AHF and the Central East European Coalition (CEEC) 2011 Advocacy Day
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.
The purpose of the Advocacy Day was to communicate a unified position of the CEEC member organizations and constituencies to Members of Congress on the following pressing issues: democracy development and human and minority rights; Russia’s undue influence in Central and Eastern Europe; geo-political security issues including energy and cyber-security concerns in the region; easing of visa requirements; and appropriations programs for the region. The 2011 event built upon success of the 2010 program.
AHF's president, Frank Koszorus, Jr., who represented AHF, and who also met with Congressman Harris, noted that "we believe it is important for Congressional Members and their advisers to hear our concerns and views about matters affecting Central and Eastern Europe and relations between the United States and that region." The 2011 Policy Brief is available in its entirety below.
Photo Caption: Participants in Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) Advocacy Day April 13, 2011 in the U.S. Congress, Hart Senate Office Building.
DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND THE RULE OF LAW
The CEEC staunchly supports democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and recognizes that indispensable elements of democracy in the region include the respect for the rule of law, human rights, minority rights and historical accuracy. These elements are intertwined and especially important in Central and Eastern Europe, considering its history, Soviet domination of the countries in the area, and the ethnic, national and religious diversity of the region.
While democracies have emerged and developed in Central and Eastern Europe since the collapse of Communism, an autocratic regime still reigns in Belarus and vestiges of intolerance and discrimination against national minorities linger even within some countries that have joined western institutions.
In addition, denial and revisionist history undermine the pillars of democracy. Examples include Stalin-era atrocities, such as the Holodomor in Ukraine, Soviet deportations of tens of thousands of Baltic nationals and others, and denial of crimes against humanity, including the Armenian Genocide. Denial, revisionism, human and minority rights abuses and the failure to respect the rule of law also pose serious security challenges which must not be ignored.
RUSSIA’S UNDUE INFLUENCE IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
Throughout history, the Russian government has sought to influence and dominate the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Attempts in recent history have included both political and military actions, economic manipulation (e.g., energy transit, trade barriers, and cyber attacks), accusations of alleged maltreatment and discrimination against citizens of Russian descent living in Central and Eastern European countries, and delay in the removal of Russian military forces from the region. In 2008, we saw use of military force against Georgia and de-facto annexation of the breakaway territories, with Russian military in charge. A huge military exercise conducted by combined Russian and Belarusan armed forces in 2010 in the immediate areas bordering Poland and Lithuania constituted a more recent show of intimidation.
A pragmatic approach for U.S. foreign policy in countering Russia’s attempts to reestablish its “sphere of influence” in the region should consist of the promotion of democratic principles within the Russian Federation. A democratic, market-based Russia makes for a non-aggressive and peaceful partner in Central and Eastern Europe. The Central and East European Coalition urges that U.S. foreign policy include the aim of furthering democratic institutions in Russia and improving Russia’s relations with its neighbor nations, and that it be pursued in a forceful and proactive manner.
In addition, an issue regularly and currently on the agenda vis-à-vis Russia is the possible lifting of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. The CEEC is concerned that, if such action were to occur, it not be misinterpreted as an approval of Russia’s internal and external policies and practices. The CEEC therefore urges that should any Congressional action be taken to repeal Jackson-Vanik, it be accompanied by comparable measures so that the Russian government’s violations of human/minority rights and fundamental freedoms, its aggressive policies towards its neighbors, and its undemocratic practices not go unchecked.
The pilot edition of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allowed six EU countries from Central and Eastern Europe (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) to join the VWP in 2008, expired in June 2009, leading to an automatic reinstatement of the standard eligibility rules. 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 Americans, mostly of Polish descent, that their relatives still cannot travel freely to the United States, regardless of years of proven, dependable friendship and loyalty to the United States.
In addition, the CEEC supports the establishment of a new P visa category to cover groups and individuals coming to the United States for non-commercial cultural purposes at the invitation of a U.S. group with ethnic ties to the invitee’s country. This new category includes those coming to present or teach ethnic or folk culture, music, theater, dance, or other ethnic artistic endeavors.
SECURITY IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
The CEEC strongly supports pro-active security collaboration of the United States with allies in Central and Eastern Europe through NATO as well as direct bilateral mechanisms. The CEEC played an important role in advocating for the successful enlargement of NATO from the Baltic to the Black Seas. NATO remains a key factor of stability in the region, providing member states with essential elements of political and physical security. Strengthening the alliance in all aspects should remain a priority.
Georgian citizens expressed their support for Georgia’s entry into NATO several times, and Georgia is a substantial contributor of troops to NATO and to other international coalitions in Asia and the Middle East. The CEEC strongly supports Georgia’s NATO aspirations.
America’s policy towards Central and Eastern Europe must also include the facilitation of greater energy security and economic collaboration among countries in the region. Promoting cooperation between the CEE countries and energy producers in the Caspian region and the Middle East would ensure the successful implementation of the EU’s efforts to develop an alternative natural gas corridor aimed at increasing energy independence in Central and Eastern Europe. The Southern Gas Corridor and its backbone project, Nabucco, should be the primary focus of America’s energy and security policy in the region.
Additionally, Russian resources are being used to build two large nuclear power plants in Belarus and Kaliningrad, both bordering Lithuania. A serious nuclear disaster, as the one that occurred 25 years ago in Chornobyl, illustrates the potential pitfalls when transparency and safety are ignored, and the recent disaster in Japan underscores the vast impact that a nuclear disaster can have. It is critical that the construction and operation of any nuclear power plant be accompanied by transparency, attention to safety, and adherence to international norms. None of this seems to be happening with respect to the two proposed plants, and at a minimum the United States should ensure that Russia complies with internationally established standards. Moreover, if such plants are controlled by the Kremlin and Russian oligarchs, energy diversification in the region is hindered.
The CEEC believes that the 2007 cyber attacks against Estonia, a NATO member, were clearly acts of aggression by the Russian government. In addition, as recognized by ForeignPolicy.com, the attacks on Georgia that occurred prior to Russia’s military invasion in August 2008 were “a seminal moment in cyberwar because it was the first integration of offensive cyber operations into political-military strategy.” The CEEC believes strongly that these acts of aggression by Russia are a direct threat to NATO and thus represent an ongoing security challenge to the United States. The internet and its cyber terrain encompass the global community and affect numerous key activities in the public and private sectors. The CEEC supports the efforts of the U.S., bilaterally and through NATO, to protect cyber infrastructure from disruption and aggression, including in Central and Eastern Europe. It further urges the U.S. jointly with its NATO allies to create an infrastructure of cooperation through education, international best practices and collective responses to effectively counter cyber attacks, cyber crime and cyber espionage.
U.S. ASSISTANCE TO THE REGION
While many countries within Central and Eastern Europe have “graduated” from U.S. assistance programs as provided for under the SEED and FREEDOM Support Acts, U.S. funding should remain a priority for these countries, and at a minimum should be maintained at current levels.
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.
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CEEC Policy Briefs
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