CEE leaders, Albright highlight region’s desire for Obama’s attention
On July 16, GMF hosted a high-level roundtable discussion on Central and Eastern European (CEE) expectations of the Obama administration. The Washington, DC meeting featured the Honorable Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State and now principal of the Albright Group, as a commentator. Senator Alexandr Vondra of the Parliament of the Czech Republic and Ambassador Istvan Gyarmati, president and chief executive officer of the International Centre for Democratic Transition in Hungary, presented the CEE perspective, and Dr. Ronald D. Asmus, the executive director of the GMF's Brussels office, moderated the discussion.
Leading up to this event, GMF supported the work of a Central European Task Force that consisted of six prominent experts from the region with extensive experience in think tanks and government: Adam Rotfeld (Poland), Ivan Krastev (Bulgaria), Pavol Demes (Slovakia), and Kadri Liik (Estonia), in addition to Gyarmati and Vondra. This group produced a new GMF Policy Brief, and they joined a larger group in signing "A Letter to President Obama from Central and Eastern Europe". Both documents advocate the importance of a renewed and continued relationship between the United States and Central and Eastern Europe.
Introducing the brief, Senator Vondra stressed that this is not an attack on current Obama administration policies, and that it is not an attempt to split Europe on false lines between "old" and "new." Rather, both Vondra and Gyarmati stressed that this paper was produced to reinforce the need for renewed and deepened partnership between the United States and Europe, with added emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe. "We need help," Ambassador Gyarmati said. "We need help from the United States, and we can also offer help." While he noted how far the CEE countries had advanced in the last 20 years, he also added, "Eastern Europe still needs to make a lot of progress, particularly in the minds of the people."
The policy brief asserted that, historically, a large part of getting Europe right was about getting Central and Eastern Europe right -- a goal that is critical to locking in peace and stability from the Baltics to the Black Sea. The authors emphasized that the objective must be to keep Central and Eastern Europe as a stable, activist, and Atlanticist part of our broader community, which will require both sides to recommit to and invest in this relationship.
Secretary Albright, stressing that the CEE countries are her "favorite part of the world," said this letter was a timely effort to reinforce the transatlantic partnership and help solidify the democracies in Central and Eastern Europe.
Secretary Albright closed her commentary by saying, "I hope you see this policy brief and these letters not as victims saying ‘Pay attention to us,' but as an understanding of the fact that these are issues that need to be dealt with as partners in an incredibly complicated world."