Czech and foreign dignitaries gather in Prague to discuss enlarged EU's relations with eastern neighbours

Photo: Comision Europea

As you undoubtedly know, the Czech Republic will join a number of other countries in acceding to the European Union in a few days time. One of the challenges facing this enlarged EU is that it must ensure ways of fostering and developing good relations with its new Eastern neighbours. Next week, a major international conference co-hosted by the Centre for the National Glory of Russia is being held in Prague, which will specifically address this issue. The conference will include a number of local luminaries such as former Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and ex-President of the UN assembly Jan Kavan.

Jan Kavan,  Milos Zeman and prezident of the Centre for the National Glory of Russia Alexander Melnik,  photo: CTK
This "Crossroad of Civilisations" conference hopes to address a number of issues facing the new enlarged EU. Besides the economic impact of enlargement, the conference will also look at some of the social and cultural aspects of European integration. In particular, the conference will focus on the effect that the European Union's enlargement will have on Western Europe's relations with the Russian Federation, which will now be bordering the EU.

Senator Vladimir Zelezny, former owner of TV Nova, will be hosting a discussion on the role that the media will play in advancing contemporary European dialogue:

"My guess is that such a conference [is for] an evaluation of the future role of the media for establishing normal dialogue between civilisations and between religions, and all of this in conjunction with Russia, which has huge potential. For Europe, Russia was a very important spiritual power for decades and centuries. We are inclined to forget this unfortunately. Now that we are building a new European Union, we must be very aware not to be in isolation and to be open-minded to the East."

This is a view echoed by former Czech Minister for Foreign Affairs and ex-President of the UN General Assembly, Jan Kavan, who will be chairing a discussion on the social, cultural, and religious aspects of the European integration process:

"We're going to discuss the problem of relations between the process of European integration and far closer cooperation on the one hand, and how to preserve national identity on the other hand. European nations are already highly diverse. They have problems finding a common language and common policy. At the same time, such a closely cooperating community has to find a regular, permanent common cooperation with its immediate neighbours, especially the Russian Federation. For example, I cannot perceive how we would discuss something like European security without having good working relations with the Russian Federation."

Mr Kavan also stressed that the common Slavonic roots and recent historical experiences of many of the new countries joining the EU could be very useful in helping Western Europe develop its relations with Russia:

"I think that the experience of Czechs and Poles and others is something which is very valuable and it is an area where we have a lot to offer both in terms of enabling greater understanding, and sharing both good and bad experiences of dealing with such a complex, difficult entity as the Russian Federation."

The Crossroad of Civilisations conference will be held in Prague's National Museum and Zofin Palace from 4 - 6 May