On 13 May, one year after Russia’s President Putin took office and two weeks after the major NGO conference held at the German Foreign Office, the Coordinator of German-Russian Intersocietal Cooperation arranged a panel discussion with Lilia Shibanova, founder and managing director of the election-observer association GOLOS, Arseny Roginsky, chairman of human rights organization Memorial International, and Rostislav Valvoda and Stefan Melle, both representing the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.
A predominantly young audience of around 100 joined the panellists in discussing the current situation of non-governmental organizations in Russia and the possibilities for European cooperation at the civil-society level.
Russian NGOs “in a dramatic situation”
Arseny Roginsky reported that Russian NGOs were in a dramatic situation. Many NGOs, he said, would cease to exist in their present form, “but will not stop doing what they do”. He saw the fact that not one NGO had voluntarily registered for “foreign agent” status as a pivotal sign. It demonstrated, he said, the NGO sector’s growing confidence.
Lilia Shibanova told those taking part in the discussion that “your interest gives us hope!” She expressed her delight at seeing so many young people in attendance. In Russia too, she said, the future lay in the hands of the younger generation who were active in society and favoured a European outlook.