On 15 June 2015, the Conference “EU-Russia Legal Dialogue: Designing a Road Map for the Civil Society“ started off in a picturesque area at lake Wandlitz near Berlin (Germany). Over 60 civil society actors and legal experts from Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and Spain take part in this 2.5 day event.
‘For the first time ever, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported the civil society groups to be able to contribute to bilateral and multilateral legal dialogue, though the format has existed for years,’ said Polina Baigarova, Project Coordinator at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. ‘The group of nine NGOs from the EU and Russia will publish their analysis on the legal dialogue issues this autumn. The publication will be presented at the next Forum’s General Assembly on 7-9 December 2015 in Budapest.’
The discussion on models and formats of civilian oversight and legal environments for the civil society initiatives in Russia, Poland, Germany, Spain opened up the first day of discussions. Beside Russia, where the civil society actors have been operating in more and more hostile climate, the Hungarian case caught attention of the audience.
‘We observe recent developments in this country with a great deal of concern,’ Balázs Tóth of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee points out. ‘The so-called “Illiberal democracy” path that Hungary pursues should not be tolerated within the European Union. Although the solution lies primarily inside Hungary, it is crucial not only to resist these developments on the national level, but to jointly act on the European level, consorting efforts coming from the EU, Russia, and other countries.’
Conferees also discuss efficient practices of civilian oversight in the field of environmental rights, gender issues, social rights and welfare system, restricted access institutions, advocacy. The concluding session of the first day looked into the ways of cooperation between the legal and civil society community, with special guests from Amnesty International Germany, the CEELI Institute (Czech Republic), the “Russian Justice Initiative” (Russia/Netherlands), etc.
The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum considers legal dialogue and cooperation between legal professionals and the civil society actors a strategic area for development in the coming years.