MOSCOW, May 21 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday urged the European Union to abstain from “ideology-based” remarks on the issue of non-governmental organizations in Russia.
The statement, posted on the ministry’s website, was made in the wake of the May 17 meeting between the Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov and European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis.
“In connection with the concerns about the implementation of Russia’s NGO legislation, voiced by Lambrinidis, the EU special representative was given the required clarifications. [We] called on the EU partners to avoid giving ideology-based estimates and to abstain from interfering into Russia’s domestic affairs,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
A new law came into force in November 2012 obliging all non-governmental organizations in Russia to register as “foreign agents” if they are involved in any kind of political activity and receive foreign funding. NGOs claim the term “foreign agent” is a virtual synonym for “spy” and will discredit them in the eyes of the public.
The EU said in a statement on the results of the meeting, issued on Sunday, that the Union “confirmed its intention to continue to follow closely developments affecting NGOs as a whole in the Russian Federation and expressed among others its concerns at the fining of election monitoring organization GOLOS and at the charges brought against ADC Memorial in St Petersburg.”
In late April, election monitoring NGO Golos was fined 300,000 rubles (around $10,000) by a Moscow court for failing to register as a “foreign agent,” in the first case of an NGO facing administrative penalties following the introduction of the law.
“Russia expressed openness in providing detailed clarification as to the implementation of that law and to pursue this dialogue in more depth on the basis of specific EU observations with the Ministry of Justice in Moscow,” the EU statement reads.
The next round of EU-Russia human rights consultations should take place in fall 2013.