EU to demonstrate its support to the Russian civil society

Members of the European Parliament have called for the European Union delegation to support the Russian democratic civil society in the ongoing EU-Russia Summit in Nizhny Novgorod.[:]

For the first time, the Russian non-governmental organisations, including a newly established EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, have planned a parallel civil society event. However, the Russian authorities have tried to prevent the NGOs from holding any public actions around the summit.

Concerned about the free development of civil society in Russia, Heidi Hautala the Chair of the Subcommittee for Human Rights and Werner Schulz, the Vice-Chair of the Russia-delegation of the European Parliament have emitted a written appeal to the EU delegation, Mr Barroso, Lady Ashton and Mr Van Rompuy requesting to meet with the civil society representatives and to recognise the parallel event.

Ms Hautala reiterated the call for EU support in the plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Thursday.
“It would be very important that the EU shows its coherent support to the democratic civil society and to the right to assemble. We have heard of the pre-emptive measures and pressure taken by the Russian authorities against the NGO representatives to impede the organisation of the event”, states Heidi Hautala.

The Russian civil society representatives have been placed under surveillance, questioned and threatened by the police. Also other measures, such as blocking a bank account and taking the car licence plates, have been taken against the organisers.

“The European Union has been very consistent in its support to democratic development in Russia. Therefore, we ask for the EU delegation to give its full support to the civil society and its event”, Hautala adds.

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum has been officially welcomed by the EU institutions and has been included in the 2011 EU budget proposal of the European Parliament. The parallel civil society event is to take place on 10 June 2011.