The Slovenia Times

Bled Strategic Forum tackling new challenges


Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec stressed in his address that "we are facing new international actors" and "still struggle to address climate change and its negative global impact".

He called on the participants to not only focus on this, but to dedicate discussions to new realities and "how to use them to make a better future".

Prime Minister Miro Cerar noted that new challenges along with digitalisation and new technologies, which had "become the key driver of progress in society", demanded new approaches.

He also touched on the EU, stressing that the bloc was determined to move on: "We need more integrated EU, built on the fundamental values and principles, a champion of the rule of law, capable of properly addressing the challenges of our time."

President Borut Pahor also called for increased integration of the EU in the economy, technology, politics and security for the bloc to become a strong strategic partner to the US and Russia.

The leader's panel, the central event of the first day of proceedings, took a broad look at the technology-driven change shaping present-day society. While the participants found some cause for concern, they also exuded optimism.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission, said there was cause for optimism in the EU: elections in several key countries did not go the way people feared, Brexit and the US election had a sobering effect, and all this has happened against the backdrop of an economic recovery.

However, he cautioned that many of the reasons for insecurity have not disappeared yet, and many extreme forces did not win elections but still did very well, which means there is still a long way to go.

OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria focused on the state of the economy and globalization. He stressed that despite economic growth being more sluggish than before the crisis, governments should not just focus on productivity and growth - but neither should they focus only on the people excluded from the benefits of growth. "We have to focus on the nexus of all this," he said.

Danilo Türk, the former Slovenian president, meanwhile contested the notion that profound change was something new, noting that "we're always living in a time of change".

The panel dedicated a lot of time to debating youths, specifically how they can be activated and engaged in policy-making, and how to create jobs.

Timmermans suggested the idea of convergence - of incomes and living standards - needed to be revived. Gurria meanwhile pushed back at the very notion of generational gaps, saying that it was unrealistic to talk about generations. "Values are universal, regardless of generation," he said, noting that leadership was not the question of age, it was about vibrancy, courage and conviction.

With the forum coming just a day after North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test, some of the debates also touched on the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Federica Mogherini, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said a cooperative rather than confrontational approach to existing challenges, including in North Korea and the Western Balkans, was needed.

She said that North Korea had embarked on a "major threat and provocation directed against the entire international community", arguing that a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons was in the interest first of all of the Koreans but also of the entire world.

Miroslav Lajčak, the president-elect for the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, touched on North Korea indirectly in saying that such issues needed to be addressed by the UN General Assembly as the most representative UN body.

He said diplomacy was the way to proceed, and cautioned that sanctions were an instrument that does not always bring desired results, they were merely one instrument in the policy toolbox.

The forum is also an opportunity for bilateral meetings, with Pahor, Cerar and Erjavec holding talks with numerous officials.

Pahor held talks with the Holy See's secretary for relations with states, Paul Richard Gallagher, and the OECD's Gurria.

Erjavec met officials including his Moldovan and Indian counterparts Andrei Galbur and M. J. Akbar, Gurria and the EU foreign policy chief Mogherini.


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