Ukraine in focus on second day of Riga Conference 2014

The Riga Conference 2014. Courtesy of Valdis Kaulins

Central event was the session dedicated to the situation in Ukraine, where the participants emotionally analyzed and criticized possible development scenarios of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict as well as their impact on global security.

During a discussion about Ukraine’s progress towards the European Union (EU) and democracy, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute Andrey Illarionov criticized the United States and the EU for their lack of decisive action against Russia, because, in his opinion, at the moment there are no non-military solutions to the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Director of the Kennan Institute Matthew Rojansky refuted this criticism as unproductive, pointing out that American military involvement in Ukraine could leave Ukraine worse off. He stressed that Russia must be pressurized, but there had to be a dialogue with Russia as well. Participants of the panel agreed that Western countries were still looking for a united strategic decision to resolve the Ukraine conflict.

The panel focusing on growing populism, nationalism and euro-skepticism in Europe attracted broad interest. Former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga opened the discussion by pointing out that there was a lack of perception among European leaders of what people really want, adding that underlying causes why people turned to populism and euro-skepticism must be found.

Editor in Chief of the magazine “Visegrad Insight” Wojciech Przybylski pointed to the paradox that the nationalists and the Euro-skeptics appealed to the same values as the EU. He stressed that these groups were talking about freedom, solidarity and human rights, but only for their compatriots. Director of European Endowment for Democracy Jerzy Pomianowski summarized that, despite persistent self-conscious crisis mentality in Europe, countries bordering EU still wanted to join the union.

The second day of the conference was concluded with the discussion on the topic “What Can Be Offered at Riga Eastern Partnership Summit?” and turned out to be a lively conversation about the Eastern Partnership countries’ readiness for challenges, taking into account the new unstable situation in Ukraine and its impact on the geopolitical balance in the region. Overall, the speakers emphasized readiness of the Eastern Partnership countries to continue the path towards the EU, despite the turmoil in the international arena.

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