The Slovenia Times

Bled Strategic Forum wraps up


The event featured around 1,200 participants from 60 countries, numbers that Logar said showed that it was "the largest and content-wise the strongest forum so far, exceeding the frameworks of the location in Slovenia and significantly expanding to areas in the region as well as the immediate and distant neighbourhood".

The forum featured fewer high-profile guests this year, which was expected given that Slovenia is currently between governments.

But Logar pointed out that "virtually the entire new government" was in Bled and used the opportunity for bilateral talks. Their presence also showed that "we can expect continued support for the BSF project in the future".

Outgoing Prime Minister Miro Cerar was in Bled, as was the incoming Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, outgoing Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec, the incumbent and future Economy Minister Zdravko Počivašek, as well as President Borut Pahor and his predecessors.

But there were few senior foreign officials, which Erjavec said was the result of the interregnum in Slovenia but did not affect the quality of debates.

Opening the proceedings on Monday, Cerar noted that the world had changed dramatically over the past few years, as the economic order and strategic alliances that had been known for decades were suddenly called into question, and multilateralism being severely challenged.

"All this is giving boost to growing individualism and divisions in our society. If we really care for the prospects of our countries, for the well-being of our citizens, for the future of Europe and world, we need to bring change."

A similar message was delivered by President Pahor, who aired the view that Brexit demonstrated that the EU was at a standstill, which he sees not as a frozen state but as a return to national policies.

One of the highlights of the event was a one-on-one debate with Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, who made headlines by announcing that the first stage of Brexit talks could wrap up in 6-8 weeks.

Barnier also said he had "great respect" for UK Prime Minister Theresa May and said her Brexit plan, referred to as the Chequers Plan, was a good basis for talks.

Barnier also held talks with Slovenian officials, meeting Pahor, Cerar, parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan and members of the EU affairs and foreign policy committees to brief them on the current stage of Brexit talks.

Debates on the second day dealt with issues as diverse as how to keep Europe together, how to improve institutional resilience, what role mediation plays in global affairs, and how people can put technology to good use.

The debate on the EU revolved around what keeps the bloc together. It brought a variety of views with some arguing for a more transactional, interest-based union and others highlighting values and norms as the key to the EU's success.

A panel on the Western Balkans, traditionally the closing event of the BSF, showed that a divide between politicians and the civil society persists in the perception of the region's progress on its Euro-Atlantic path.

It also showed lingering bilateral problems that are proving intractable, for example the Serbia-Kosovo dispute.

Enver Hoxhaj, the deputy prime minister of Kosovo, said his country would like to resolve all open issues between the two countries because it would help keep the positive momentum. However, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić "abused his [recent] visit to Kosovo" by delivering a speech in which he glorified Slobodan Milošević, according to him.

A panel on the International Criminal Court (ICC) was supposed to honour the institution's 20th anniversary but turned into a defence of the ICC against US dismissiveness after US National Security Advisor John Bolton said that "the ICC is dead to us".

The business segment, Business BSF, was digitally-oriented, with panellists exploring how technology is affecting work, what artificial intelligence will bring, and how to transition from a physical to a digital society.

The special tourism panel explored how technology will affect cultural tourism. It heard experts say that the sector, already among the businesses most affected by technology, would experience more change with the help of high-performance computers producing innovative products and services.

An AmCham panel on the future of work, meanwhile, discussed how the advancement of technology will impact future jobs, and concluded that people should not be afraid of robots but of becoming robots themselves as they forget how to connect to each other.


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