2020
Annual Report
EU-Russia Civil Society Forum
Summary
119
online ballots at #2020GA
80%
digital events during COVID-19
75
Years Since – WWII events on history in Europe and East Asia (!)
17
candidates for 7 positions
in the Forum Board
15
Legal Dialogue Journal articles + a new social media strategy
10
actions in support of the Belarusian civil society
6
4
webinars for members, supporters and external public
2
new coalitions
under construction
1
1st
hybrid event by Salon Europa
Our Mission
EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is a network of thematically diverse non-governmental organisations from Russia and the European Union, established as a bottom-up, non-partisan civic initiative. The Forum serves as a platform for members to engage in joint activities, articulate common positions, provide support and solidarity, and exert civic influence on policy- and decision-making on the (inter)governmental level. Driven by a vision of 'the civil society beyond borders', the Forum brings together organisations and people and therefore contributes to the integration between Russia and the EU, based on common values of pluralistic democracy, rule of law, human rights and social justice.
4 new members and supporters from the EU
Member and Supporter Organisations
183
153
158
Outreach
2020
2018
2016
4 new members and supporters from Russia
96 News Items
30 NGOs as co-organisers of joint projects
2020
2018
2016
Event Participants
Newsletter Contacts
Facebook Followers
1,630
1,467
1,033
Twitter Followers
5,015
5,000
4,500
3,776
2,554
1,598
2,085
1,878
623

SOCIETY

Human Rights and Rule of Law
Advocacy
The lack of personal meetings during the pandemic was used for the preparation of key policy and position papers and organising targeted online meetings. The work of the Council of Europe and the situation of Russia's civil society, with the amendments to the Russian Constitution and further legislative restrictions in the background, were at the centre of the Forum's advocacy work in 2020. Advocacy also included a lot of interactions with EU institutions, including those on the new Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) Programme for the Union, and national bodies of EU member states, specifically in Germany. An additional value was inviting officials from different branches for online talks and, hence, listening and reacting to valuable comments and spreading our messages within a single conversation.
Human Rights and Rule of Law
Solidarity
In 2020, the solidarity work of the Forum became more systematic and expanded significantly thanks to the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office. The Solidarity Group piloted the fellowships' programme for civil society actors under pressure giving an opportunity for rest and respite to more than 10 activists from Russia and Belarus. While the pandemic made physical attendance of key trials impossible, the Solidarity group launched an information campaign for courts' transparency via broadcasting means. Finally, the group organised three online workshops for the key solidarity players globally on the topics of efficient online campaigning, alternatives to relocation in the context of closed borders as well as court monitoring and development of cyberjustice in times of the pandemic.
10th General Assembly (18 May 2020)
For the first time in history, the GA 2020 was implemented fully online. Many praised the online format, claiming it was more efficient, cheaper and ecologically friendly, while most discussions profited from additional participation. The GA 2020 saw the highest number of Forum members applying as candidates for the position on the Board. Additionally, the Forum used a certified e-voting system which was positively assessed by the Board and the Forum members and supporters.
Human Rights and Rule of Law
Policy and Position Papers
In 2020, a new way of preparing policy and position papers – with a broader involvement of Forum members and supporters – was set in motion. The Background Note "Building Bridges: EU-Russia Visa Liberalisation and Visa Facilitation Dialogue" is the Forum's comeback to this debate, which became even more important during the pandemic. A policy brief on the EU's Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) Programme contributed to the final decision of increasing the funding for it. The latest policy paper deals with restrictive changes to the Russian legislation – proposed in November 2020.
Civil Society Research
State of Civil Society Report
In the last five years (2016-2020), the Annual Report on the State of Civil Society has covered 18 EU member states, with Russia also being a part of it every year. The 2020 issue is slightly different: it contains five chapters (a comparative overview; case studies from Austria, France and Russia and a report on the impact of COVID-19 on civil society). From 2021 onwards, the Expert Group on Civil Society Research will be turning its attention to topics related to civil society and civil society organisations in the EU and Russia. These will include issues such as climate change, informal civic initiatives or civic engagement.
EU-Russia Legal Dialogue Symposium (9–10 December 2020)
The restrictions of the human and civil rights during the pandemic are still strongly felt not just by people working in the sphere of civil society, but by every single person. To which extent the steps taken by the governments were necessary to protect their citizens? How can we reclaim our rights when COVID-19 is over? While the first part of the EU-Russia Legal Dialogue Symposium was devoted to rights, the second one focused on the vulnerable groups, which were strongly affected by the pandemic: people with disabilities, migrants, prisoners and women.
Civil Society Research
COVID-19 and European Civil Society
At the end of 2020, the Forum gladly embraced the idea of the Expert Group on Civil Society Research and the German-Russian Exchange (St. Petersburg, Russia) to organise the series of online discussions "Civil Society in Europe and Russia in the times of the Pandemic". Our speakers and experts focused on how civil society had adapted to the online world, as well volunteering, international cooperation, support and fundraising of civil society organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also thank the Friedrich Ebert Foundation for having supported this initiative.
SUSTAINABILITY
Environment
EcoCodex
Sustainability and Climate Change is one of the key priorities of the Forum in our strategy 2020-2025. Between August and December 2020, a group consisting of representatives of the member organisations, the Board and the Secretariat got together to collectively design concrete steps to tackle this priority in our everyday lives. The result is an EcoCodex to guide us through our daily operations, activities, projects and events as well as awareness-raising practices and global responsibility.
Environment
Citizens Science to Improve
Air Quality
In 2020, the Clean Air Action Group (Budapest, Hungary) and BELLONA (St. Petersburg, Russia) finished their project on measuring air quality in their cities. Based on these results, they elaborated recommenda-tions for future transportation systems in both cities, as the quality of life depends directly on air quality, which is in its turn influenced by transportation.

Listen to our podcast
Salon Europa
The hybrid event series "Salon Europa" focuses on migration issues from various European contexts under the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first round, launched in October 2020, the topic of (in)visible and vulnerable groups of migrants was explored, or how their situation, their rights and their voices were mirrored during the corona crisis. Speakers represented migrant organisations and communities in Berlin and Moscow, and music was provided by "Madar", a band with Syrian roots.

Civic Participation for Sustainable Development
Partnerships Matter
Within the Study Tour "Partnerships Matter: Implementation of Multi-Stakeholder Cooperation Tools for Sustainable Development", organised by the Collective Leadership Institute in Potsdam (Germany), the participants learnt how to engage with stakeholders and discussed how to establish collaborations with different actors. As a result, the group made a joint decision to advocate more for the Sustainable Development Goals within the Forum. Another outcome was the Position Paper "Effective Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Principles and Tools".
Migration
A Virtual Journey to Vienna
The first study tour on the topic of migration took place in May 2020 and was organised by RUSMPI UG – Institute on Migration Policy (Berlin, Germany). That turned out to be a breath-taking online journey to Vienna, with meetings and Q&A sessions with Austrian NGOs working in the field of migration and integration. The discussion topics included best practices of legal consultation, housing, education and integration on the labour market. The participants gathered insight and inspiration on how integration can work successfully at a local level.
Migration
The Last Days of Moria
The participants of a study tour organised by the Subjective Values Foundation (Hungary) witnessed the last days of the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. The group also met various local NGOs working in the legal, advocacy and humanitarian fields and debated about what we as civil society actors from different EU member states can do to help people longing for a better life, who are stranded in Moria. The situation in the camp was horrible then, and it is even more terrifying now.
EDUCATION
CIVIC EDUCATION
Unconference
In March 2020, the Forum member organisations "School Projects" (St. Petersburg, Russia) and the Centre for Civic Education (Vilnius, Lithuania) brought together around 50 young people from different regions of the EU, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine to take part in an unconference in Lithuania. This was shaped by the participants themselves – enthusiastic trainers, teachers and civil society actors. The participants developed and tested methods which can be used in civic education.
Democratic Structures and Processes
Visit of a Board Member to Russia
It is a nice tradition already that one of the Forum Board members from an EU member state visits Russia at least once a year. In January 2020, Nikola Mokrović (Documenta, Croatia), now Forum Board Co-Chair, held two lectures on the culture of remembrance in the Balkans at the Sakharov Centre in Moscow and at the Shtab Creative Space in Smolensk. He also had a number of meetings with local Forum member organisations and partners, and he also visited the Katyń Memorial near Smolensk.
Historical Memory and Education
Confronting Memories
Confronting Memories, the Forum's history programme, deals with historical memory and creates a space for dialogue with diverse perspectives on history. It has been implemented in cooperation with the EuroClio Association and the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (Germany). In 2020, the short documentary "Clash of Memories: 75 years after the End of WWII in Europe" was released right before Europe celebrated the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Additionally, a series of wider discussions was organised on how WWII is remembered in Russia, Poland and Germany, as well as in East Asia.
Watch the film
Watch the series of discussions
Historical Memory and Education
Winter School
In 2020, the essence of the history programme was formed around the work with history teachers from Belarus, Germany, Poland and Russia. Their task was to elaborate on history lessons about World War II, taking a multi-perspective approach into consideration and combining elements of formal and non-formal education. A spotlight event of the project was a winter school on 13-17 November 2020 – co-organised by the College of Eastern Europe (Wrocław, Poland), a Forum member NGO.
Civic Education
Europe Lab: 5th Anniversary and Decolonial Encounters
In 2020, the Europe Lab Programme for Young Professionals turned five. On 22-24 July, a series of related online events were organised – together with our alumni and partners. The agenda included topics such as the power of communities, postcolonialism and racism, and Europe 75 years after the end of World War II. Decolonial encounters is also the focus topic of the Europe Lab in 2021. Three multi-disciplinary project teams from Berlin, Brussels and Vladikavkaz (Russia), as well as the UK were chosen to develop and implement their projects to be presented at the Europe Lab Forum in July 2021.
Gender Equality
Arts as a Tool for Civic Education
The hybrid Study Tour "Arts as a Tool for Civic Education" by the Forum's Gender Equality Working Group took place in Göttingen and Berlin (Germany), as well as in Moscow (Russia). The participants developed and tested different methods which can be used to tackle stereotypes. In Berlin, the participants also took part in the Red Square Festival and were involved in a discussion on violence against LGBT* people in Russia.


MEDIA
Freedom of Information in the Digital World
Media Hub
Launched in 2020, Media Hub is the first media-centered programme in the Forum's history and a cooperation with the prominent Regional Press Institute in St. Petersburg. We strive to create a local point for qualitative journalism and an educational space for media professionals and civil society organisations. The highlight of the past year was the online conference "Problems of Russian Society and Media in the Times of Pandemic" with speakers and participants coming from 14 Russian cities and eight different countries. In 2021, we initiate more plans, including a media literacy programme for students and activists.
Freedom of Information in the Digital World
Our New Podcast
Since June 2020, the re-furbished podcast of the Forum has been available on Anchor and all popular podcasting platforms. "The Abduction of Europa" – co-hosted by Daria Sukharchuk, a journalist from Germany, and Sergei Tereshenkov, the Forum's Communications Lead, – has been recorded in Russian in a studio in Berlin-Schöneberg and looking at EU topics from a civil society's point of view. The topics covered so far include immigration and racism, climate and environment, LGBT+ rights, distant learning and, of course, COVID-19 and quarantine. The partner of the podcast is the dekoder platform.
Public and Inclusive Health
COVID-19: Citizens in Action
In the year when the COVID-19 pandemic became the biggest challenge for the world, civil society organisations played an important role in the response to it – by helping the most vulnerable groups and the representatives of essential professions. We gathered the most prominent examples of such initiatives in the EU member states and Russia.
Fighting Transborder Corruption
Mission Impossible?
As we all witnessed in 2020, the corruption in Russia has no end; it even reaches well beyond the borders of the country. The new report "Tackling Russian Elite's Corruption: Mission Impossible?" by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee and the Transborder Corruption Archive summarises long-standing examples of transborder corruption – from the Magnitsky case over the Izmaylovskaya criminal grouping cases to the Spanish crackdown on Russian mafia. The origins of this work lie in the actvities of the Fighting Transborder Corruption Expert Group of the Forum.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION IN THE DIGITAL WORLD
Webinars
In 2020, the thematic focus of the Forum's webinars was mainly shifted to the tools and strategies for civil society actors to be able to better adapt to the new reality. The topics included remote teamwork, facilitation of online meetings, organisational resiliency and building effective partnerships. On average, there were about 25 participants per webinar with about half of them coming from the Forum's member and supporter organisations.
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EU-Russia Civil Society Forum e.V.,
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Editing: Sergei Tereshenkov
Proofreading: Varvara Ilyina