The aim of this programme is to create formats for direct exchange of successful practices and ideas on the use of existing legal mechanisms and for the development of new legal approaches for citizens and civil societies in Russia and the EU. Another aim is to intensify the exchange with legal and scientific communities and also with the general public.

The programme consists of different working formats, such as workshops, conferences or publications.

In June 2015 around 70 international experts met for a conference in Wandlitz (close to Berlin) to discuss the legal challenges in the NGO work in different EU countries and Russia and possible fields of cooperation with the legal community.

In December 2015, the booklet Voices from Civil Society” was presented at the General Assembly in Budapest. The booklet consists of 13 articles and five thematic units – NGO-Government Relations, Civilian Oversight, Advocacy/Lobbying, Environmental Protection, and Gender Equality. 14 authors from NGOs and universities in Russia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Slovakia discussed legal aspects and thematic areas, explored how NGOs from Russia and the EU have a need for shared experiences and coordination, and jointly reflected on possible working formats for the Legal Dialogue in the future.

On 30-31 of May 2016 the international Symposium Domestic Law in a Global Upswing? The Strained Relationship between International and Domestic Law” took place in Berlin. The “Four Decades and the Future of the Helsinki Movement” Expert Conference on the occasion of the anniversary of the Moscow Helsinki Group was one of the Symposium’s major elements. Both formats gathered over 90 representatives of NGOs, academics, legal practitioners, and renowned human rights activists from 23 countries.

In December 2016 the online journal “Legal Dialogue” was launched, aimed at NGO workers, human rights and civil society activists, lawyers and civil servants in charge of cooperation with NGO and civil society, journalists and researchers, specialized on these topics. The purpose of the journal is to inform the target audiences in Russia and the EU about legal processes concerning NGOs and civil society, to initiate and maintain dialogue between NGOs and civil society actors from different countries and spheres of interests.

In 2017, a Legal Dialogue travel grants programme was started. The objective is to strengthen and bolster European civil society without borders by supporting exchange between legal expert communities in Russia and EU countries.

The topics of refugee law and legal clinics were focal points for the Legal Dialogue Programme in 2017. The project team conducted research across Russia on refugee law clinics in the country (in Russian only). Various events were also held in Germany and Russia, including seminars at a summer school for young lawyers in Kaliningrad.

In 2017, Legal Dialogue activities culminated at the international symposium “Threat Perceptions – Drivers for Policy Change in Russia and the EU?”, which was hosted in Berlin from the 16th to the 18th of November 2017. More than 50 acknowledged legal experts came to discuss the impact of threat perception on legal trends in Russia and the EU.

Following the successful experience of 2017, in August 2018, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum took part in the
international summer school for young lawyers at Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University. This year, in framework of the summer school, CSF has assisted in organising the workshop’s cycle on environmental law and practical internet law.

In 2019, over forty legal experts from civil society organisations got engaged in the discussion during the Symposium entitled “The Role of Civil Society in the Council of Europe: Strengthening Mechanisms to Address Current Challenges in Human Rights and the Rule of Law”. The participants explored the opportunities of how the civil society can contribute to the smooth functioning of the Council of Europe institutions and better protection of the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Legal Dialogue Fellowships were launched giving the opportunity to the young legal professionals from Russia to spend several months in the leading European NGOs. First two fellows were hosted by the Independent Institute for Environmental Issues (Berlin, Germany) and International Commission of Jurists (Brussels office, Belgium).