The Kozmetsky Center of Excellence hosted its fifth annual collaborative multi-year series session in transatlantic security entitled, Challenges in Transatlantic Security: Borders and Geopolitics in Europe and Eurasia on April 8 in the Jones Global Events Center on the St. Edward's University campus. The transatlantic security forum was funded with grant support from the United States Department of Education Title VI National Resource Program and co-sponsored with the Center for European Studies and Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. For our fifth annual session, the Kozmetsky Center partnered with the Research Committee on Geopolitics of the International Political Science Association (IPSA) sponsoring a simultaneous interim workshop devoted to the topic Borders and Geopolitics in the 21st Century. The IPSA workshop featured presentations of academic research papers prepared by scholars of nations throughout the world community on topics of geopolitics and border security.
The dual event program opened on Monday evening, April 8, featuring leading experts of the American and international academic and defense arenas offering perspectives from different national contexts defining border and border security challenges influencing regional and global geopolitics with direct significance for nations of the transatlantic security community with a focus on Europe and Eurasia.
A common thread throughout the Monday’s discussion was the trend away from a “borderless” Europe towards clear national boundaries, border hardening and securitization. Specifically, the panelists offered the following major conclusions:
- While popular support for a borderless European community (i.e., the Schengen Area) persisted for decades, many Europeans still desire borders both symbolically and as a matter of policy. Dr. Igor Okunev, Professor at MGIMO University, stated that there is a perpetual tendency to establish and maintain borders which is rooted in human psychology and identity.
- Dr. Lorinc Redei, Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, cited Hungary and the United Kingdom as exemplary European Union (EU) member states that have made policy decisions to securitize their national borders, and the trend toward borderless Europe has stalled if not stopped.
- Panelists also discussed how emergent security challenges prompted European states to rethink and reevaluate the EU’s “external” border policies along the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Neighborhood. Specifically, retired Italian Navy Admiral Alberto Cervone and Dr. Teodor Moga, Professor at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi, addressed the border challenges Italy and Romania were confronting.
- Among a myriad of geopolitical and border challenges in Europe and Eurasia, the mass migration of refugees fleeing conflict and instability in Africa and the Middle East has directed Europe’s attention to border security. Dr. Heidi Lane, Professor at the U.S. Naval War College, explained how all borders (i.e., territorial political and economic) are in flux in the Middle East, and the region’s permeable borders allow migrants passage into Europe and Eurasia.
- Finally, Dr. Alan Henrikson, Professor Emeritus at Tufts University, argued that addressing and negotiating border disputes between European nations should focus on bi-lateral diplomacy through sustained local contact and coordination.
The sessions on borders and geopolitics continued on Tuesday, April 9, with the meeting of the Research Committee on Geopolitics of the International Political Science Association with panel sessions on the Middle East, North America and Europe/Eurasia featuring presentations by international scholars and Austin faculty from St. Edward's University and the University of Texas, Austin.