12 April 2023
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group
On 11 April 2023, the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office declared the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum “undesirable” for Russia. We are outraged by this decision.
We cannot agree with the Prosecutor’s Office’s assertion. Since the moment of its founding, the Forum has played a key role in bringing civil societies and concerned people in the European Union and Russia together. The Forum has created and expanded the space for concerned dialogue, for the open and creative discussion of topical issues, for the exchange of practical experience, and for joint activities by nongovernmental organizations. With the Forum’s support, hundreds of civic initiatives have been implemented both inside Russia and between the civil societies of Russia and EU countries. Through direct contact and joint work by activists and experts from various countries, progress became possible in the most diverse fields — ecology, social development, civic education, education, historical memory, human rights, citizen participation in decision making, strengthening civil society, stable development, and much else. For thousands of people from different countries, and above all for the Russians engaged in joint work within the Forum’s framework, it became a genuine school for democracy.
The worse relations became between Russia and the EU countries on the official level, the more relevant the interaction between civil societies proved to be. Now that official intergovernmental relations have been reduced to nil, Russia’s complete (self)-isolation and decisive break with European tradition and the European perspective can be averted only by preserving and developing communication among people.
The Russian General Prosecutor’s Office asserts that the Forum’s activities “represent a threat to the foundations of the state’s constitutional order and its territorial integrity and security.” In fact, it is precisely these kinds of prosecutorial decisions that inflict harm on Russia and threaten the foundations of the constitutional order. In the second chapter of the Constitution, which is devoted to guarantees of the rights and freedoms of the individual and citizen, Article 30 guarantees citizens’ freedom of association. The very “law on undesirable organizations” on which the Prosecutor’s Office is resting is anticonstitutional, an instrument of terror against independent civil society.
We express our steadfast support for the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. The Forum’s activities, for all the years of its existence, have been extremely important and beneficial for Russia. In the present day, it is a breath of fresh air that allows us to maintain hope.
No prohibitions or threats will halt the dialogue among representatives of civil society in different countries. We will continue to act in accordance with the principle “civil society without borders.” Solidarity is more powerful than repressions.
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Translated by Marian Schwartz