GMF Brussels hosts Czech Foreign Minister
On January 25, 2007, GMF's Brussels office hosted a seminar on the role and contribution that Central Europe can make in shaping the future Eastern policy of the European Union. The public seminar was opened by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and followed by a panel discussion with the directors of several leading Visegrad think thinks -- former EU Commissioner Péter Balázs (Director, Center for EU Enlargement Studies - CENS, Budapest), Eugeniusz Smolar , (President, Center for International Relations - CIR, Warsaw) and Jirí Schneider (Program Director, Prague Security Studies Institute - PSSI)-- who presented the initial findings of a joint research project entitled "Strategic Framework for EU's Eastern Policy."
This discussion highlighted the opportunities as well as hurdles facing new EU members as they seek to figure out how to contribute to and impact on EU Eastern policy. It is clear that these countries would like the EU to make Eastern policy a higher priority as well as to strengthen the emphasis on promoting democratic development on the Union's borders. These are objectives broadly shared in the region and even outside actors such as the United States are broadly sympathetic and hoping that Central Europe can and will assume such a role.
During the event, Eugeniusz Smolar challenged the EU to fix its neighborhood in order to become a global player and Peter Balazs presented the EU with the challenge of political modernization in its neighborhood.
The promise of EU membership gave an incentive for the aspirant countries to reform and encouraged the development of civil society by including it in the discussions with the policy makers. Panelists argued that by taking away the opportunity for membership in the EU, the Eastern countries have less motivation to reform.
Representatives of EU institutions spoke out about the difficulty of putting the issues of the Eastern Neighborhood on the agenda of the member states. Other issues such as international security take the majority of the attention way from Eastern policy.
This event and study release is the beginning of a three year project to look at these issues.