On May 15, GMF hosted a roundtable discussion on "Candidates and partners: The European Union in the European neighborhood," featuring Tim Hitchens, director of European political affairs in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom; and Ian Lesser, senior transatlantic fellow at GMF. Peter Van Praagh, GMF's senior director for Wider Europe, moderated the discussion. The discussion observed the Chatham House Rule.
The focus of the discussion was the role that the European Union is playing in its immediate neighborhood. The European Union has spread stability and prosperity as it has expanded from six to twenty-seven Member States. The enlargement process continues: Croatia will likely be next to join, and its six Balkan neighbors wait in the wings. Meanwhile, Turkey is also making progress towards EU accession, though significant internal and external challenges remain in its path. Less well appreciated is the role the EU is playing amongst those countries that have no imminent prospect of joining the Union but where its - and our - vital interests are at stake: the European Neighborhood Policy. Following last year's EuroMed Partnership, the Eastern Partnership - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine - is the most recent such initiative, launched on May 7, 2009. The presentations on these topics sparked a lively discussion.