Nearly three dozen international alumni and other participants attended a Marshall Center Outreach Networking Event (ONE) in Vienna, Austria on 6 September 2021. The event, organized in close cooperation with the Austrian National Defence Academy (NDA) and both U.S. and German Embassies in Vienna, examined the topic of “Transatlantic Relations and Political Developments in Southeast Europe under the Biden Administration”.
“Because of COVID-19 and the resulting travel and event restrictions, this was the first in-person alumni event for the Marshall Center Alumni Programs Office since early September 2020. We are immensely grateful to our hosts at the NDA and to the U.S. Embassy for participating in our event on a U.S. federal holiday”, said Frank Lewis, Alumni Relations Specialist and event co-organizer.
The event included both Austrian alumni, Vienna-based international alumni, and Slovak alumni who traveled from nearby Bratislava. COL Günther Rozenits, Austrian Faculty Chair and Senior Marshall Center Representative, opened and moderated the event. LTG Erich Csitkovits, Commander and Director of the NDA, provided welcome remarks and stressed the NDA’s close partnership with the Marshall Center, while also speaking to the Academy’s mission and myriad functions. In addition, Mr. Mario Mesquita, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, and LTC (Res.) Prof Dr. Michael Reksulak, who spoke on behalf of German Ambassador Ralf Beste, provided opening remarks. The Chargé emphasized that a “stable and prosperous future for the Western Balkans has to be based on good governance, rule of law, multi-ethnic democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” LTC Prof. Dr. Reksulak specifically recognized Austria’s military engagement and ongoing political and diplomatic efforts in the region.
According to COL Rozenits, “this was our 3rd recent event in connection with the Western Balkans jointly supported by the NDA and the Marshall Center. The Biden initiative to improve cooperation between the U.S. and the EU is clearly evident and it is now necessary for this good will to be transferred to the region and result in practical measures on the ground.”
Dr. Matthew Rhodes, Marshall Center Professor of National Security Studies and Area Studies Chair, joined Dr. Predrag Jureković from the NDA’s Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management on a panel to discuss their perspectives on the topic. Dr. Rhodes’ overarching conclusion was that while the U.S. has been asked to increase and intensify its engagement in the Western Balkans, it is likely to do so only in close partnership with others (including the EU and countries in the region). Dr. Jurekovic added additional insights and stressed the continued fragility of the region and recently growing radical voices with a parallel increase in undemocratic tendencies.
Finally, Ambassador (Ret.) Dr. Wolfgang Petritsch, President of the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation and former High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, participated via teleconference and mentioned the growing concern in the region over the recent U.S. disengagement in Afghanistan and whether a similar withdrawal was likely in Kosovo. He concluded it was not.
The event also included a Marshall Center Alumni Programs update and a joint discussion session, which fielded several questions from the alumni audience, reflecting the overall interest in the subject.
CPT Jochen Richter, Alumni Relations Specialist and main event organizer also highlighted the excellent relationship between the NDA and the Marshall Center and reflected: “we were able to successfully execute this in-person event under all current local COVID-19 requirements to ensure the safety and well-being of our participants. Also, we attracted a truly international audience from multiple ministries, embassies and organizations, while engaging several high-level speakers. Our open and direct discussion session also reflected our audience’s familiarity with the topic and continued interest in Marshall Center activities and programs.”
Alumni Outreach Networking Events are part of the Marshall Center’s efforts to connect with alumni, strengthen and support our network, encourage participation in future Marshall Center programs, and to discuss important, relevant, and timely security issues. Find more information on the Marshall Center at www.marshallcenter.org