What Unites and What Divides Us – Security Cooperation in CEE

The programme of the 26th Economic Forum in Krynica will once again include the Security Forum thematic path. The aim of the numerous debates that will take place within the path’s framework will be to take a closer look at the most important contemporary security challenges.

One of the issues to be discussed during the Security Forum will be the question of cooperation between the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in the field of security, with a particular emphasis on the role of the Visegrad Group. Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Donbas caused ambivalent reactions of the CEE states. The differences relate primarily to the assessment of the role of the Kremlin in these events, the imposition of the sanctions on Russia by the EU and the protection of the respective economic interests of the member states. The countries in the region generally do not want to pay for the consequences of the dispute between the EU and Russia.

Two years after the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis the security situation beyond the Eastern border of the EU and NATO remains risky. The changing security environment compelled European countries, including the members of the Visegrad Group, to redesign their security policies and adapt the preparation of their armed forces and building of capabilities to the new conditions. Some of the NATO member states accelerated their modernisation programs or launched completely new ones.  However, the performance of the CEE countries in setting and implementing the new defence policies and meeting their individual commitments differs to some extent. It has also been reflected in the process of updating the security strategies, what is evident on the example of the Visegrad Group. While Poland updated its National Security Strategy in November 2014 and the Czech Republic in February 2015 in response to the Ukrainian crisis, Hungary did so in 2012 and Slovakia in 2005. This might have negative consequences on the coherence of the Group when facing new threats. The countries in Central Europe also see the threats resulting from the migration crisis; however, here their position on this issue seems to be consistent.

The speakers in the panel What Unites and What Divides Us – Security Cooperation in CEE will have to analyse a series of aspects related to the problems discussed above in the attempt to answer the following questions: How do political leaders of the V4 states and other countries in the region perceive the region’s security? Have these perceptions changed? Is Russia considered to be a direct danger or an indirect threat to the region? To what extent have the defence and military priorities changed? Has the role of expeditionary, territorial and collective defence operations changed in the political and military thinking of V4 countries? The speakers will also attempt to answer the key question: is there still a chance that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe could speak with one voice and adopt a common strategy for security in the region?

The situation of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including security issues, has been one of the main areas of interest of the Economic Forum in Krynica for many years. It has always had a key place in the programme of the conference and is very popular among the participants of the Forum. Last year, the issues of security in the region were discussed at the 25th Economic Forum during the panel The Visegrad Group – Security Strategies in the Region. The role of CEE was also raised during the 9th Europe – Ukraine Forum where the debate Central Europe Towards the Ukrainian Crisis – Is It Possible to Speak with One Voice? took place.

This year’s debate on the issues of security in Central and Eastern Europe will thus be a continuation of the themes raised during the previous Forums. The ministers of defence of the Visegrad Group, members of parliaments and leading experts on security issues from the region have been invited to participate in the debate.