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By James E. Brooks,
George C. Marshall European Center Public Affairs Director

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Sept. 19, 2017) - Parliamentarians from the nations of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova returned to the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies for a two-day conference on building greater resilience through partnership in Eastern Europe, Sept. 13 and 14.

art news 1 20 sep 17

Parliamentarians from Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine listen to (left to right) NATO Partnership Officer Tanya Hartman; Marshall Center Director of Central and Southeast Europe Programs Matthew Rhodes, and Marshall Center professor Ralf Roloff discuss NATO perspectives on resilience. The parliamentarians were attending a two-day conference on building greater resilience through partnership in Eastern Europe, Sept. 13 and 14. (DOD photo by Karl-Heinz Wedhorn)

“Last year was the first time we invited parliamentarians from three nations and everyone was quite pleased by that trilateral format. We saw some positive outcomes from that first seminar and refocused our efforts on a central theme of resilience In many ways Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have similar problems, challenges and issues both internal and external, but also similar goals. The Marshall Center can serve as a platform for establishing better communication and coordination among the parliamentarians and advance a future strategic dialogue,” said Marshall Center Black Sea and Eurasia Program Director Valbona Zeneli, who was responsible for this seminar.

RESILIENCE IS KEY FOR REFORM IN EASTERN EUROPE

According to Marshall Center faculty members Ralf Roloff and Pal Dunay who both shared their insights during the seminar, resilience is about how nations and societies resist collapse under the impact of different threats, both internal and external. Nations like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine who are still transforming to independent democratic rule after decades under Soviet control are especially susceptible to threats.

“Resilience has much to do with the nations’ capacity, governance, cohesion and support of its citizens, state institutions and elected leaders. But because there are so many factors contributing to resilience, it’s too simple to say ‘good governance’ is the answer. Resilience must be developed in anticipation of scenarios that are likely to occur,” said Roloff.

Dunay agreed with his colleague.

“Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova do not have unlimited resources. The priority areas must be backed by resource allocation. This may be easier said than done as there is rivalry for resources on their respective national agendas. Due to various factors, some of these countries—irrespective of their national efforts— cannot become resilient alone against certain concentrated, high intensity challenges such as the threat they face from Russia.  Partnerships in this region are needed to help build resiliency.”

SEMINAR SPEAKERS PROVIDE INSIGHT AND STIMULATE DISCUSSION

Focused on building resilience through partnership, the seminar was divided into seven sessions over two days. Some of the topics guest speakers and faculty led included U.S. and German perspectives on the European security environment; the European Union strategy for resilience; the challenge of corruption on government institutions and society; the need for economic and energy resilience in an eastern European partnership; and NATOs perspectives on building resilience in an alliance.

Zeneli, who recently published an article on economic resilience in “After the EU Global Strategy-Building Resilience” shared her research in this area.

“Economic security is among the main challenges facing Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and it is strongly related to good governance and control of corruption. High levels of corruption throughout the region extract an enormous economic price, keeping away domestic and foreign investors, while its hidden social costs are even higher. Despite some encouraging positive trends of growth in Eastern Europe over the last two decades, economic development remains below satisfactory levels. Building up resilience in this region requires a multidimensional and regional approach, and building economic resilience is imperative. The parliamentarians in this seminar are the ones who can change that,” said Zeneli.

“What I found most interesting was that we three countries have common ideas and agree how these problems should be addressed. This was the beauty of the seminar--the ability to work together, to cooperate together for resolving the problems for regional security,” said Georgia Parliamentarian and First Deputy Chairman of the Defense and Security Committee Irakli Beraia. “The speakers were able to break down these complex problems into more manageable issues. This seminar has enabled us, in more detail, to discuss these particular problems and how to address them step-by-step.” 

Among the guest speakers were: U.S. Ambassador Susan Elliot, Civilian Deputy to the Commander and Foreign Policy Advisor, U.S. European Command; Director of the European Union Institute for Security Policy Antonio Missiroli; NATO Partnership Officer Tanya Hartman; Special Advisor for Ruassian/Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Army Europe Mark Voyger and Head of the Eastern and Eurasia Program at Rome’s Instituto Affari Internazionali Nona Mikhelidze.

UKRAINE PARTNER OPTIMISTIC ABOUT FUTURE

The two-day Marshall Center seminar provided opportunities for parliamentarians to meet informally between sessions to get to know each other and develop personal trust that is important in the region. For Ukraine Parliamentarian Andreii Tetruk, who heads the subcommittee in the National Security Committee on social and legal support to service members and their families, this seminar is especially valuable.

“Seminars like this for parliamentarians from different countries but with similar histories, helps us to find the decision on what we should do to unite our actions for safer countries, especially from Russian aggression. It’s very important to stay connected. Dialogues like this seminar have helped Ukraine on what we should do right now and in the long term. Such seminars like this helps us understand the processes in other countries and cooperate in our actions to produce more clear reforms.”

Looking at the challenges facing Ukraine and what the future holds, Tetruk remains positive about what he sees happening in his country.

“I’m optimistic. We did a lot of work for the last three years and we changed direction in where we were going. We understand that we will only build our country in the European direction and in the short three years, we voted for new laws in anti-corruption which allows us to receive recognition from the European Union. I think we have the way to continue our reform and our main idea is ‘Don’t stop. Provide every day the next step’ for our very important reform.”