(AE) RUSSIA: Campaigners want more room for human rights

Brussels, 06/12/2012 (Agence Europe) – On Wednesday 5 December, human rights defenders called for more importance to be given to human rights in EU-Russia relations at the summit on 21 December. “Human rights are always limited on the agenda. Now we are trying to push the two parties to accord greater attention to human rights in their relations but success is quite limited”, Alexander Verhovsky from the information and analysis centre SOVA told EUROPE. “The EU can’t help us resolve all the human rights problems but it can have an influence on the reactions (…) sometimes by confrontation, sometimes by cooperation”, he added. He recognised, however, that the Russian authorities consider human rights to be a domestic issue and that it is difficult to influence them.

Stefania Kulaeva, the programme director at the anti-discrimination centre Memorial, said that it is difficult to speak about human rights when, as in Russia, defenders of these rights are criminalised. However, she would like Europe to react to human rights violations and to show solidarity. “We would like some developments in the process that was launched a while ago – the dialogue and consultation on human rights”, she said. Kulaeva added that the EU’s support for civil society in Russia is a good idea but that the situation is problematic with the new Russian law on foreign funding for NGOs. “That could perhaps be part of economic discussions – if Russia accepts European money for something, there should be a legal way to raise funds for human rights”, she said.

The two campaigners also said that the EU and Russia could cooperate on common issues such as discrimination against the Roma and the issue of refugees and detention centres. “The methods and solutions are similar”, Kulaeva said. However, “for such cooperation the two parties need to be open and ready for criticism”, Verkhovsky said, acknowledging that Russians are often nervous in the face of criticism, as are the European states. (CG/transl.fl)