Event Reports

KAS Eastern Partnership School of Excellence

by Dr. Wolfgang Sender

The 1st conference within the KAS Eastern Partnership School of Excellence program

From December 8 to 12, 2016 the Belarus Country Office of Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), in cooperation with KAS Moldova and KAS Romania offices hosted the first kick-off event “The European Union's Eastern Neighborhood: Chances and Perspectives”. The project is funded by means of the special fund for Eastern Partnership countries and Russia which is provided by the German Bundestag through the German Foreign Ministry.

The KAS School of Excellence project aims to foster the European idea and democratic values through the facilitation of a new generation of elite leaders and young talents from countries of the Eastern Partnership and the Russian Federation.

Within the framework of a 4-day-conference, young and socially engaged upcoming experts had an opportunity to take part in an intensive educational and discussion program with the focus on European idea and implementation of democratic values.

Eastern Partnership in the center of discussion

Introductory remarks were made by Norbert Beckmann-Dierkes, acting director of KAS Moldova Country Office. On behalf of the Foundation, Mr. Beckmann-Dierkes welcomed the over 80 participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia. In a following unit Laurynas Kasčiūnas, newly elected member of Lithuanian Parliament, gave a lecture on the topic “Eastern Partnership: Challenges and Achievements” and thereby gave the impetus for the further discussions.

The first day of the conference started with the lecture given by Professor Dainius Žalimas, President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania and Head of the Institute of International and European Union Law of Lithuania. Dainius Žalimas introduced the participants to the role of the Lithuanian Constitutional Court in defending democracy and the Western geopolitical orientation.

During the first panel discussion, Inga Stanytė-Toločkienė, Deputy Director of Eastern Neighborhood Policy Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, provided an overview of the institutional architecture of the Eurasian Economic Union and its development prospects. Therefore Dr. Nerijus Maliukevičius talked about Russia’s soft power methods towards the Eastern neighbourhood countries and shared his insights about the ways to counter propaganda. Dr. Djuro Duric from the Saarland University analyzed the political and economic stakes at the choice between East and West from the perspective of the EU candidate countries.

In the afternoon, the participants had a chance to present their in advance prepared country-reports regarding key issues, achievements and failures of democratic development in each of the countries within the EaP policy framework. The working session was opened with a keynote speech “The Future of Eastern Partnership: Between Reform Capacity and New Security Challenges” held by Professor Ivars Ijabs from the University of Latvia.

On Friday evening, during the KAS Movie night the participants had an exceptional opportunity to learn more about the way of thinking and political beliefs of Russian-speaking minority in the Baltic States. Journalist Sandra Užule-Fons presented her new documentary “Baltic poker: What is Putin's game?” about the influence of Russia on the political situation in Baltic States. After the screening, the viewers were invited to discuss the movie and share their opinions in a Question and Answer session.

Group work of participants

Work in the smaller groups on Saturday was a major part of the conference. The participants of the program were divided into three groups:

  1. European Values and Their Realization in the Democratic Constitutional Political System
  2. International Relations and Security Policy
  3. Economic Systems and Policies in Europe
The participants not only had a chance to participate in an active debate with the experts, diplomats and journalists but also to introduce to the other group members the challenges and priorities they see in their countries and regions.

Experts in this part of the program were: Dr. Andrej Horvat, Head of GIZ project Support for Serbia, Juulia Barthel, German Council on Foreign Relations, Ulrich Kleppmann, Head of Cooperation, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Republic of Moldova, Iulian Groza, Executive Director of the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), Vaidas Saldžiūnas, Defence and foreign affairs journalist, DELFI Lithuania, Dr. Christian Bluth, Project Manager, Bertelsmann Foundation, Dr. Hans Reckers, Permanent Secretary of Berlin Senate (Government) Department of Economics, Technology and Research, Dr. Christopher Hartwell, President of Center for Social and Economic Research

The first panel discussion on Sunday was dedicated to the “key points of making Eastern Partnership program successful”. Under the moderation of Linas Kojala, Director of Eastern Europe Studies Center, the panelists Klaudijus Maniokas, Chairman of the board of the consulting firm European Social, Legal, and Economic Projects (ESTEP), Petras Auštrevičius, Member of the European Parliament, former Chief Negotiator for Lithuania's Membership of the European Union and Salome Samadashvili, Member of the Parliament of Georgia, former Head of Georgia’s Mission to the European Union discussed the instruments of making Eastern Partnership program more successful and practical steps that need to be taken.

The second panel discussion on Sunday focused on the topic Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership countries. Vytis Jurkonis, Director, Freedom House in Vilnius, Dr. Andrej Horvat, Head of GIZ project Support for Serbia, Dr. Lucian Dirdala, Lecturer, Mihail Kogalniceanu University, Iasi (Romania), debated about the role which civil society plays in the development of EaP region and the main challenges civil society is facing. Discussion was moderated by Alexander Filippov, dean at the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts.

The highlight of the conference was an evening discussion with Žygimantas Pavilionis, Member of the Lithuanian Parliament, Arnoldas Pranckevičius, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in the Republic of Lithuania, former diplomatic adviser to the President of the European Parliament and Dr. Wolfgang Sender, Country director KAS Belarus country office. The panelists offered their optimistic perspectives on the vision of the European Union's Eastern Neighborhood in 2030 and shared their insights about the ways to achieve the ambitious goals.

Despite the intensive schedule, the participants had a great opportunity to expand their contact network and to exchange their views and ideas with each other and the high-ranking guests in the informal atmosphere.

The next event of School of Excellence is expected to take place in spring 2017, in Tbilisi.


Dr. Wolfgang Sender