This year’s Visegrad 4 and Southern Caucasus Summer School brought together young enthusiastic students from the Visegrad, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan with diplomats, politicians and experts from both regions. During the week-long training, including lecturing and simulations, participants discussed topics on the current EU agenda, while deepening their knowledge about the European Union and each other’s countries and cultures.
Taking place during the last week of August in Batumi, Georgia, the summer school offered a mix of informal educational activities, stimulating discussions, lectures given by top experts and practitioners, a simulation of the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, as well as a number of networking and leisure-time activities.
“We are committed to undertaking further steps towards transparency and depoliticisation in the public administration,” said Alex Petriashvili, state minister of Georgia on European and Euro–Atlantic integration in his opening remarks on the first day of summer school. He welcomed the support of Visegrad countries on Georgia’s path to the Euro-Atlantic community and underlined the importance of the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
The issue of strengthening the EU-Georgia relationship also became a topic of debate with Victor Dolidze, chairman of the Committee on European Integration in the Parliament of Georgia and with Andrzej Cieszkowski, ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Georgia. “Poland is one of the parents of the Eastern Partnership project and we strongly support the economic integration and political association of Georgia,” said Cieszkowski confirming the high-level of importance of Poland and other Visegrad countries for the future of the region.
The participating young professionals gained deeper understanding of EU diplomacy and foreign affairs decision-making processes of the European External Action Service (EEAS). They demonstrated high interest in the topic and engaged in fruitful discussions during each lecture.
The Slovak Atlantic Commission in cooperation with the Center for European Affairs, co-organisers of the event, also contributed to the pool of lecturers via talk given by the CEA Executive Director, Andrea Ferjenčíková, dedicated to building a genuine economic and monetary union. The lecture was also instrumental in understanding the role of the newly established mechanism of the EU in preventing future crises.
Apart from expert lectures and presentations, during the simulation of the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU participants were also given the possibility to experience what it meant to be in the shoes of a minister or an ambassador. The topic discussed was the on-going civil war in Syria and the measures that should be undertaken by the EU in this regard.
The simulation, practical workshops and expert lectures have decidedly deepened the participants’ understanding of European foreign policy as well as the Visegrad-Southern Caucasus partnership. Participants from both regions vigorously cooperated during the course of the summer school and thus contributed to finding a common spirit and building bridges among people from different cultural backgrounds – hence underlining the motto of this year’s Visegrad 4 and Southern Caucasus Summer School.