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International experts on the security of Republic of Moldova. Today: Pavol Demes

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Modernization and Europeanization of Slovakia  through NATO and EU membership

Former Minister of International Relations of the Slovak Republic, Currently, director for Central and Eastern Europe, German Marshall Fund of the US, Bratislava

Slovakia is the country which can serve as good example for other transitional societies of central and eastern Europe. Only about a decade ago this sixteen year old state of five million was labeled by western politicians and media as the - black hole of Europe" due to lack of democratic governance and unclear geopolitical orientation. In 1998 breakthrough parliamentary elections Slovak citizens said good bye to seemingly omnipotent Prime Minister Meciar and his fellow politicians and put country back on clear path to European and transatlantic structures. Today country is a member of European Union, NATO (we joined both institutions in spring of 2004) having one of the best economic performances among EU member states. Slovak citizens do not need visa to any EU country and US and since  January 2009 will introduce Euro. It is widely recognized that economic performance and satisfaction of people would not happen without EU, NATO membership.

There are several important internal factors which contributed to this success:
1) Clarity and commitment of  key political actors in country to join EU and NATO
2) Ability and consistency of key public figures, both from governing coalition and opposition, to communicate messages about strategic importance of membership in EU and NATO to broader public
3) Involvement of civil society actors (NGOs, media, educational and cultural institutions etc) in public discourse
4) Capacity of country  to perform necessary political, economic, security and social reforms and to fulfill accession criteria to NATO and EU
5) Developing expertise among governmental and non-governmental actors to communicate with European and transatlantic institutions

Although I believe that path of Slovakia can be source of inspiration for other European countries aiming to overcome legacies of past and join European family without borders, one cant overlook  significant domestic and international differences which needs to be taken into consideration. In case of Moldova and other post-Soviet countries there is more complicated socio-economic situation and namely serious challenges connected with active role of Russia trying to block their entry to EU and NATO. On the top of that NATO and EU are for the time being far less committed and clear about further enlargement process than before.

Next year is particularly suitable for rethinking European project and transatlantic alliance. We will commemorate 60th Anniversary of NATO and 20th Anniversary of the fall of communism in Europe. More open minded US President Barack Obama is coming to White House in January and his participation at NATO Summit in April is expected to set the new stage for NATO and Euro-American cooperation. Both, European Parliament and European Commission will go through changes in 2009. And the next years Czech and Swedish EU presidencies  will  likely be more sensitive to - eastern dimension". All of these significant events can serve as impulses for Moldovan opinion makers to send clear and stronger signals about country which aims to built decent home for their people and thus  increase  growing number of those of us who would like to assist Moldova on its way to secure and prosperous European country.



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