AHF and the Central East
European Coalition (CEEC):
5/1/2016- AHF participates in drafting Central and East European Coalition Spring 2016 Policy Paper. The 2016 brief addresses Ukraine; NATO and Security in Central and Eastern Europe; the Visa Waiver Program and Immigration Reform; Energy Security; Democracy, Human and Minority Rights, the Rule of Law, and the Information War; US Assistance to and Promotion of Regional Democratic Governance; Trade and Economic Integration; Trade and Economic Integration; Energy; and Black Ribbon Day.
SPRING 2016 CEEC POLICY PAPER [download]
This war, started by Russian clandestine operatives, is entering its third year. According to UN reports, over 1.7 million Ukrainian citizens have been displaced because of the war, while another 9,000 have been killed. It is rightly viewed with alarm by the United States and our NATO allies. The invasion of Ukraine and the forcible annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory have de-stabilized the transatlantic security framework that emerged since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine's inclusion into Euro-Atlantic structures clearly serves U.S. national interests. The security of the United States lies in the expansion of democracy, not in the appeasement of aggressor states making imperial claims. Furthermore, the United States, with the United Kingdom and Russia, publicly affirmed in the Trilateral Agreement in 1994 (known as the Budapest Memorandum) to guarantee Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. In exchange, Ukraine renounced its nuclear weapons and acceded to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear state.
The crisis in Eastern Europe, and in Ukraine specifically, will not just go away. In an informationally interconnected and economically interdependent world, the United States must take the lead in promoting international norms and consolidating geo-political stability.
NATO AND SECURITY IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
In the face of Russia’s aggressive actions NATO must respond by strengthening its collective defense and supporting regional partners – including Ukraine, Georgia, and other CEE countries. In 2008, Russian troops forcibly occupied the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, keeping heavy military presence in close proximity to the strategic East-West transportation corridor. In 2014, the Russian Federation forcibly annexed Crimea, and is attempting to take over parts of eastern Ukraine. Proactive U.S. leadership is vital to NATO’s continued effectiveness, to protect peace and security in Europe. Russia’s war on Ukraine and continued escalation of armed conflict threatens both Ukraine’s independence and the welfare of tens of millions of Europeans. A strong, coordinated military force is essential to stop Russia as it continues to destabilize its neighbors and disrespect international rules.
Russia’s intimidation of the Baltic countries must cease. These intimidation tactics include: the incursion into Baltic airspace by military aircraft, large scale military exercises adjacent to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, a simulated nuclear attack against Warsaw, as well as disruption of sea traffic by unscheduled naval exercises within the Baltic countries’ sea zone. Without strong military support, treaties and cease-fire agreements will continue to be breached.
The CEEC advocated for the successful enlargement of NATO over the past two decades, and continues to urge the U.S. Congress to support NATO membership for qualified countries. The passage of legislation to extend membership to Ukraine, Georgia and other qualified CEE countries is vital to defend sovereign integrity, secure peace and democracy.
The CEEC urges the United States to review its current planned missile defense system, and re-align it to more effectively protect all NATO member states, allies and partners. The CEEC also supports the efforts of the United States, bilaterally and through NATO, to protect cyber infrastructure from disruption and aggression. This includes establishing effective counter-measures against cyber attacks, cyber crime and cyber espionage.
Finally, the CEEC calls for continued U.S. leadership and engagement in support of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group process. We urge a peaceful and just resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
VISA WAIVER PROGRAM AND IMMIGRATION REFORM
The VWP pilot allowed six EU countries from CEE (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) to join the VWP in 2008. However, for those not admitted during the pilot, such as Poland and others, an automatic reinstatement of the standard eligibility rules occurred in June 2009. These rules include requiring the aspiring country to have less than a 3 percent visa refusal rate in order to be eligible for participation in the Program (as opposed to 10 percent that was set in the pilot). These rules have had the unfortunate effect for millions of CEE Americans, mostly of Polish descent, that their relatives still cannot travel freely to the United States.
The CEEC also supports fair and equitable immigration laws, which include a pathway to citizenship, as well as the establishment of a new P visa category to cover groups and individuals coming to the United States for cultural/educational purposes at the invitation of a U.S.-based group with ethnic ties to the invitee’s country. This new category includes those coming to present and/or teach ethnic or folk culture, music, theater, dance, or other artistic endeavors of the country of origin.
DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, T
The Russian government uses many avenues in its attempts to dominate the countries of the CEE region. Putin’s ongoing war in Ukraine is just one example. Others include economic manipulation (e.g., blocking energy transit, trade barriers, and cyber attacks), accusations of discrimination against people of Russian descent living in CEE countries, as well as disinformation and propaganda.
Russia sees the aspirations of neighboring CEE countries toward integration with the EU as a threat against its interests. As a reaction, it has threatened economic consequences should aspiring countries advance EU Association Agreements and has pressured them to join an alternative Russian-dominated Eurasian Customs Union. U.S. foreign policy, countering Russia’s attempts to reestablish a “sphere of influence” in the region, should emphasize the promotion of democratic principles and institutions. The CEEC urges the United States to condemn Russia’s blatant intimidation and attempts to undermine the independence of countries in the region. U.S. policies towards Russia in this regard should be pursued in a forceful and proactive manner.
The CEEC strongly supported the Magnitsky Act. In the spirit of that law, its provisions need to be fully implemented and expanded to include sanctions against other human rights violators in the Russian Federation. While Putin’s crimes against Ukraine are growing, Moscow's increasing crackdown against its own citizens is also troubling. Until human rights are respected by Russia, both outside of and within its borders, it is critical that the United States continue to help expose violations by the Russian Federation, and to defend internationally recognized human rights and freedoms.
Russian revision of history denies or excuses Stalin-era atrocities and actions, such as the Holodomor (Famine-Genocide) in Ukraine, Soviet occupation of CEE countries, and murder and deportation of millions of CEE nationals.
Russia’s propaganda distorts and falsifies both current events and history. It is a powerful tool used to discredit and attack perceived adversaries. Democracy in Russia is deteriorating, as demonstrated by the repression of NGOs, election fraud and rampant corruption. The United States needs to lend its moral voice against human rights abuses. The United States must counter Putin via the airwaves, to expose Moscow’s lies and present our values via competent and fully-funded U.S. international broadcasting. The CEEC supports important reforms to address the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ management structure, clarify the mission of our international broadcasters, and empower our journalists.
U.S. ASSISTANCE TO AND PROMOTION OF
Exchange programs, a part of public diplomacy, are an acknowledged and successful means of promoting international understanding, good will, and training to citizens of the United States and participating countries, and need to be continued.
TRADE AND ECONOMIC INTEGRATION
Currently, a number of CEE countries are in various stages of pursuing increased economic integration with Western institutions, particularly through adoption of Association Agreements (AA) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA) with the EU. The CEEC opposes Russia's pressure on countries to defect from the AA process and instead, move toward integration with a Russia-dominated customs union. The CEEC strongly favors the continued integration of CEE countries into Western institutions, and believes that the active support of U.S. foreign and defense policy is crucial to success of the integration process.
A number of CEE countries that are well integrated into EU institutions are striving to improve their economic performance, provide better employment opportunities, and adjust to the challenges of a dynamic, competitive world economy. The CEEC supports the negotiations of the proposed TTIP agreement. The agreement aims to expand the already robust economic relationship between the United States and the EU, through further reduction of tariffs, and better coordination of regulatory regimes, which will support trade-in-services and encourage a robust investment climate, technological innovation and entrepreneurship. The CEEC seeks to ensure that the agreement benefits both the United States and all of the countries of the CEE region.
U.S. policies could assure a secure and safe source of energy to the CEE countries. First, U.S. policy should facilitate the timely process of the export of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies to NATO countries, and other countries that promote U.S. national security interests. Secondly, it is essential that U.S. policy support interconnection of electrical and gas resources with their western EU counterparts to improve efficient utilization of energy supplies. Third, U.S. policies must provide certainty for investment and technology in order to diversify energy supplies and support efficient utilization of resources in the CEE region.
Legislation should support the timely procedures for the export of U.S. LNG, thereby loosening Russia’s monopoly of energy supplies and their use for political manipulation throughout Europe. LNG exports will lead to the establishment of global gas markets with non-discriminatory pricing, thus making it difficult for Russia to dictate pricing based on geopolitics. A global LNG market would promote transparency in pricing and invigorate investments and economic developments.
The CEEC is also concerned about the operations and accident hazards posed by a nuclear power plant being constructed in Belarus just across from Lithuania’s border and just 30 miles away from Lithuania’s capital Vilnius with a population of about 700,000. The United States should actively advocate for full compliance of any new nuclear power plant with internationally established safety standards and monitoring while such plants are constructed.
About the CEEC
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) is comprised of 18 national organizations, including the American Hungarian Federation (AHF), whose members trace their heritage to Central and Eastern Europe. The CEEC raises issues of common concern to its diverse membersip, such as NATO's enlargement, energy security and visa waiver.
CEEC member organizations:
American Hungarian Federation
[read more about the CEEC]
CEEC Policy Briefs
11/25/2013 - FALL 2013: AHF participates in drafting Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) Fall 2013 Policy Paper. It includes language on minority rights: "...support the equitable and prompt restitution of properties – including private, communal, and church properties – that had been illegally confiscated by governments of CEE, from ethnic minorities and the populations at large." [read more]
5/29/2012 - AHF participates in drafting CEEC Policy Brief on minority rights and NATO expansion and issues multiple action alerts including: Supporting S. 2177, the NATO Enhancement Act, introduced by Sen. Richard Lugar to encourage further enlargement of NATO and to deepen U.S. strategic partnerships with NATO allies. [read more]
4/13/2011 - American Hungarian Federation drafts Central and East European Coalition 2011 Policy Brief, helps organize Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.., In its continuous effort to raise issues important to the Hungarian American community, the American Hungarian Federation (AHF) participated in an April 13 Advocacy Day organized by the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC). The Advocacy Day involved meetings with key staffers in both the Senate and House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress. [read more]
9/23/2010 - AHF helps plan CEEC Advocacy Day in US Congress, drafts 2010 Policy Brief addressing Democracy and Human and Minority rights.
Related CEEC Articles
8/3/2011 -- The American Hungarian Federation and the Central and East European Coalition participate in a reception and Capitol Hill Policy Seminar entitled, "20 years: Three Perspectives on the Evolution of U.S. Strategic Engagement with Central and Eastern Europe." [read more]
4/13/2011 - American Hungarian Federation Participates in Central and East European Coalition Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill... CEEC issues 2011 Policy Brief [read more]
01/24/11 - CEEC and AHF Submit Letter to Secretary Clinton expressing deep concern over "brutal post-election crackdown by Lukashenka's (Lukashenko) regime on peaceful demonstrators, democratic activists, journalists and civil society" in Belarus. [read more]
7/5/2010 - AHF participates in Capitol Hill policy seminar on energy security, "Coercion in the European Energy Sector: Implications for the United States." The seminar was held on June 24, 2010 and sponsored by the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) in cooperation with the Congressional Caucus on Central and Eastern Europe. [read more]
4/25/2009 - The American Hungarian Federation
Participates in White House Meeting... On April 24, 2009, the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) met with Jeffrey M. Hovenier, Director for Central and Eastern Europe, National Security Council, and Katherine M. Helgerson, Director for Southeast European Affairs, National Security Council.
7/25/2008 - American Hungarian Federation Participates in CEEC Meeting with Senator Schumer: Discusses Russia "Hegemony" statement... The purpose of the meeting was to seek clarification of statements contained in Senator Schumer’s June 3rd Wall Street Journal article that were susceptible to the interpretation that he condoned Russian designs on Central and Eastern Europe. [read more]
6/19/2008 - American Hungarian Federation Helps Plan and Participates in Successful CEEC Congressional Policy Discussion on Central and Eastern Europe. [read more]
3/5/2008 - American Hungarian Federation Participates in Meetings With Senator Obama’s and Senator Clinton’s Foreign Policy Advisors... A number of policy issues were discussed with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other top officials. [read more]
3/3/2008 - American Hungarian Federation Raises Issue of Vojvodina Hungarians With Senator Senator Clinton’s Foreign Policy Advisor, Ron Asmus... The meeting touched upon numerous issues of concern to the member organizations of the CEEC. [read more]
3/29/2006 - The American Hungarian Federation helps organize congressional reception with the Central East European Coalition (CEEC). The reception's main focus was concerns over political developments in Belarus, the former Soviet Republic, and Russia`s support for the policies of President Alexander Lukashenko. The opposition says President Lukashenko, who has led Belarus for more than a decade, has become increasingly authoritarian, suppressing free speech and jailing democratic dissenters. [download CEEC member Iryna Vidanava's speech]
3/16/2006 - The American Hungarian Federation participates in protest over anti-democratic developments in Belarus. In a show of solidarity with fellow CEEC members, demonstrators gathered in front of the Belarusian Embassy in Washington, DC on March 16 to protest against the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko, and to offer support for the people of that country.