but for the overall progress of different societies, states, communities through negotiation. Having the consensus over basic values we strive to or respect, provides a leverage – that we can all call for and rely on for the principles we respect. In that sense, globalisation, as well as both vertical and horizontal democratisation and strengthening of common values seemed like a path with no alternatives. Today we see that the consensus is broken in many places and in various ways. Instead of moving forward in the new paths of all the complexities surrounding our interrelations, we are witnessing new walls being built. The discourse of war is stretching from the Baltic, throughout Ukraine, all the way to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Instead of a global community, we see countries being fortified. In these circumstances, organisations like the Forum gain even more relevance and significance. The ties we build, the cooperation we develop, the dialogues we still uphold despite all odds. As an expanding network of civil society organisations who believe in being a bridge between different communities, this year we have once again demonstrated our resilience and ability for renewal. Our networking meeting in Belgrade with its new framework for the continuation of our discussion was just one example for that.

When animosity and repression strive around us, we can still rely on one another, support each other and strengthen our resilience for now and for the future. What we have is precious and as such it should be guarded and protected. With our example, we show an alternative, a better version of today’s reality. What these times have shown us that we are always stronger than we think and we can always strive for more than we imagined. With these thoughts in mind, we are wishing a happy holiday season to all our member organisations and friends around the world!