Washington, DC --- On Thursday, March 13, 2008, the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), comprised of 19 national organizations representing more than 22 million Americans, discussed a range of policy issues with presidential candidate Senator John McCain’s advisors, Randy Scheunemann, Director of Foreign Policy and National Security, and Stephen Biegun. Senator McCain's National Coalitions Director Aaron Manaigo also participated at the meeting.

The meeting began with remarks from both advisors, focusing on Senator McCain’s over 20 years of foreign policy experience and his support for the new democracies in Europe. Of the 13 ancestral countries of CEEC members, Senator McCain has visited all but one. He regrets in particular the slowing of initiatives in that region due to fears of distressing the Russian government. Senator McCain believes that the West needs to do more to stand up to Moscow and hold her accountable for both internal and external actions, while at the same time continuing to work with her in areas of mutual interest. He also supports enhancing transatlantic relationships in order to put a sounder Russia policy into place, and is visiting London and Paris next week to further those relationships. Senator McCain is also considering the formation of a new “League of Democracies” to unite countries with shared values that may be able to act in areas where the United Nations has been unable to act, due in part to the positions of undemocratic countries.

The discussion focused on key areas of concern for the CEEC, including Russia’s actions in the region, energy security and diversification, NATO enlargement, the missile shield, and the visa waiver program. Senator McCain supports continued NATO enlargement, and is concerned that a pause in progress could be detrimental to continued expansion. Mr. Scheunemann voiced Senator McCain’s concern over Russia’s use of energy for political leverage, and his support for the development of a common energy policy with Europe to avoid Russian monopolization of energy provisions to Europe. Senator McCain believes that this important issue is a matter of national security for the United States.

Also, as President, Senator McCain would continue the deployment of the missile shield in Eastern Europe, and, understanding the security concerns of the countries involved, would be responsive to their needs. A retreat from the building of the missile defense in Europe, which is a common U.S.-Europe defense, would encourage Russia, and discourage our allies. Mr. Scheunemann voiced support for just-signed bilateral agreements between the U.S. and the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Latvia regarding visa waivers, despite the desire of the European Union, whose older members have such waivers, to broker all such agreements (other countries, including Slovakia and Hungary are also expected to sign similar agreements shortly). Senator McCain is committed to finding a solution to the visa issue.

Of the meeting, Armand Scala, President of the Congress of Romanian Americans, stated that “the two responders were very thorough in their replies,” and that “the CEEC is looking forward to further meetings and discussions with Senator McCain and his team.”


Pictured are, in front: Marju Rink-Abel (Estonian American National Council/JBANC), Michael Sawkiw (Ukrainian Congress Committee of America), Randy Scheunemann (Sen. McCain campaign), Stephen Biegun (Sen. McCain campaign), Dorin Gabriel Ivanescu (Congress of Romanian Americans). In back: Aaron Manaigo (Sen. McCain campaign), Radi Slavoff (Bulgarian Institute for Research and Analysis), Georgina Slavoff (Bulgarian Institute for Research and Analysis), Stephanie Urban (Lithuanian American Community), Barbara Andersen (Polish American Congress), Ramunas Kondratas (Lithuanian American Council/JBANC), Bianka Dodov (Armenian Assembly of America), Maka Gabelia (Georgian Association in the USA), Karl Altau (JBANC), Armand Scala (Congress of Romanian Americans).

Octobr 17, 2008 - President Bush Discusses the Visa Waiver Program
Office of the Press Secretary/ White House News

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Please be seated, thank you. Welcome to the White House. I'm pleased to stand with the representatives of seven countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea -- that have met the requirements to be admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program. Soon the citizens of these nations will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without a visa. I congratulate these close friends and allies on this achievement, and I thank you for joining us here.

I also thank Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of the Homeland -- Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for working hard to make sure this day has finally arrived. Appreciate other members of the administration here and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

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