Convening at the invitation of the Commission on the Black Sea, 80 experts and policymakers came together at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin at the end of January in order to discuss the current state of relations in the Black Sea region and the region’s prospects for the future.more
Europe Is Not a Major Issue
Armando Garcia takes a look at Spain’s media
It’s almost routine. On January 1, Spain assumed the presidency of EU, the fourth time it has done so. Yet anyone who expects the presidency to spark a debate within the country on European issues or European policy will be disappointed. Having taken a look at Spain’s media, Bertelsmann Stiftung specialist Armando Garcia writes that the topics currently getting the most attention are the employment crisis and calls for greater autonomy for Catalonia. A summary of his observations appeared in the January issue of “Internationale Politik.”
German-Polish Relations Put to the Test
Dominik Hierlemann attends Münster symposium
A two-day symposium was recently held in Münster to mark the 20th anniversary of the partnership between Münster’s University of Applied Sciences and Cracow’s University of Economics. The dinner speech was given by Dominik Hierlemann of the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s The Future of Europe program. Addressing the assembled economists and other notable guests, he discussed Germany and Poland’s political relations and their meaning for the European Union.
December 8, 2009, Article by Cornelius Ochmann published in “Das Weimarer Dreieck in Europa.“
Edited by Klaus-Heinrich Standke and published by the Adam Marszalek publishing house, “Das Weimarer Dreieck in Europa“ is a volume of essays examining issues from the perspective of German-French-Polish relations, a tripartite alliance known as the Weimar Dreieck (Weimar Triangle). Key issues discussed in the publication include research and development, higher education and energy research. An article by the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Cornelius Ochmann focuses on the aftermath of the war in Georgia in 2008 and the conflict surrounding Russian gas deliveries.
Germany’s new government intends to focus increased attention on the three-way partnership, which was initiated 18 years ago in Weimar. To that end, the agreement establishing the country’s current coalition government states that the Weimar Triangle is to be used as a consultative forum to a greater extent than in the past.
December 8, 2009, Who Should the EU Choose as Its Partner in the East?
Conference on EU policy vis-à-vis Russia and other eastern neighbors
A conference held in Berlin in December 2009 focused on the question of how the EU should structure its partnerships in the east. Should it concentrate on forming alliances with Eastern Europe? Or would Russia be the better choice? Does one preclude the other? Those were just some of the issues addressed by participants at the event, which was organized by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the European Council on Foreign Relations.
November 25, 2009, Black Sea Commission to Continue Its Work
Members of the international Commission on the Black Sea came together recently at an event organized by the Bertelsmann Stiftung in Berlin. Moderated by Bertelsmann Stiftung specialist Armando García, the 16-member group discussed the commission’s final report, which is to be published at the beginning of 2010.
Both regional specialists and high-level government officials attended the event, held in the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Berlin office. Together with Volker Rühe, former German Defense Minister, and Erhard Busek, former Austrian vice-chancellor, other former members of government from Europe and the Black Sea region drew on their extensive experience to draft a series of policy recommendations.
Initiated by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the Commission on the Black Sea began its work at the beginning of 2009. Its report will be the first comprehensive study to focus on the states bordering the Black Sea. The report will examine opposing interests and existing conflicts in the region, as well as the benefits to be gained from increased regional cooperation. The report will also highlight the opportunities for the EU and Germany that would result from a Black Sea region free of conflict. The report is set to be published in February 2010.external link
November 21, 2009, Lunch Debate on the Future of the Southern Caucasus
The lunch debate organized by the Bertelsmann Stiftung on the situation in the southern Caucasus was attended by a number of specialists from the region, including Iris Kempe, director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s office in Tbilisi, Georgia, Ivlian Haindrava, cofounder of Georgia’s Republican Party, and Armenian political scientist Aleksander Ishkandaryan. A total of 40 guests attended the event in Berlin, including policymakers, government officials and academic specialists.
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia consider themselves to be European nations. In recent years they have implemented changes designed to bring them in line with western standards and institutions. While many are hopeful that this process will continue, numerous hurdles remain. Speaking at the lunch debate, experts from the region were skeptical about efforts to strengthen democracy in the three countries. Azerbaijan, for example, maintains an authoritarian system that permits little freedom for engaging in political activities. Similarly, Georgia and Armenia are having difficulties implementing rule of law and creating the desired democratic structures. In addition, regional strife, such as the war between Georgia and Russia in mid-2008 and the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, are impinging on regional cooperation.
Conversely, the EU’s efforts to engage with its eastern neighbors were seen positively by the experts attending the event. “For example, the EU is bringing helpful new momentum to trans-regional partnerships among NGOs,” Kempe said. “Yet it is also clear that the EU needs to pool its many instruments into one overall strategic approach, if they are to achieve their objectives.” Against that background, the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Cornelius Ochmann called for the EU to develop a comprehensive “eastern approach.”