On October 5, GMF hosted a presentation and discussion entitled "EU and U.S. policy toward Eastern Europe: A joint or separate approach?" with Ambassador Jiři Schneider, Program Director at the Prague Security Studies Institute, and Alexander Duleba, Research Director at the Slovak Foreign Policy Association. Peter Van Praagh, Senior Director for Wider Europe at GMF, moderated the event. The presentation was the second in a series of events featuring the work of prominent European think tanks who were recipients of GMF's 2006-2007 Transatlantic Policy Research grants.
The two speakers framed their presentation in light of how new EU members in Central and Eastern Europe are uniquely positioned to shape EU policy toward Eastern Europe, including Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Schneider pointed out that despite having varied interests in terms of general EU policies, the Visegrad countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) share common views on their Eastern European neighbors. Schneider called for the Visegrad countries to actively pursue a European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) which would encourage neighboring countries in Wider Europe to become further integrated with Western Europe.
Schneider discussed the Visegrad countries' well-suited ability to help guide European neighbors during a period of transition. He drew parallels between the current EU relationship with its immediate neighbors and the Czech relationship with NATO in the 1990s, when the country was first offered a partnership with NATO rather than the full membership it desired. Having only recently emerged from their own transition phases, the Visegrad countries are well poised to assist EU Neighborhood countries. Schneider reiterated that the ENP is part of the transition period in Wider Europe and will eventually lead to a more fully integrated Europe.
Following his discussion of the ENP, Schneider turned his attention to the EU-Russian relationship. He called for the EU not to "dance around" issues with Russia, but rather "to start with the toughest issues - frozen conflicts." He acknowledged that individual countries within the EU have different perspectives on engaging Russia, but emphasized that the EU and Russia are "interdependent competitors." Schneider concluded his remarks by stating that Russia simultaneously wants a Europe who needs it, and a Europe who is strong enough to balance the United States.
Alexander Duleba continued the presentation by outlining the importance of Russia and Eastern Europe in the U.S. and European policy arenas. Duleba asserted that "Russia is a part of Europe and the 21st century transatlantic dialogue," not a separate entity outside of the transatlantic relationship. Thus, EU policy toward Russia and other European neighbors should be treated as if it were part of the domestic, not external, agenda. Duleba considers one major weakness in EU policy toward Eastern European countries to be the lack of a regional agenda. The "EU has regional interests [in Wider Europe], but no regional instruments."
Duleba offered a comprehensive review of EU progress in dealing with Wider Europe and Russia under the last three EU Presidents, including adopting new dimensions to the Common Space Road Maps with Russia, which could serve as a model for a more regionally-focused ENP, and the Black Sea Synergy, a regional policy that includes equal participation from Russia.
Following the presentation, the presenters engaged in a conversation with the audience on the differences between U.S. and EU perceptions of Russia. The discussion touched on issues such as the role of the EU versus NATO, whether the U.S. has lost interest in Eastern Europe, as well as EU, Russian, and Chinese roles in Central Asia. Participants in attendance at the event included members of the journalism, academic, think tank, and diplomatic communities, including a large number of representatives from Central and Eastern European embassies.