We give the readers the materials of the 34th International Conference “Europe of the
Carpathians” held in Karpacz 194 days after the start of full-scale Russian aggression
against Ukraine. In this situation, most of the Carpathian states became the immediate
hinterland of the invaded country. This fact significantly influenced the theme of
the conference and its proceedings.
We have emphasised the importance of European unity and cooperation of
Europe of the Carpathians in the face of the multiple crises caused by the war in
the “Message of the Program Council of the Clubs of the Europe of the Carpathians…”
included on the pages of this publication. As of 24 February 2022, this keynote
of our international conferences can be taken as literally as possible. We warned of
the danger of Putin’s regime and sought military and economic strengthening of the
region. Unfortunately, the attention of almost the whole globe focused on our part of
Europe only when the war threatening the entire world broke out. Much of the West
sees the continent’s centre of gravity shifting to Central European countries, from Finland
to Romania and the Balkans, on the issue of security that is most crucial today.
And Europe of the Carpathian, which is part of the region, provides a “corridor of life”
to struggling Ukraine, humanitarian support and care for millions of war refugees. It
can be said that, under these dramatic circumstances, our generation is building
the peculiarities of the identity of Central Europe, whose foundation has become
the word solidarity.
The past year showed us all how profitable investments in the Carpathian region
are, with the Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport being a particular symbol of them. Transports
with supplies for the fighting Ukraine also reach the other side of the border by rail and
highway. Consequently, the Russian aggression has caused the countries of the Carpathian
region to cooperate even more closely. In the hour of trial, the declared friendship
of the societies of the Carpathian region turned out to be as authentic as possible.
Everyone should by now understand that Ukraine’s independence is in the interest
of the entire eastern flank of NATO, the EU, Europe, and the world. For this, however,
the country needs a smoothly executed reconstruction. According to preliminary estimates
made at the end of 2022, it will cost more than USD 600 billion to repair the
damage caused by Russia. Ukraine’s GDP has probably shrunk by half over the past
year, meaning that Ukraine will only be able to make up for its losses with a long-term
foreign aid program. This is a topic that will probably be with us for many more conferences
Another issue is also gaining incredible importance – strengthening communications
in the Three Seas area: Baltic, Black, and Adriatic Seas. For example, Via Carpatia,
repeatedly discussed at the conference, is to form the core of a whole network
of branches, e.g., leading to Gdańsk or Odessa. This is not the only way to connect the
north with the south of Europe. The idea, which is already being finalised, also involves
the creation of a high-speed Warsaw–Brno–Bratislava–Budapest railroad. At the next
stage, this railroad can reach as far as Belgrade. Our role was to encourage governments
in the region to work together on these initiatives.
We have been building a favourable climate for cooperation between the countries
of our region for years. After 2010, the Visegrad Group was apparently strengthened,
especially in its relations with the European Union. That affected directing attention to
cooperation in Central Europe, crossing the borders of the EU, Schengen or the Eurozone.
Real success is also a rapprochement at other levels – institutions, NGOs, local
governments, universities, and communities. Young leaders of the Carpathian region
are often invited to the discussion to learn about their proposals for the future of our
region. In particular, we are looking at the civilisation revolution that is taking place
thanks to new technologies (GovTech is changing our world every day!).
The people of the Carpathians are culturally and linguistically diverse and have
unique customs. This is the heritage of many nations and peoples. Regarding biodiversity,
our mountains are the most abundant in all of Europe. The Carpathian Mountains
are also a giant reservoir of drinking water – and only international cooperation can
ensure sufficient supplies of this strategic resource for people. Let us also remember
the food security provided by Carpathian farmers.
We have been working for years in Europe of the Carpathian for cooperation
and peace. This is currently one of our most critical challenges. And we are aware
that powerful states and strong armies best provide security. It is worth recalling the
words spoken by Rev. Prof. Franjo Topić: “Peace is not everything, but without peace,
everything is nothing.” The past year showed that cooperation in the Carpathian region
was bearing fruit. And let this be a good prognosis for the future.