European Union must show solidarity with Russia’s civil society

Russian civil society is today under unprecedented pressure from the side of Russian state agencies. The European Union must set a clear signal of solidarity with Russia’s emerging civil society, says a policy paper released by EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.

The pressure and legal prosecution of Russian civil society organizations and their leaders must be clearly condemned by European politicians and institutions. The European Union should expand its dialogue with Russian civil society activists and human rights defenders on all levels. Human rights defenders and civil society activists under risk should find protection in EU member states. EC funding for Russian NGOs should be increased significantly as recommended in the European Parliament’s Resolution on Rule of Law in Russia from 13 June 2013.

Given departure of a number of international donors from Russia and the pressure experienced by Russian NGOs the current level of EU funding for Russian civil society is not adequate to the political need for the support of a movement for democratic change in the country. An increase of funding from today €5 m annually to at least €20 m for Russian human rights and socially oriented NGOs seems adequate and necessary.

In addition to direct EU funding, the European Endowment for Democracy should include Russian Federation in its programs. Governments of EU member states (including but not limited to Germany, France and the UK) should commit themselves to financially contribute to the EED for this purpose.

Given new legal and political restrictions on foreign funding of NGOs in Russia, EU should apply flexible and innovative tools of support, including through partner organizations in Europe. The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is ready to provide expert consultation to the EU structures on how to design legal and effective funding structures and mechanisms for this purpose.

Full text of the policy paper can be downloaded here