The Possible Engagement of States of the United States in Eastern Europe and the Balkans
Staff-prepared summary of the East European Studies discussion with Jack Seymour, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of State, and Title VIII EES Research Scholar.
Jack Seymour, a veteran Foreign Service officer and expert on Central and Eastern Europe, addressed the need for partnership of states of the United States with countries or regions of Central and Eastern Europe. Traditionally, such links have come at the federal level but over the last 20 years, the diminution of overall US assistance and the need by US states for foreign investment and trade has encouraged several states to become active in seeking partners abroad. Long-term and vigorous links between US states and Mexico and Canada have existed for some time. Extensive links also exist with several countries of Southeast Asia, but contacts with Central and Eastern Europe are comparatively new and show opportunities for growth. An important precursor of such contacts has been the extensive links at the state level between South Carolina and the Lander (or provinces) of Germany.
Opportunities for cooperation at the state level are particular abundant in the fields of trade, agriculture, education, foreign investment, and the environment. More recently in the 1990s, there has also been contact in the field of national security, especially through the National Guard partnership program which has established links and partnerships between states of Central and Eastern Europe and the National Guard of several states of the US. One particularly active program has been established between the Indiana National Guard and the Ministry of Defense in Slovakia. According to Seymour, an emerging partnership that could serve as a prototype for others are the links between Iowa and Serbia, originally established through the good auspices of the Stanley Foundation based in Muscatine, Iowa. This program has three basic dimensions, first and foremost agricultural cooperation; second, business development; and third, educational links and the encouragement of student and youth exchanges.
Seymour argued for the need for more encouragement and funding to US states to more actively pursue these kinds of partnerships in Central and Eastern Europe on the premise that there are obvious benefits for both US states and Eastern Europe in more systematic cooperation. The fact is that states are closest to the problems, need solutions and can make it happen. However, important roles must still be played by the US federal government, private NGOs and foundations, and immigrant constituencies to encourage more systematic cooperation and broaden sectoral relationships between US states and East European regions or countries.