St. Petersburg, 9 October 2012 – Some 90 civil society leaders gathered in St. Petersburg for the 2-day EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. For the first time in its history the Forum will meet in Russia as recent developments indicate Russia and Europe are moving apart more than ever. With the economic crisis, the EU is engrossed in its internal developments, while Russia is dealing with unprecedented upsurge in civic activity of the last year by putting in place laws restricting rights of assembly, labelling NGOs as “foreign agents” and curtailing free speech in internet. 
“There are attempts to divide civil society by distinguishing human rights NGOs from, say, social NGOs. This Forum shows that we all stand together and work together. Across topics, across borders. And will continue to do so,” says Stefan Melle of German-Russian Exchange, one of Forum founders. The Forum brings together NGOs and groups focused on human rights, environment protection, social issues and democracy assistance. Supporting for instance exchanges of young professionals between EU and Russian NGOs, the Forum will discuss and agree other plans to cooperate over the next two days. “Facing current challenges, we need to discover new creative ways to mobilize ordinary citizens in support of values we believe in,” says Svetlana Makovetskaya of Grany Center (Perm, Russia).
The Forum will also suggest that cross-cutting issues such as law on NGOs as “foreign agents” are discussed at the upcoming EU-Russia Summit in December.
Detailed agenda of Forum: 
List of Forum members:
The Forum was hailed by EU Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis and Head of Presidential Council on Civil Society Mikhail Fedotov. “In a democracy, it is citizens who can monitor, observe, judge daily the governments, not the other way round,” said Stavros Lambrinidis in his opening statement. “I’ve been with this Forum from the very beginning, and consider it very important. I have a dream: that the Forum can in the future meet and discuss common EU-Russia issues in the Kremlin congress palace,” said Mikhail Fedotov.   
The Assembly is held on October 9-10, 2012 at Sokos Hotel Olympia Garden (Bataisky Pereulok, 3A, 190013 St. Petersburg). 
Additional Information: 
The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum was founded in March 2011 in Prague.  The Forum serves as a permanent platform for cooperation of civil society organisations from the Russian Federation and the European Union. The Forum aims to increase links between civil society organisations; provide mutual assistance and solidarity; as well as contribute citizens’ voice to EU-Russia political dialogue. Today, the Forum has 98 members from across Russia and EU member-states. More about the work of the Forum:
Stefan Melle (Russian, English)
+7 911 213 53 73 
Elena Shakova (Russian, English)
+7 911 740 76 91