President Pavel Calls For Further EU Enlargement To Improve Geopolitical Security
Pavel was addressing the opening ceremony at the College of Europe in Bruges. Credit: Hrad.cz.
Bruges, Belgium, Oct 4 (CTK reporters) – The European Union should enlarge for the sake of its security, and not only Ukraine but also the Western Balkans must be protected from “geopolitical manipulation”, Czech President Petr Pavel said yesterday in a speech at the opening ceremony at the College of Europe (CoE) in Bruges.
The late former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is currently the patron of the year at the prestigious academic institution. Pavel described Czech-born Albright as a visionary, praising her support for the eastward expansion of the EU and NATO, which she successfully advocated and promoted within the US government administration. Being a refugee herself, Albright also experienced firsthand the “fragility of democracy,” he added.
He also quoted the late Czech President Vaclav Havel, who warned the West against “distrust of new democracies.”
Pavel said he would like to hold a conference in Prague on the resilience of democracies. “I would like to make the resilience of democracy one of the central themes of my presidency and I plan to hold a conference on this topic in Prague,” he said.
The Czech President said the new geopolitical imperative requires a new dynamic of enlargement. For too long, he said, some European countries have been left at the mercy of geopolitical manipulation.
Pavel said it is now necessary to complete the European integration process, and where desirable also promote the Atlantic orientation of the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova and also Georgia. The Czech Republic, as well as the whole of Central Europe, has an important role to play in the EU enlargement, he said, and it must be ensured that no one is left behind.
Enlargement is necessary in the context of an increasingly antagonistic international environment, he said. “No security threat is more urgent than Russian aggression, no geopolitical challenge is more challenging than the assertive China and its approach to many countries,” he said.
Pavel stressed that enlargement strengthens European security and does not undermine it, and serves the stability of democracies. He called for the EU to set “transparent and achievable” membership criteria for candidate countries and a clear timetable for the accession process.
The EU itself should also be ready for reforms, according to the Czech President, and it should consider proposals to move to qualified majority voting in certain areas to increase its effectiveness. However, there is still no consensus in the bloc on these proposals.
Pavel called for attention to be focused on factors that undermine trust in democracy, which he said must be preserved. “I would like to make the resilience of democracy one of the central themes of my presidency and I plan to hold a conference on this topic in Prague,” he said.
The College of Europe is one of the most respected academic institutions in Europe. It has its main campus in Bruges, Belgium, and a second campus in Warsaw. A campus in Tirana, Albania, is due to open next year. The College was founded in Bruges in 1949 by leading European figures and the founding fathers of the EU, including Salvador de Madariaga, Winston Churchill, Paul-Henri Spaak and Alcide De Gasperi. One of the main objectives of the institution is to promote understanding between the peoples of Europe.
Each year is named after a so-called patron among eminent Europeans. Some of the previous patrons were also personalities from Czech history, such as Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (in 1952-1953), Jan Amos Komensky (1967-1968), Charles IV (1992-1993) and Vaclav Havel (2012-2013). Before Pavel, the last Czech speaker at the opening ceremony was the former European Commissioner Stefan Fule in 2010.
In addition to Pavel, yesterday’s opening ceremony was attended by former President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the school’s Rector, former EU diplomacy chief Federica Mogherini. Like Pavel’s, her speech highlighted Albright’s personality and inspiring life story. The US Ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, recalled that Albright was instrumental in the admission of the Czech Republic and other countries to NATO in 1999. She also highlighted her lifelong advocacy of democracy.
Pavel had already visited Belgium in April; during his first trip to the EU capital as head of state he met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola. He also visited the Czech section of the European School in Brussels and met compatriots living in Belgium.