On 27-29 November 2014, representatives of the member organisations of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (CSF) came together for the 5th General Assembly (GA) in Tallinn, Estonia to discuss the current EU-Russia relations and its influence on the civil society sector.
‘In the past months, the EU-Russia relations have experienced probably the deepest crisis in history,’ says Anna Sevortian, Executive Director of the EU-Russia CSF. ‘It is a great challenge for non-governmental organisations on both sides to keep their integrity and work for public good. We believe that mutual co-operation and solidarity are crucial for the civil society to take up this challenge. We cordially welcome all the Forum members, observers, donors, and the media at the General Assembly in Tallinn.
The GA official opening on 27 November was preceded by various events the day before, including visits to Estonian civil society actors, workshops by Forum members as well as the Informal Discussion “EU-Russia-Ukraine: How to Break a Deadlock?”.
‘We are honoured to host the Forum’s General Assembly in Estonia. Our own network of non-governmental organisations has been growing stronger year by year. Successful co-operation of NGOs with public institutions and businesses is essential to achieve, if we aim to live in a truly participatory democracy,’ tells Mall Hellam, Director at the Open Estonia Foundation, one of the GA donors.
The efforts of public diplomacy are urgently needed now to bridge the gap between “societies” and “civil societies”, adds Katarzyna Batko-Tołuć, Vice-Chair of the Citizens Network Watchdog (Poland), Member of the Forum’s Steering Committee. The more the civil sector succeeds in this move towards the populations in Russia, Ukraine and also in the EU countries, the better influence it will have on attitudes of both parties to each other, improvement of the current crisis situation, and diplomacy as such.