Europe's future is debated in Slovakia.

Photo: European Commission

Experts and human rights advocates have been gathering in Slovakia this week to consider Europe's future - and what the continent's next objective might be, after the current wave of enlargement ends. The 'Towards a wider Europe' conference has been talking about what will happen with countries which border the EU after it enlarges - such as those from the Balkans or from around the Black Sea area. The issue of security has been high on the agenda...

Photo: European Commission
Europe should go east even further. This has been the conclusion of the meeting of think tanks representatives who gathered in Bratislava this past week. But less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks in Madrid many wonder how safe is to extend Europe even further to regions in Caucasus or Black Sea, which cover some sensitive areas like Georgia and Afghanistan. Some analysts like Ognyan Minchev, Director of the Institute for Regional and International Studies, a Bulgarian think tank, says that instead of spending EU's money to secure its eastern border, Eastern European states joining the union should rather use their experience in helping former soviet countries build stable political regimes.

"You can not address a single problem of these societies - just as you couldn't address any particular problem of the Balkans in the 1990s - without a particular effort to stabilise the institutional environment. And this time we do not have to make decisions and recommendations like those the west made towards the Balkans and the entire central and eastern European region That is: on the one hand to advocate free market dogmatisation, to start the market reform, regardless of preparedness of institutions or law and order - as a consequence of this you have mafia instead of a free market - or, create protectorates in which everything is delivered as sponsorship by the international community to a standard that the local society has absolutely no resources to catch up with."

Such words of support have encouraged the representatives of countries such as Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine and Belarus to voice even louder their case for NATO and EU membership. They say that Western powers have been ignoring them for too long and this has increased instability in the region. But Jamie Shea, the Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO says, that until the attacks in Madrid, it had been quite hard to bring the attention of European leaders back to Europe.

"Every country in Europe is potentially vulnerable. Terrorists have attacked as many countries that did not participate in a conflict in Iraq as countries that did. So there is no notion that any of us can opt out and so be invulnerable. Terrorists don't respect borders. What we seem to have is a situation where they want to attack any democracy and any target, which is a soft, one is a potential target. So I think we really need to realise that this is a common danger and therefore we all have to join together and take that action which is necessary to defeat terrorism."

However, some analysts point to the fact that looking at countries on the EU's eastern border exclusively from a security point of view could be dangerous - because it may mean that other problems in the region - such as human rights violations or chronic corruption - will be ignored.