Representatives of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum Steering Committee and Consortium members spent last week attending two "kick-off" meetings crucial for the future development of the Forum after receiving new funding from the European Commission for the period running until July  31, 2015.
Forum representatives first took part in a seminar for the launch of new projects financed within the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) held at the EU Delegation to Russia on April 1-2, 2014.
This was followed by the Forum’s own internal Consortium meeting at the Sakharov Centre on April 3-4, 2014: The discussion was focused on the CSF’s future development in the framework of the new 18-month EU project launched on February 1, 2014.
After an introduction to the new Forum structure (Steering Committee, Consortium of CSF members and Secretariat based in Berlin, Germany), the participants debated issues of internal and external development, common projects, new communication tools, fundraising, advocacy as well as narrative and financial reporting. There was general agreement that all planned CSF projects, including the sub-granting programme, the visa experts group, trans-border corruption, the “EuropeLab” Forum and a media conference needed concerted efforts in the run-up to the next General Assembly planned to take place in Tallinn in the second half of the year.
The meeting at the Sakharov Centre also included a discussion with a wider circle of Russian Forum members on issues of current EU-Russia relations and perspectives of mutual civil society co-operation. Throughout the two-day meeting, participants expressed concern over the Ukrainian crisis and set improvement of EU-Russian-Ukrainian civil society relations as one of the Forum’s priorities for the coming term.
At the seminar of the EU Delegation, Stefan Melle, Head of the Consortium and Director of the “German-Russian Exchange”, presented the new CSF project to an EU panel and representatives of 16 other projects supported with EIDHR funds. This was followed by special presentations on EU guidelines for narrative and financial reporting, visibility rules, internet security and limits for free expression.
Ambassador Vygaudas Ušackas, Head of the EU Delegation to Russia, invited seminar’s participants to a reception on April 1st attended by Ella Pamfilova, recently appointed Russian human rights ombudswoman, and Mikhail Fedotov, Chairman of Russia’s Presidential Council for Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.  Forum representatives also used their visit to Moscow for introducing the CSF personally to Ella Pamfilova in her office and meeting with delegates of the German, Polish and Dutch embassies in Moscow.
Two meetings were attended by associates of the newly established CSF Secretariat – Barbara von Ow-Freytag, Acting Executive Director; Anna Sevortian, Executive Director (from June 2014); Kristina Smolijaninovaitė, Project Co-Ordinator; Sergei Tereshenkov, PR Co-Ordinator; Katarzyna Nowak, Financial Manager – as well as members of the CSF Consortium – “German-Russian Exchange” (Berlin), the Agency for Social Information and the Public Verdict Foundation (Moscow), the Stefan Batory Foundation (Warsaw), the Netherlands Helsinki Committee (The Hague), and IREX Europe (Lyon) as an associate partner.
Photos from the events may be seen at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum’s Facebook page.