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Secretary General alarmed by proposed NGO legislation in Russia

Strasbourg , 

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland made the following statement on proposed NGO legislation in Russia:

“I am concerned about proposals to label non-governmental organisations which receive funding from abroad as ‘foreign agents’ and create new administrative hurdles to their activities.

Without a thriving civil society there can be no functioning democracy. Any restriction which would go against the standards set by the European Convention on Human Rights would be against the interest of Russia, its citizens and its international reputation. The proposed law uses language with very negative historic connotations.

I am particularly worried that this is only the latest in a series of attempts to change in haste key legislation regulating democratic life in Russia, without giving enough time for proper reflection and public debate.

I should also like to recall that back in 2006, the Council of Europe assisted the Russian authorities to improve the legislation regulating NGOs that is currently in force. This was a very effective response to the broad criticism which the legislation initially adopted had provoked in Russia and internationally. We are ready to provide similar assistance today and I sincerely hope Russia, an important member of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, will respond positively to our offer.”