Europe and the eastern neighbourhood policy

European Conference - February 25, 2016

On Thursday, the 25th of February 2016, the Foundation organised a European Conference européenne, which took place on the campus of the University of Lausanne. This Conference was dedicated to Europe and the eastern neighbourhood policy.

Around Pat Cox, president of the Foundation, former president of the European Parliament and of the International European Movement, who animated the event, Mr Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Mr Joseph Deiss also spoke.

After the opening speech of this event by Pat Cox, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, president of the Republic of Poland from 1995 to 2005, presented some general considerations on the theme of the Conference before beginning talks with the president of the Foundation. These talks focussed mainly on the historical perspective and on the notions of inspiration and hope that the European Union had represented for the Eastern block countries, as well as on the importance of the willingness to stabilise the eastern neighbourhood of the EU. According to Mr Kwaśniewski, the key to the current reading of the Eastern neighbourhood policy mainly resides in the relationships between Ukraine and Russia. The issue at stake for Europe is to look for means of handling this conflict and continuing to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty, implement reforms and eradicate corruption.

The Conference continued in the form of discussions between Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwaśniewski on Russia and on the tools it implements to “become the huge nation it was again” to quote Aleksander Kwaśniewski. The focus was on the EU and its history of dialogue, peace and democracy as well as on the Russian reality where there is no perception of the existence of a “win-win” policy, but rather that of a winner or a looser. Pat Cox raised later on the issue of the economic sanctions taken against Russia and their shortcomings. Then, he talked of the chances that the crisis between Ukraine and Russia can represent for Europe, mainly the increase of the cooperation with Russia. However, is Russia ready to accept the sovereignty of Ukraine? Or even a Ukraine as a Member State of the EU?

After these discussions, Joseph Deiss, former president of the Swiss Confederation and of the General Assembly of the United Nations, took the floor to bring back the Swiss perspective to the theme of the Conference. He started by recalling the contribution of Switzerland to the cooperation policy towards the Eastern block countries through the Billion given for the “Ostkooperation”, which was later on extended to 1.3 billion. He also outlined the action of Switzerland in the negotiations concerning the conflict in Ukraine, mainly through Mr Burkhalter, Federal Council, who was president of the Confederation and of the OSCE. Mr Deiss then talked about the major challenges of Europe, starting with governance. He outlined that what enriches a country is good institutions. Demography and migrations represent the second challenge of Europe. Indeed, considering the current migrant crisis, Mr Deiss recalled that the European Union, like Switzerland, is facing a natural demographic deficit, thus the importance of thinking of the overall stakes of migrations. He continued by talking of the risk of protectionism which increase daily within the Union, mainly as far as free circulation in concerned. All the same, Mr Deiss, who was worried about the growing populism observed within Europe, ended by quoting Theodore Rosevelt who stated that: “character, on a long term, is a key factor for the life of an individual as well as that of a nation”.

Before the closing remarks of this Conference, which brought together some 350 people, by president Cox, questions were raised by the public to the speakers.



Conference’s opening by Pat Cox, president of the Foundation, former president of the European Parliament and of the European Movement International

Introducing remarks by Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former president of Poland

Discussion between Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwaśniewski

The Swiss perspective by Joseph Deiss, former president of the Swiss Confederation and of the General Assembly of the United Nations

Discussion with the audience

Concluding remarks by Pat Cox