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Karol, thank you very much that you agreed to give an interview for the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. What is the idea behind the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats? Why did you decide to found the organisation?
The Polish Forum of Young Diplomats has marked its 15th anniversary already. It was established on the edge of Poland’s entry to the European Union. Its mission is to create future leaders. Everything what is inside that broad definition of our motto, of our mission fits in what we do. As a semi-student organisation of young people, we have been organising workshops, field trips, study visits as well as discussion clubs throughout Poland in order to bring young people to a bigger worldwide society.
Are you talking about the promotion of young people to higher positions?
Rather about conscious international relations. I would say people should be conscious of the fact how responsible international politics should be done and how easily and without big funding you can learn from the others. Our organisation has quite a big alumni association. Those alumni, who already left the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats, provide us with workshops, classes, and advice about how to be not only a good diplomat but also about how to work efficiently, because the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats is not only about diplomacy but about being a good man as such.
Do I understand it right that your alumni are now active in the international relations and also maybe in the Polish politics?
It is somehow about politics but not only about it. Diplomacy should be apolitical, and – in that sense – the organisation is apolitical. In my case, the election observation was the best field I found for myself, and it was the project I was coordinating whilst being with the Polish Forum. Now I am turning to an alumnus. I think that the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats is the best place for incubation of the projects of young people: Students, future leaders can come to the Polish Forum and teach others what they are good at, but simultaneously get knowledge from the others.
You mentioned the election observation. It was one of the projects supported by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. Within that project, you were observing Russian parliamentary elections in 2016. Recently, there have been the presidential elections in Russia. What can you say about the experience of the election observation here?
First of all, I am very grateful to the “Young Election Observers” Project that was originally done inside the Polish Forum and then supported by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. Thanks to that, we went to the broader spectrum of the international election observation. We did video observation and media monitoring during the State Duma elections in Russia. That was quite efficient – we gathered many students and young people from around Europe. Leaning on that experience, we were clever enough to do a quite efficient election observation this year, during the presidential elections. We gathered 25 people and covered 11 PECs (Precinct Election Commissions) across the Russian Federation. We managed to cover three different regions – Tatarstan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and the Penza Region. And we managed to show quite efficiently how things were done in the wrong way – saying it diplomatically.
You have been observing not only the Russian elections but also elections in other countries. I know that the self-government elections are going to happen soon in Poland. Do you have an idea to observe elections in Poland, in other countries of the EU?
Yes, indeed. The project “Young Election Observers” is still a running project of the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats. As a part of the Polish Forum, we are trying to teach young people how to observe elections. In a broader perspective, we are eager to organise election observation in Poland. We are trying to show people different patterns of election observation and international standards. This is quite important in a civic election observation, and – thanks to the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum – we managed to meet very experienced election observers across Europe and from Russia. So, we can bring some of their experiences into our field and implement those as a quite efficient tool for election observation. It covers statistics, methodology, and video observation that we did this year. Video observation will be probably the case of election observation in this country in November.
Talking about the international relations and the EU-Russia relations, what are the most urgent issues you see in this regard now?
Well, one thing is an honest dialogue. As a representative of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, this is what I would like to have. The parties openly discussing and clearly formulating their statements. I am afraid that Europe as a whole is turning to radicalism. We talked about it during the projects within the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum: Some patterns that are visible in Russia are already highlighted in Hungary and might migrate to Poland. If talking about relations between the EU and Russia, I would say the EU unity nowadays – over the Skripal case – is a crucial sign for Russia. Yet, remembering about the Russian civil society is very important, because, on the one hand, it is easy to say that Russian authorities did this and that wrong or good, but, on the other hand, you need to remember about the conditions and pressure, under which the civil society in that country has been operating.
What is the value of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum for your organisation?
It brings us to the European and international level. Thanks to the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, the project of election observation became wider and more international. The Forum also helped us to discuss different issues, techniques, and tools that we can use in our organisation on the European level and with Russian partners. It gave gave us ideas, passion, and a real financial support for the project, also hints how to do it better, as every project in the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum needs to have a follow-up.
What would you like to wish to the Forum member organisations?
Unity. I would like to wish unity and better conditions for work. Let us hope for the possibility for a dialogue in every single country and on every single field, no matter where and how we are talking about it. In the case of the Russian civil society, it is especially important.
Thank you very much for this interview.
Thank you.

The interview was shot on 29 March 2018 by the Secretariat of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum e.V. in Warsaw, Poland.