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Central Europe Must Stay Democratic Course


Protesters Block Dismantling Part of Berlin Wall

Central Europe is once again on the front line in the fight to protect freedom and democracy.

This fall marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. "We live in a better world," said U.S. Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, "because the countries of Central Europe chose the path of a Europe whole, free and at peace. But today," she warned, "that choice is under threat, and Central Europe is once again on the frontline in the fight to protect our security and our values."

One of those threats is Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Most of Central Europe has responded with generous offers of assistance, security support and even as Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland have done, reversed the flow of gas to help fill Ukraine's winter storage tanks. Most Central European countries have also been strong advocates for the sanctions placed on Russia.

Ukraine is working hard to promote peace and change. It is fulfilling its commitments under the September 5 Minsk agreement: it passed amnesty legislation and a special status law for the east, scheduled early local elections for December 7, and is working with Russia to demarcate the special status zone.

Now Russia and its proxies must do their part – withdraw their forces and all the heavy weapons that have flooded the east, restore Ukrainian sovereignty and withdraw heavy weapons on the international border, allow robust OSCE monitoring of both sides of the border, and return all of the hostages — notably, Nadiya Savchenko and Oleg Sentsov.

Another threat to the region is ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. That's why nations of Central Europe are joining the global coalition to degrade and destroy ISIL's acts of terrorism, contributing to ammunition reserves, training, and humanitarian assistance. But more needs to be done to prevent ISIL recruitment and financing in the transatlantic region.

While defending certain values abroad, the countries of Central Europe must be vigilant in preserving democratic values -- such as press freedom, civil society, and rule of law -- at home.

As President Obama has said, “The blessings of liberty must be earned and renewed by every generation – including our own.” Echoing President Obama, Assistant Secretary Nuland commented that: “We must renew our commitment to our citizens and each other. We are stronger together, and many around the world who crave the same freedom we enjoy are depending on us."

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