Twenty Years of U.S. Economic Assistance to Europe and Eurasia


On Monday, July 22, 2013, the Brookings Institution in Washington hosted a panel discussion on 20 years of United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) economic assistance to Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

The Assistant Administrator of the USAID's Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, Ms. Paige Alexander, provided introductory remarks and was followed by a panel discussion featuring Mr. Donald Pressley, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton; Ambassador William Taylor, Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions at the U.S. Department of State; and, Mr. Craig Buck, Senior Development Practitioner. Mr. George Ingram, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, served as the moderator during the discussion in which panelists expressed their views on a report recently released by the USAID Europe and Eurasia Bureau. This report not only documented the United States' economic assistance, but also highlighted lessons learned that may be relevant to current and future United States assistance policies.

Following the historic fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of communism throughout Europe, the United States government provided over $20 billion in economic aid throughout the region between the years of 1990 and 2012, with the hope of facilitating economic and political transformations.

Concerning these transformations, Mr. Buck noted that one must take into account the situational differences within each country. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, for instance, ethnic tensions pose a significant obstacle to cooperation. In order for the economic assistance and the transitional process to a market-based economy to be effective in each society, citizens must demand accountability from their government. There must be a dual nature between good governance and economic growth in order for the aforementioned assistance to be successful. The lack of vigorous civil society, free press, demand for accountability of government officials, and the demand for the enforcement of the rule of law, hinder progress. As a result, the European Union estimates that the country closest to European Union accession in the Western Balkans is at least ten years away from achieving this goal.

Ambassador Taylor discussed various reasons as to why economic assistance packages worked for some countries as opposed to others. Before aiding these countries, we must have a solid understanding of these societies, their peoples and their cultures. When providing such large economic assistance programs, one must also consider the level of corruption in these societies. Mr. Pressley pointed out that open press and investigative journalism assist in highlighting instances of corruption.

The report on 20 years of USAID Economic Growth in Europe and Eurasia can be found by clicking the following link: USAID