International Conference on “Europe’s East – Falling Between the Cracks?”

The CIES, in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States and Aspen Institute Romania, held a conference on “Europe’s East – Falling Between the Cracks?” in Bucharest, Romania on 24-25 May.

The conference on “Europe’s East – Falling Between the Cracks?” was meant to address the state of play in the Eastern Neighbourhood by focusing both on the impact of the changing world order on the region as well as the on the regional economic and reform context. It also focused on how the European narrative on the region could change by concentrating on possible actions and approaches that promote change. Its speakers consisted both policy makers and policy analysts.

In particular, the conference was centered around four plenary sessions:

The Black Sea region - From One's Neighborhood to the other's Surrounding

The European Union and Russia influence the region, projecting their political, economic and, recently, military power. Countries in the region swing between the two geopolitical powers, as one’s project appears more appealing than the other’s at a given time. The region is on and off European priority list, yet always high on the Russian one, and this impacts their attractiveness to and credibility with population in the region. The panel will look at the current geopolitical situation, the importance given to the region by the main actors, the political trajectory desired by the countries in the region and the geopolitical constraints, if any. The role of other major players – China, US, Iran – will also be analyzed.

The Regional Security Context in a Changing World (Order)

Regional security has become ever more precarious with Russia’s actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and the consequent intense militarization of the region and of the Black Sea. Russia’s military adventures place the region and Europe’s Eastern Flank at risk, opening the discussion of the state of the European security and its current threats. NATO’s role has increased in both the region and in Central Europe, and so has the tension between NATO and Russia. The panel will analyze current and prospective threats to the regional security, as well as actions needed to enhance it, in a less than ideal context.

Reforms in the Black Sea Region - Needs and Prospects

The region is lagging behind in economic, political and social reforms, and it progresses at a very slow pace. Geopolitics is only partially to blame. An important role in the lack of reforms is played by the poor governance of these countries. The panel will look at the progress of political, economic and social reforms in the countries in the region, the obstacles against future, more serious reforms and actions needed at both the European and regional levels to stimulate them.

Changing the Narrative

Despite a new, different, harsher regional context, the European narrative of the region has not changed much, and it fails to reflect, let aside address, the current realities. For the region to succeed, it is important to have its problems understood and alleviated, and to benefit from vigorous and coherent regional policies. The panel will analyze actions and approaches needed to change the narrative and influence regional policies accordingly.