Marshall Plan Symposium 2015 at Webster

On June 10, 2015, the annual symposium organized by the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation, highlighting the significance of transatlantic relations in general and current issues in particular, was held for the first time at Webster Vienna Private University.

Mag. Marc Bittner began with a survey conducted in Austria, indicating that while support for increased cooperation with America is strong in certain sectors, Austrians remains skeptical about increased economic and security cooperation. The survey also revealed a trend of fear for the effects of the upcoming TTIP agreement.

Dr. Taras Kuzio, University of Alberta and SAIS, continued with a lecture about the Ukrainian crisis. Dr. Kuzio, in addition to discussing the material realities of the conflict, focused on the role of Ukrainian and Russian identities. Ukraine’s orientation towards Europe, the EU, and NATO is inseparable from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent war in the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts.

The symposium then moved towards a more conversational format, in which Dr. Wolfgang Petritsch, President of the Austrian Marshall Plan foundation, Dr. Elina Brutschin and moderator Dr. Michael Freund (both of Webster Vienna) joined Dr. Kuzio to discuss the prospects for the Ukrainian conflict. Dr. Brutschin began with a brief summary of Ukraine’s stagnant economy and difficult energy outlook, and then each expert weighed in on potential solutions and probable roadblocks to the crisis. The audience was allowed to pose a number of questions, such as the effect if Ukraine were to enter into NATO.

Following the conversation, United States Ambassador to Austria Alexa Wesner arrived and spoke about the continuing significance of the Marshall Plan. She then presented Marshall Plan Fellowships to a number of Austrian students to be studying in America, and American students currently studying in Austria. A reception in the atrium followed, and Dr. Freund indicated his hope that the Marshall Plan Symposium become an annual event held at Webster University.