CAMDEN — It was more than 14 months ago that planners of this year’s Camden Conference set the topic as “Europe: Challenged at Home and Abroad.” Given recent events in Ukraine, which borders two NATO members, that was a fateful call.

Now in its 35th year, the Camden Conference continues to bring foreign policy and world affairs programming to Camden for several days in late February. Over this period, it has consistently gathered experts from around the nation and the world. This year’s keynote speaker was EU Ambassador to the United States Stavros Lambridinis, who stressed the role of democracy in determining Europe’s future.

John Herbst, who served as U.S. ambassador to Kyiv during Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” and currently chairs the Dinu Patriciu program at the Atlantic Council, joined a panel on Saturday, tying the discussion of the invasion and its impact to the career diplomat’s firsthand dealings with Ukraine’s political elite.

A former French ambassador to Washington, Pierre Vimont, shared his perspective of shifting leadership burdens in the EU. French President Emmanuel Macron sought to broker an agreement between Moscow and Kyiv just prior to Russia’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk “Peoples’” Republics.

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Doug Lute joined Brookings Constanze Stelzenmuller in an exchange about how various members of Europe’s security and economic alliances will respond to Russia over Ukraine, and how emerging connections between them may impact the future.

Despite the crisis, the conference agenda also covered the waterfront of issues bearing on Europe’s future. Academic expert discussions covered the impact of immigration and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s risky bet on it following the Syrian crisis, the rising trend of nationalism and even authoritarianism in European democracies, as well as economic analysis.

Students from the University of Maine at Orono participated in the conference by remote link. This was the last year the conference will be held virtually because of COVID-19 concerns, organizers hope.