Plenary session: Sovereignty, Democracy, Development: How Central and Eastern Europe Has Changed over the Past 25 Years

The second day of the anniversary 10th Europe-Ukraine Forum in Rzeszów was ended with a plenary session “Sovereignty, Democracy, Development: How Central and Eastern Europe Has Changed over the Past 25 Years” chaired by Michał Kacewicz, a journalist at Newsweek Polska. Jan Malicki, Chairman of the Polish-Ukrainian Partnership Forum, outlined similarities between the CEE countries in terms of historical, political and economic experience, including transformation after 1989. He underlined that formulating such a wide topic has to answer a primordial question: what are the threats Europe will be facing in the nearest future?

Victor Dolidze, Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Georgia, was talking about the challenging 25 years of Georgia’s sovereignty. He noted that despite the mistakes and blunders, Georgia is on the right track of changes and wants to continue reforms. However, it needs support of the EU community. Speaking about the future of the European project, Viktor Dolidze mentioned the enormous value of a united Europe. He stressed that unity will only be possible when people are aware of the importance the European Union and NATO and the benefits of membership in these communities.

Gordana Comic, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, spoke about the democratic experience of Serbia. She noted that the recent economic crisis, which hit Central and Eastern Europe, undermined confidence in state institutions. This, in turn, created room for populism and radical groups. “We cannot agree to it. It only depends on Europe if it wants to become the world change leader,” concluded the Serbian politician.

Andrius Kubilius, the former prime minister of Lithuania, was asked about the threats to Central and Eastern European Countries sovereignty. The Lithuanian MP made a claim, that all countries created after the fall of the USSR should get guarantees on their future accession to the EU. We need to remember that formal sovereignty does not always imply getting away from the former empire’s zone of influence. This is evidenced by the situation in and around Ukraine, as well as Georgia. When summing his statements up, Kubilius said that he does not worry about Europe’s future. What is more, he believes that it will end up being more united than before.

Anatoliy Kinakh, the president of the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, commented on the topic of attacking Ukrainian sovereignty and the influence of the current situation on the Ukrainian economy. – We are defending the fundamental values on which the entire European Union is based. Those values cannot be subject to any kind of political bargain. The decision of opting for Europe was very costly to us, including lost lives. We would want for our EU partners to understand, how important these issues are for us. We have to act in a more consolidated manner, without implementing double standards at the same time.