The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) was established in 1994 and is currently composed of fifteen active national, membership-based organizations representing Americans from Armenian, Belarusan, Croatian, Estonian, Georgian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, and Ukrainian descent. The CEEC represents over 20 million Americans with heritage from the CEE region. The Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) is a founding member organization.
According to its website (https://ceecadvocacy.org), the Coalition was formed to coordinate the efforts of ethnic organizations whose members continue to maintain strong cultural, economic, political, and religious ties to the countries of Central and East Europe. The Coalition serves as a liaison with these national Central and East European ethnic organizations.
These organizations cooperate in calling attention to issues of mutual concern, especially as regards United States policy toward Central and East Europe. The Coalition has cooperated on a wide range of issues including calling attention to russia’s [sic] policies toward its neighbors, NATO enlargement, and U.S. assistance programs for the region.
The Coalition has met with many congressional leaders over the years and testified before several congressional committees including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, House International Relations Committee (now House Foreign Affairs Committee), Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (better known as the Helsinki Commission).
The CEEC meets weekly, and over the past three years via Zoom. There are occasional in-person gatherings, such as the June 11 meeting in Washington, DC with chairs of the Lithuanian and Estonian parliamentary foreign affairs committees – Žygimantas Pavilionis and Marko Mihkelson, respectively. At that meeting, the July NATO Summit in Lithuania was discussed as was the importance of supporting Ukraine’s victory against russia. Following that, on June 26, the CEEC sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to support a clear pathway to Ukrainian NATO membership in Vilnius. Although Ukraine was not issued an invitation for membership at the Summit, it is a critical issue for the Coalition going forward.
The CEEC has held regular policy forums over the years, more recently virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. The forums bring together policy experts, Members of Congress, diplomats, and members from the CEE communities in the United States. In addition, the CEEC has held advocacy days, to bring members of our diverse communities to Capitol Hill to engage with Congress and to support legislation. This year, CEEC Advocacy Day was held on April 26. Over 40 advocates participated in targeted meetings with over 20 key offices in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, including committee staff. The primary issue raised during the meetings was encouraging continued support for Ukraine’s unequivocal victory against russia.
In preparation for its advocacy day, the Coalition issued its annual policy brief, outlining key legislative areas and policy recommendations. The first and primary point of focus is “NATO/Regional Security Assistance,” in which it is emphasized, among other points, that “To deter russian aggression against NATO allies bordering russia, we request increased military assistance to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania vis-á-vis Foreign Military Financing (FMF), and Baltic Security Initiative appropriations, and in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).”
Another central issue is defined as designating russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. These priorities are all critical for U.S. congressional and policy leaders to understand and support, otherwise, as the brief states: “Unless russian imperialism is defeated, we risk the freedom, democracy, and sovereignty of the Free World. Therefore, every effort must be taken to combat hybrid warfare, military aggression, disinformation, cyber-attacks, corruption, energy weaponization, nuclear threats, and crimes against humanity. [The] CEEC believes that a decisive Ukrainian victory matters for the national security of the United States and its NATO allies.”
The CEEC 2023 policy brief can be found at: https://ceecadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/CEEC-118th-Congress-Policy-Brief.pdf
This year, the CEEC has reached out to establish regular communication with the National Security Council on a series of critical issues involving Ukraine’s defense of its homeland and ensuring continued U.S. support. These have been in the form of one-page letters addressed to President Biden at regular intervals.
These communiqués have thus far centered on condemning russia’s weaponization of food and targeting grain storage facilities, continued U.S. support for Ukraine, and providing Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine.
Plans are to continue contacting the White House on these and other issues, in advance of the NATO Summit in Washington, DC from July 9-11, 2024. A push for Ukraine’s NATO membership will be in full swing leading up to that event.