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Bratislava takes a step "Towards a Wider Europe"

STANDING at the doors of NATO and the EU that will open wide in early April and May, the Slovak capital is hosting a conference of prime ministers of the future member countries of both groups March 18 - 20.
Bratislava will become one of the most protected cities in the region to secure what is one of the most watched conferences of the year.
12 premiers, two presidents, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen, US Senate delegates, current and former politicians, non-governmental expert analysts, and journalists will discuss integration and stability in Europe.

STANDING at the doors of NATO and the EU that will open wide in early April and May, the Slovak capital is hosting a conference of prime ministers of the future member countries of both groups March 18 - 20.

Bratislava will become one of the most protected cities in the region to secure what is one of the most watched conferences of the year.

12 premiers, two presidents, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen, US Senate delegates, current and former politicians, non-governmental expert analysts, and journalists will discuss integration and stability in Europe.

Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda has taken the event, called "Towards a Wider Europe: New Agenda", under his auspices.

The first part of the conference, which is co-organised by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, (whose Central and Eastern Europe Office is in Bratislava), the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, and the Institute for Public Affairs, will bring together think-tanks and various experts of the security and EU policy fields.

The second part will feature former and current leaders of NATO and EU member countries who will share their visions on the new agenda of the enlarged Europe and the threats the European family faces.

The Madrid terrorist attacks has made the security units, which have been preparing to protect the event for several months, strengthen their lines.

"After the events in Madrid, all the delegations have requested tougher security measures as there are still considerable concerns," head of the Slovak unit for the protection of officials, Ján Packa, told the press.

The event will draw on the successful international conference "Europe's New Democracies: Leadership and Responsibility", which was held in Bratislava in May 2001.

The Prime Ministerial Conference is convening at a turning point in European history. Two months from now, seven European countries will join NATO and 10 countries will enter the European Union, almost definitely wrapping up a period in history dominated by the dividing lines of Munich and Yalta, writes the official stand provided by the Slovak government.

According to the statement, for the countries of central and eastern Europe the twin accessions are a symbolic return to the European family of shared values. Looking back on the spring of 2004, historians may conclude that these were the months when the elusive vision of a European whole, free and at peace, became a reality.

The conference will devote increased attention to the young Balkan democracies and the challenges they present for European integration.

The political elite will also examine whether the concept of successful regional projects, such as the Visegrad Four, the Vilnius Group, the Baltic Charter and the recent Adriatic Charter, could help the nations of the Black Sea and South Caucasus come closer to prosperity and become more secure. The ways that the EU, NATO, and US might lend a hand to those democracies will also be examined.

The speakers will seek avenues for addressing the deficit of democracy in the civil societies of Europe's neighbours, and how the international community could sensitively implement mechanisms to strengthen democracy.

The participants will try to find a theoretical balance between liberalising trade and other relationships, and protecting the integrity of these institutions.

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