Legal Obstacles to Cross-border Cooperation

Despite the mutual willingness to maintain a dialogue and unite around common goals, legal regulations and structural restrictions imposed on NGOs by state institutions serve as drivers of substantial negative changes in the operation of the third sector in Eastern Europe. In Belarus, the execution of violence after presidential elections in August 2020 drastically worsened the conditions for civil society actors. As a result, some of them had to cease their activities. The climate of fear prevails in Russia due to the notorious “foreign agent” law, according to which nonprofits that receive funding from abroad and engage in politics must register and declare themselves as foreign agents. This law considerably endangers collaboration between Russian and Western NGOs. In Azerbaijan, civil society encounters obstacles with the problematic registration process and acquiring of foreign donations. The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought significant limitations on the right of the CSOs to participate in decision-making and freedom of association worldwide.Notwithstanding these numerous challenges, civic actors remain committed to their vocation. How can the collaboration between Western and Eastern European NGOs be possible and fruitful in such circumstances? How to adapt and­/or resist the increased pressure followed by non-democratic tendencies? We will dedicate our discussion to these complex and vital issues.