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EU Offers 12 Million Euros To Civil Society Groups In Russia

Agence France Presse

April 18, 2006

The European Union is to give 12 million euros (14.6 million dollars) to civil society projects in Russia - mainly through non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - over the period 2006-2009, an EU delegation in Russia said on Tuesday.

The announcement came the day after controversial new legislation came into force in Russia, tightening controls on how the country's NGOs are funded.

Russian NGOs have said they are concerned that the new law could make it harder for them to obtain foreign funding, and that President Vladimir Putin's government could use it as a excuse to get rid of organisations it sees as hostile.

Both Brussels and Washington also criticised the new law when it was drawn up. In January, the Austrian presidency of the EU said it was "concerned that the law... could have a serious impact on the legitimate activity of civil society organisations in Russia".

The European Commission's delegation to Russia said the EU had been funding 34 small projects in the country since January, for a total budget of 7 million euros (8.5 million dollars), and that a further 5 million euros (6 million dollars) would be made available for the period 2007-2009.

The scheme, called the Institution Building Partnership Programme (IBPP), was designed to "strengthen the development of civil groups in society by promoting basic economic and civil rights of marginalized groups in society", the delegation said.

An official statement announcing the extra money is expected on April 20.

On Monday, Russia's main official human rights body met with about 100 NGOs to brief them on the new legislation, calling the meeting "the start of a year-long process" that would lead to some "modifications to the legislation", including the simplification of certain forms, which it said ask for more information than is needed.

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