24 June 1993 - 26 June 1993

Developments in West, Central and Eastern Europe

Chair: The Rt Hon Baroness Williams of Crosby PC

(A joint conference with the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, at Ditchley)

This conference - a renewed manifestation of Ditchley’s active and fruitful partnership with the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations - was focused formally upon the European scene; but as debate developed, we found ourselves increasingly relating this to the Transatlantic and indeed the global agenda.

We began however with the road that began at Maastricht: blind alley, Pilgrim’s Progress or the path Excelsior (though the youth with that banner did freeze to death)? Few of us thought the road other than rocky, and at least one vigorous critic saw it as leading into a wilderness of unreality; but most, while readily concealing enthusiasm for every single feature, saw it as headed in the right general direction, and certainly a better route than starting again. Almost all of us hoped to see the Community embrace, sooner or later, a considerably wider membership, with the EFTA countries and at least the Visegrad Four, though widening on such a scale would halt any real deepening for a substantial time; further institutional change during enlargement would moreover be likely to overload political circuits. It might indeed be quite hard enough, especially amid the severe practical pressures of continuing to transact business effectively as numbers climbed towards twenty or more, to prevent actual dilution. The process as a whole continued, in broad terms, to command United States and Canadian sympathy and support, provided that the emerging Europe remained politically and economically an open Europe, not one seeking to define itself by exclusion. There was a powerful sense that heightened European consciousness and cohesion provided a crucial bulwark against the resurgent threat of combative nationalisms. A good deal of criticism was voiced that Western European countries were not confronting the realities of choice in relation to their neighbours to the East and South; if markets were not open to goods, it was suggested, societies might be threatened by migration.

The issue of European Community enlargement interacted - especially given the urge of the Central and East European countries to re-anchor their security - with that of NATO’s role and membership. No-one wished to see NATO fade away; we recognised that it was already, in organisational and doctrinal terms, adapting itself prudently to a new environment; and it embodied cooperative assets, both material and procedural, of a practical kind that no other international organisation could match. All that said, it had - however unfairly - been damaged in the public mind by its perceived share in the international community's impotence over Yugoslavia. There was no driving urge, in the US political scene, for withdrawal from the Alliance framework, and political leaders mostly recognised that Europe remained a fundamental US interest; but it was not easy at present to discern themes around which any genuine popular US enthusiasm for NATO and its burdens could be stimulated, and the transition to a preferred US role with less of dominating leadership and more of balancing influence would not in practice be easy to manage, even if or when the Europeans eventually succeeded, whether through WEU or otherwise, in constructing a more solid base of coherent responsibility-bearing than was yet durably apparent (We noted, in this regard, the importance of success in Germany’s effort to discard old limitations on its ability to act.)

Enlarging NATO’s membership posed, against this background, some sensitive choices. It was essentially membership, with its reciprocal obligations, that conferred security guarantees of the kind sought by the Visegrad countries. Existing European members of NATO however mostly remained wary of the risk of diluting the Alliance, and of undertaking new commitments in uncertain settings, that early enlargement might pose. Several of us saw attraction in linking NATO admission to EC admission, albeit preferably less through arguments of institutional and legal logic than on the ground that the substantive attributes conditioning the latter would in practice be naturally apt also for guiding the former. We were warned that skilful leadership in forming US opinion would be needed to carry through Congressional acceptance of any widening of NATO membership, and any suggestion that internal EC decisions could determine the issue would be unfortunate. At the same time, we were strongly disinclined to accept as weighty any arguments resting on conjectured Russian dislike of membership extension.

Russia was nevertheless plainly, in other respects, a special preoccupation for the United States. The enormity of the stakes there inescapably set its place in US priorities ahead of the ex-Communist states further West. There were many grounds for acute concern - tensions with the Ukraine, for example; unease about Russians living outside Russian boundaries; and the vast problems of the economy. None of us felt wholly able to dismiss, even if we did not positively share, an assessment that renewed autocracy was more likely than not by the end of the century.

Our debates throughout had a throbbing undertone of dismay, even of shame, about the awful wreck of Yugoslavia. We all knew that the outside world had made mistakes and had failed at the key early stages to grasp the scale and danger of the upheaval and to think policies through accordingly. Some of us felt sure, but others doubted, that different Western actions could have prevented the disaster despite the explosion of repressed hatreds. On any view, Yugoslavia had posed a savagely difficult task to collective international action at a time when many countries, in Europe and elsewhere, had been thrown off balance by the new challenges of recent years. It was widely argued that the central failure lay in allowing Serbian leaders to reckon, in the event so far rightly, that if their nerve held, they need face only international odium and pressure, not international military force; policies centred on the concept of proceeding by agreed outcome could scarcely suffice if key players chose persistently not to agree. At the same time, our debate was no more successful than most commentators in postulating operationally-defined politico-military objectives to which the sustained application of force could have adhered amid the complex realities, especially when Western publics - or so their leaders judged - were much readier to call, under the spur of media coverage, for some effective action than to accept the specific long-haul costs of undertaking it. For the future, and however we were minded to class the post-Yugoslav saga in terms of civil war, war of aggression or some special new disintegration-of-the-state category, we recognised the need for hard thinking to shape a better framework of understanding that could underpin international planning and action, preferably by the UN. We all acknowledged, too, the clamant need to seek ways of steering political awareness and activity out of the corrosive mindset of ethnicity. Closer ahead, we saw urgency for collective moves to constrain the possibility that the shambles would spread into Kosovo, Macedonia and perhaps Vojvodina, with all the escalatory dangers that would then arise.

We were reminded constantly that international organisation-building and action could not ultimately be insulated from the economic and social health of our countries; some of the Maastricht-related difficulties, for instance, would almost certainly have been less severe in a non-recessionary climate, and the salience of domestic over external challenges had been a conspicuous element in President Clinton’s election campaign. Time did not enable us fully to tease out views on the problems of unemployment EC members and others were facing, though we mostly judged that they were more than just cyclical; and we noted that within Europe awareness of unemployment as a central problem, and therefore of labour costs and flexibilities as deeply important, was already beginning to re-shape the debate on social welfare. We were uncomfortably aware that this same awareness was interacting considerably - markedly but not only in France - with attitudes to the international trade system. One of the most interesting features of the whole conference was the impression - a surprise to many of the non-Americans - that public and business opinion in the US might be distinctly less concerned than that in Europe and Japan over the fate of the Uruguay Round. US opinion, as we gathered, would like success in the Round, but would not regard its failure as calamity; business would adjust, and the world would find some other framework of rules for trade; the Round anyway was not well adapted to addressing the US/Japan concerns that ranked at the head of the US trade-policy agenda, where Congress would certainly not forswear the big stick of Section 301 failing some effective transformation of Japanese trade behaviour of a scale and permanence that looked improbable amid Japan’s current problems of political leadership. From the European and Japanese side, it was argued that this relatively-relaxed view of the maintenance and strengthening of the GATT framework underrated consequences in both the developed and the developing world; and that bilateral management of the US/Japan trade relationship might, even at best, imply too narrow a view of repercussions.

This illuminating if incomplete exchange threw into fresh relief what was in a sense the clearest message of the whole conference: that in a world changing faster and in more complex ways than for decades past, and moreover with some of the habitual pressures towards cooperation superficially weakened by the character of the changes, it remained of cardinal importance that both sides of the Atlantic should work consciously, energetically and candidly at the task of dialogue between them. The risks that understanding would be imperfect, and that the world’s affairs would thereby be damaged, was probably higher now than most of us had been accustomed to suppose; and the work of Ditchley and the Chicago Council together was therefore of enhanced value.

This Note reflects the Director's personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

Chair: The Rt Hon Baroness Williams of Crosby PC
Life Peer (Liberal Democrat)


Professor Dr Andreas Khol MP
Professor of Law, Vienna University

The Rt Hon the Lord Beloff FBA
Life Peer (Conservative)

Mr Anthony Cary
Head, European Community Department (Internal), Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Mr Nicholas Colchester OBE
Deputy Editor, The Economist

Mr Hugh Dykes MP
Member of Parliament (Conservative), Harrow East

Dr Michael Hodges
Senior Lecturer, Department of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science

Professor Sir Michael Howard CBE MC FBA
Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History, Yale University     

Ms Mary Kaldor
Jean Monnet Reader in Contemporary European Studies, Sussex European Institute, University of Sussex

Miss Pauline Neville-Jones CMG
HM Diplomatic Service; Deputy Secretary, Cabinet Office (on secondment)

Mr David Omand
Deputy Under Secretary of State (Policy), Ministry of Defence

Mrs Rosemary Righter
Chief Leader Writer, The Times; journalist and writer on international affairs and international organisations.

Ms Jane Sharp
Senior Research Fellow, Department of War Studies, King’s College, University of London

Mr Stephen Wright
Counsellor (External Relations), UK Permanent Representation to European Community, Brussels

M Michel F Bélanger
Chairman: Canadian Pacific Forest Products Ltd

Mr John D McNeil
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada

Mr Grant Reuber OC FRSC
President, Canadian Ditchley Foundation; Chairman, Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation

Dr Alexandr Vondra
First Deputy Foreign Minister, Czech Republic

M Jean-Dominique Giuliani
Director of Cabinet, President of the Senate, and Director, Foundation Robert Schuman, Paris.

M Jacques Rupnik
East European Department, Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales, Paris

Herr Wolfgang Ischinger
Director, Policy Planning Staff, Foreign Office, Bonn

Ambassador Dr Henning Wegener
Head of Department, Press & Information Office of the German Federal Government, Bonn

Dr Joszef Szájer MP
Member of Parliament (Young Democrats)

Professor Toshiro Tanaka
Professor of European Affairs, Faculty of Law, Keio University, Tokyo

Mr Andrzej Karkoszka
Adviser to Defence Minister, Ministry for National Defence, Warsaw

Dr William B Bader
President, Eurasia Foundation

Mr Dennis J Britton
Editor and Executive Vice President, Chicago Sun-Times

General Neal Creighton
President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert R McCormick Trusts and Foundations

Dr Arthur Cyr
Vice President and Program Director, The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations

Mr James Hoagland
Associate Editor and Chief Foreign Correspondent, other assignments, The Washington Post

Mr Elmer Johnson
Partner, Kirkland & Ellis

Mr Thomas Joyce
Partner, Shearman & Sterling, London

Mr Kenneth Longmyer
Director of International Affairs, the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies

Mr Richard Longworth
Senior Writer, Chicago Tribune

Professor Michael Mandelbaum
Christian A Herter Professor and Director, American Foreign Policy, The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies;
Dr Robert P McNeill
Executive Vice President, Stein Roe & Farnham

Professor Richard Neustadt
Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Emeritus, John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Dr John E Rielly
President, The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations

Mr David Rosso
Partner, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue

Mr Louis J Rutigliano
Vice-Chairman and Director, Ameritech Corp

Mr Geoffrey B Shields
Chairman of Department of Government and Tax-Exempt Organization Finance, and Partner since 1980, Gardner, Carton & Douglas

Mr William L Weiss
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ameritech