58 representatives of the civil societies of Russia and 16 EU member states and a number of observers came together for the Founding Meeting of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. Apart from well established organizations, the Founding Meeting was also attended by new civic groups, social and development organisations from Russian regions and from all parts of the EU. The Founding Meeting was opened by Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs and also Heidi Hautala, Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, and Mikhail Fedotov, Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, Russian Federation.

The first plenary session was opened with a short presentation of the background of the CSF and the accomplishments of the preparatory group. The Organisational Committee presented the founding documents of the CSF: Charter, Mission Statement and the Membership Criteria. All participants of the Founding Meeting were invited to participate in the discussion of the founding documents during the plenary session and also by sending an email or submitting proposals in a written form. Plenary sessions and discussions of the founding documents were transmitted via live streaming on the website of the CSF.

After the formal founding of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum via voting, all participants had the chance to discuss the future common engagement in four thematic Working Groups. There are plans, in particular, to prepare position papers about importance of including human rights and other concerns of civil society in the partnership and cooperation agreements between Russia and EU, about key forms of public participation in policy decisions and investment agreements as well as about climate protection and preservation of biodiversity in Europe.

On the second day of the conference adopted founding documents were presented to the participants (inter alia the description of the membership criteria became part of the Charter of the CSF). In a further discussion last modifications were made and subsequently the final versions of the founding documents were adopted via voting. In the closing session members of the first Steering Committee were elected.

The Prague meeting was made possible with help from OSI, the Bosch Foundation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.