“I attach a great importance to the Forum. It’s important not to leave EU-Russia relations only to the politicians. I hope that civil society will play an important role in the EU-Russia Modernisation Partnership. You might be disappointed that success does not come quick, but as I know from personal experience, human rights are an on-going struggle,” Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, opened the Forum.
 
“Civil society is  often ignored by leaders of Russia and EU in their summits and this had to change. For Civil Society to have more impact the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum has now been founded. The Forum must also hold the Russian authorities to account of protecting constitutional rights such as freedom of assembly.” said Heidi Hautala, Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights. “I’m confident, that the European Parliament will be facilitating and supporting this initiative.”

“I know that we all speak the same language and linguistic differences can’t impede the deep understanding.” added Mikhail Fedotov, Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, Russian Federation. Fedotov also outlined current situation in Russia: “There is so much to do to improve perceptions of Russia in the EU. Outcomes of surveys showed that 70% of Russians had a positive view of the EU, only 2% of Europeans had a positive image of Russia. This means that there is a tremendous need to improve contacts between the EU and Russia. It is important to operate on the basis of truths and not myths. It’s also important to improve the human rights situation in Russia, especially ensuring an independent judiciary and a free media.”