Some 40 prominent experts, thinkers and policy-makers from Europe and the United States met in Château Béla, Slovakia, to outline a strategy on the most pressing political, security and economic challenges facing the transatlantic community, particularly from a Central European perspective. Organised by the Slovak Atlantic Commission, a member of the Central European Strategy Council, on 5-7 December 2014, this invitation-only event featured topics such as the situation in Ukraine and Russia, the future of the European Union, the transatlantic bond, US foreign policy after the midterm elections, and the current state of Visegrad defence cooperation.

Participants expressed deep concern about:

  • continued Russian attempts at undermining Ukraine’s security, political stability and economic renewal, as well as similar destabilising policies across Central and Eastern Europe and also beyond in the whole Euro-Atlantic community,
  • the alarming spread of Russian propaganda across Western societies and internationally,
  • European citizens’ discontent with the state of democracy, reflected in the rise of apathy, populism and Euroscepticism across Europe,
  • the Kremlin’s active support for populist parties, as well as forays into mainstream politics, business and the media,
  • inadequate efforts thus far to develop and implement narratives for the European project and the transatlantic community based on truth, values, achievement and vision.

Panel discussions and informal talks produced the outlines of a forward-looking agenda that would include urgent steps such as:

  • fulfilling pledges on defence investment and reinforcing NATO’s Eastern flank through the Readiness Action Plan, including by common action in the Visegrad format,
  • investing more in strategic communications,
  • seizing the historic moment for Ukraine and the West to ramp up cooperation on defence, domestic reform, and European integration,
  • maintaining international pressure on Russia through diplomatic, political, and economic means (sanctions),
  • reaching out vigorously to US leaders from both parties to build awareness about Central Europe’s concerns and contributions to international security.

Drawing on these meetings, the Strategy Council will follow up with a Château Béla Initiative to provide an independent, inclusive and action-oriented platform for institutions and individuals across the transatlantic community to effectively address these challenges through closer cooperation.