Western Balkans & the EU: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

In the framework of the Bled Strategic Forum international conference and in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Centre for European Perspective held its traditional December round table on the topic of Western Balkans. Round table was attended by more than 50 participants, coming from the Slovenian ministry of Foreign Affairs, Academia, Embassies and long-standing partners of CEP and BSF.

The discussion was based on the conclusions of the Panel on the Western Balkans, held at the Bled Strategic Forum 2017, where a clear message emerged – the process of enlargement of the European Union is still an incentive for transformation for the countries in the Western Balkans, and the speakers agreed in September that the future of the region is within the European Union. The values shared by the region and the EU represent a strong driving force for both sides. However, not attractiveness nor support should not be taken for granted, and the process must have a clearly defined ultimate goal.

Welcome address was delivered by Dr Gorazd Justinek, Executive Director, Centre for European Perspective who shortly presented CEP activities in 2017, stating that there were more than 60, while BSF was seen as the most remarkable one. He also thanked all the partners who have helped us to achieve and conclude a successful year.

Opening remarks were given by Mr Iztok Mirošič, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia who stressed the importance of inclusion of WB countries into the EU for the prosperity and stability of the region, arguing that Slovenia greatly supports European integrations but stays aware of work that both sides still have to do. He underlined there is a new impetus in regard of the enlargement process and EU still sees vast potential in the region, but reminiscences of the past are sometimes better trigger than anything else, and different accounts of history are stopping the reconciliation process. Past is stopping thinking about the most important – future. Most significant priorities in the WB countries should be the rule of law and economic prosperity. Mr Mirošič said regional initiatives are continuing their work harder than they did in the past and is up to the countries in WB to use this momentum in order to move the things on the ground and achieve its goals. In conclusion State Secretary stated “There is always light at the end of the tunnel, if we all move in the same way”.

Light at the End of the Tunnel: Western Balkans and the EU

Round table was moderated by Mr Peter Grk, National Coordinator for Western Balkans, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, who argued that today we have the window of opportunity in the Western Balkans. Today, compared to 5 years ago, when President of European Commission Juncker said enlargement process is over, we had a speech where Juncker argued Serbia and Montenegro are expected to enter EU before 2025. That marks first time European Commission has set a date, causing change in enlargement atmosphere that until then was facing enlargement fatigue and enlargement patience. Question remains whether the date set is feasible, as well as what actions will be taken in order to close the economic gap between the countries in the region.

Speakers of the round table were H. E. Mr Pëllumb Qazimi, Ambassador of the Republic of Albania, H. E. Mr Nexhmi Rexhepi, Ambassador of Kosovo, H. E. Dr Vujica Lazović, Ambassador of Montenegro and H. E. Mrs Zorana Vlatković, Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia.

Main points of the debate focused on improvement in atmosphere regarding the enlargement, where Balkans are not presented in negative sense anymore; there is a good vibration coming from the EU regarding the regions integration process. Speakers agreed there is a need for a clear enlargement strategy in the region and the need to speed up the process, while they have remained aware that opening the negotiations is just the beginning of a long and challenging path. Panelists underlined the importance of European integration remaining key goal of their foreign policies, while public support for integration remains very high in all the countries, with no alternatives to be considered. Debate touched upon the reconciliation as a pre-requisite for European integration and regional cooperation, nationalistic narratives and wars that were not structurally addressed are hampering the enlargement process. Two main conclusions were drawn, first one being the importance of current positive atmosphere and second one the importance of not losing the momentum, where positive atmosphere should be translated into actions.

Views on the subject were given by H. E. Mr Paolo Trichilo, Ambassador of the Republic of Italy, H. E. Mr Bart Twaalfhoven, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H. E. Mr Pawel Czerwiński, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, H. E. Ms Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi, Ambassador of Hungary, Nicola Stewart, UK Embassy and Zoran Stančič, Head of the European Commission Representation in Slovenia who stressed the importance of such events that are facilitating the integration process. They have argued very little progress was seen from the WB states in regards the integrations, while the current positive momentum should be used to advance their agenda in more aggressive way. Speakers agreed that from a policy perspective we are in a stage where interdependence between WB and EU is very high, due to different cross-state issues, such as refugee crisis and illegal trade, that cannot be resolved without the inclusion of the whole European region. They have agreed the debate on whether WB should enter or not is useless, since positions are clear, the prosperity of the EU clearly depends on the success of integration process, but on the other hand accessing countries are themselves responsible for acquiring proper acquis, meeting all the criteria and setting the pace of change. Importance of regional initiatives was underlined, where cooperation between the countries can help them in speeding up the process, while renewed political efforts are expected from WB countries.

Light at the End of the Tunnel: Western Balkans & the European Union Part II

We kindly invite you to the round table discussion »Light at the End of the Tunnel: Western Balkans & the European Union Part II«.

Round table will be held on Thursday, 7 December 2017, starting at 11 am, followed by a Pre-New Year’s Reception starting at 1 pm, at Jable Castle (Grajska cesta 1, 1234 Loka pri Mengšu, Slovenia).

The discussion will build upon the panel on the Western Balkans of Bled Strategic Forum 2017 that confirmed a clear message: the EU enlargement process carries a transformative power for the countries in the region (this message was supported by EU representatives, clearly stating that the future of the region lies within the EU). While the common values of the region and the EU are a strong driving force for both sides, some ministers still speak of alternatives, saying that a high level of support should not be taken for granted.

Welcome Address Dr Gorazd Justinek, Executive Director, Centre for European Perspective

Opening Remarks
Mr Iztok Mirošič, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia

H. E. Dr Vujica Lazović, Ambassador of Montenegro (TBC)
H. E. Mr Pëllumb Qazimi, Ambassador of the Republic of Albania
H. E. Mr Nexhmi Rexhepi, Ambassador of Kosovo
H. E. Mrs Zorana Vlatković, Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia.

Moderated by Mr Peter Grk, National Coordinator for Western Balkans, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia.

The discussion will be followed by a pre-New Year’s Reception, hosted by the Centre for European Perspective.

RSVP by 4 December: http://bit.ly/CEP-WesternBalkans

Event is organized by the Centre for European Perspective in cooperation with the Bled Strategic Forum international conference and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia.

Ever-present Cyber Security Challenges discussed in Ljubljana

A round table discussion “The Evolving and Ever-present Cyber Security” attracted a large crowd of participants from various fields interested in cyber security, ranging from academics, IT specialists, companies to embassy and ministry representatives, who discussed the evolving challenges on Friday, 17 November, in Ljubljana. The event was organized in the framework of the Bled Strategic Forum international conference in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Centre for European Perspective and Club Alpbach Senza Confini.

The event was open by Meliha Muherina, Project Manager at CEP, who briefly introduced the idea and organizers behind the event. The opening remarks were delivered by Miriam Možgan, cyber security coordinator at the Slovenian ministry of foreign affairs, who presented the recent engagements of Slovenia in its foreign policy in relation to the topic of cyber security;  Domen Božeglav, adviser for digitalization in the office of the Slovenian minister of public administration, who continued with the internal aspect of Slovenian preparations and reactions to the cyber security developments; and Vesna Kuralt, president of Club Alpbach Senza Confini, who presented Forum Alpbach Network, its work and future plans for cooperation.

The panelists, Daniel Cohen, Head of the Strategy program at the Institute for International Diplomacy and a researcher at Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Institute, Dobran Božič, Director of the Government Office for the Protection of Classified Information, Gorazd Božič, Slovenian Computer Emergency Response Team, and Peter Geršak, International Business Machines Corporation, Slovenia, addressed various aspects of cyber security, starting with the question of the ownership of the infrastructure relevant to the cyber space. The dilemma of the agreement between the society, state and private companies on the ownership and regulation of the cyber space was discussed as one of the crucial questions in the times when the public demands protection from the state, emphasized Dobran Božič.

In contrast to the past perception of cyber-attacks as something that is in the domain of young hackers from the science fiction movies and books, the issue is considered as an act of organized crime today. The trends show that they are usually motivated by financial profits, said Gorazd Božič. Peter Geršak approached the discussion from the perspective of businesses, exposing the challenges of the protection of the devices that the employees use, lack of skills of employees in this field and the provision of advising services for the mitigation of the effects of cyber threats on businesses.

While a number of potential scenarios was discussed as the emerging trends in cyber-attacks, the worst-case scenarios would involve an attack on critical infrastructure, including energy sector, telecommunications and banking. Dobran Božič explained Slovenia’s and wider European preparations for such cases, also in the light of the recent EU Directive on Security of Network and Information System. Gorazd Božič exposed a number of already functioning response systems and expressed his positive view on the existing capabilities.

Daniel Cohen, specializing in cyber terrorism, elaborated on the challenges of the web and social media use in terrorist recruitment, especially in the case of ISIS, discussed fake news, elections meddling and information leaks, but also touched upon the rather unproductive cooperation between the public institutions and the private enterprises.

Internet of Things (IoT) was approached from the perspective of privacy protection of the citizens and the evolving public perception of private data sharing with the private corporations such as big international corporations and with the state, who on the other hand is expected to protect the citizens in case of a security breach. The round table discussion, moderated by Sabina Carli of CEP, also engaged into a vivid exchange of views relating to the challenges that are brought to both software developers and the authorities when it comes to encrypted communications, crypto, blockchain, internet voting and artificial intelligence.

Missed our round table? Watch it online:

Take a look at the photo gallery:

BSF: Cyber Security Roundtable

BSF Roundtable on “The Evolving and Ever-present Cyber Security”

On Friday, 17 November 2017, a roundtable discussion “The Evolving and Ever-present Cyber Security” will be taking place within the framework of the Bled Strategic Forum international conference in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Centre for European Perspective and Club Alpbach Senza Confini. The event will start with small refreshments at 16h in the Cafe of the City Museum of Ljubljana.

The roundtable will discuss main trends in cyber security and ways in which countries and companies are dealing with cyber threats. The ways in which IoT, block chain and cyber warfare are changing our lives and shaping our future will be explored.

The discussion will feature:

  • Mr Daniel Cohen, Head of the Strategy program at the Institute for International Diplomacy and a researcher at Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Institute
  • Major General Dobran Božič, Director of the Government Office for the Protection of Classified Information
  • Mr Gorazd Božič, Slovenian Computer Emergency Response Team
  • Mr Peter Geršak, International Business Machines Corporation, Slovenia

Please note, the discussion will be held in English.

RSVP: We kindly ask you to confirm your participation at http://bit.ly/2Aq8Gao by Tuesday, 14 November.

Focus on change as Bled Strategic Forum concludes

The Bled Strategic Forum, the pre-eminent foreign policy event in Slovenia, ended on Tuesday after two days of reflections that focused on the technology-driven societal and economic change summed up by the forum’s title New Reality.

Calls for common solutions to challenges posed by the changing world dominated the agenda of the first day, with senior Slovenian officials opening the forum by singling out challenges such as climate change and existing and emerging security threats.

Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec stressed that “we are facing new international actors” and “still struggle to address climate change and its negative global impact”. Prime Minister Miro Cerar noted that new challenges, which had “become the key driver of progress in society”, demanded new approaches.

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.

The debate, featuring EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, former Slovenian President Danilo Türk and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, dedicated a lot of time to debating youths, specifically how they can be activated and engaged in policy-making, and how to create jobs.

Several policy proposals were put forward, but the overarching suggestion was that youths should get active and participate in the democratic process to achieve change; being active on social media is not enough.

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.

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

The second day featured over a dozen panels dedicated to issues such as the EU’s future, the progress of the Western Balkans towards the EU, global nuclear governance, human rights in time of change and Twitter diplomacy.

The panel on the EU in the changed world argued that the EU is facing numerous challenges, including a crisis of trust and identity. The key to its future lies in convergence, integration, cooperation and attention to people’s needs.

The debate on global nuclear governance saw South Korean Foreign Ministry official Enna Park saying that condemning the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea was not enough. She called for concrete action by the international community.

At the panel on Western Balkans, a mainstay of the forum, foreign ministers from the region were in broad agreement that the EU accession process has a transformative effect on the countries. But they also warned that the accession was taking too long and ought to be more predictable.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein presented his office’s activity and human rights developments in the world at a special panel. He highlighted an erosion of commitments built on the experience of enormous human suffering in the first half of the 20th century and was very critical of the US president.

In line with this year’s motto, the business segment of the BSF focused on various aspects of innovation and how it affects and changes society. It touched on connectivity and leading the change, as well as the relation between government and business in the globalised and digitalised world.

A special panel was dedicated to tourism, in particular the collaborative economy.

The debate revolved around whether and how to regulate the new providers without suffocating the growth, how cities should deal with growing number of tourists, and what the new providers, especially big platforms such as AirBnB, should do to allow policy makers to enforce efficient and just regulation.

Youth BSF, the segment featuring young leaders, featured debates under the banned (Dis)connected Reality, which were condensed in a nine-point manifesto dealing with electronics, the environment and the economy.

While the BSF followed the established formula, there was one novelty this year as Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčak received a special accolade in being named a BSF distinguished partner for his enduring support of the purposes and principles of the forum.

2017 Young BSF Manifesto

There lived an incredible group of individuals who wanted to make a difference in society. They answered the call from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia and one weekend they all gathered together for a magical event called ‘Youth Bled Strategic Forum’. They came from many faraway lands – Japan, Brazil, Egypt, Moldova, Montenegro, Australia, Serbia, EU countries and others, to attend this event held in the region of central Slovenia – green Ljubljana at ABC Accelerator. In fact, more than 30 creative minds, tech and social entrepreneurs and researchers gathered for 48 hours to collaborate to create stories and raise awareness on the pressing issues related to the nexus of economy, ecology and electronics in times of (dis)connected reality.

Concrete issues were tackled over the weekend. Groups were created with a mix of professions, including start-up CEOs, researchers, governmental officials, innovators, web designers, social and tech entrepreneurs. Led by a design-thinking coach these groups were tasked with creating a ‘tale for the ages’ regarding their chosen venture. For 48 hours, participants of the 7th Young BSF were networking and bonding, thinking outside the box and making magic. Participants really got to work on Saturday morning in an Opening Reflection with H.E. Dr Miro Cerar, Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, that encouraged the participants not to forget the values behind any positive change in society and to be courageous, bold, innovative, open, but also to be tolerant and cooperate with each other.

Participants prepared a manifesto with 10 actionable policy recommendation for the changing world in three sessions on electronics, environment and economy that were initially presented to the Mayor of Ljubljana Mr Zoran Janković and subsequently at the Bled Strategic Forum. In addition to that, participants walked away knowing that they were helping to make the world a better place. Participants left the event inspired, buzzing and motivated. New partnerships were formed and friendships created. They travelled back to their faraway lands motivated and inspired…

1. Prepare For The Challenge Of Industry 4.0
2. Technological Inclusiveness
3. Problem-Based Learning
4. Universal Technological Ethical Code
5. Incentive-Driven Agriculture Policies
6. Green Urban Planning
7. Sustainable Consumption
8. Increasing The Efficiency Of Public Services
9. Trust Building Through Improving Transparency
10. Enhanced Cyber Security

1. Prepared for the Challenge 4.0: Each stakeholder – policy makers, implementers, educators, non-technological businesses, media, and users should be continuously educated to enable them to adequately participate rather than just observe Industry 4.0. Plans and resources should be made for relevant, efficient and timely training and learning by the best providers in education – public and/or private.

2. Technological Inclusiveness: While technological achievements are common and widely used in more developed and affluent parts of the world, it is not the case across the globe. To address the emergence of regional technological asymmetries and the distinctive form of inequality that it brings, we propose the establishment of a Universal Basic Technology System to act as a redistribution mechanism similar to that of the Universal Basic Income. The system should be financed by a combination of smart taxation and an incentive-focused tax relief policies, built around key stakeholders, both corporate and individual.

3. Problem-based Learning: For the humankind to remain and be a positive factor in the ever-more frantic societal change, we call for an Education Reform employing problem-based, life-long learning with an emphasis on character-building. Such reform would help raise responsible and proactive citizens, capable of critically assessing new issues and responding to them in a swift manner which remains inclusive and sustainable.

4. Universal Technological Ethical Code: We unanimously recognize the development of clearly defined ethical standards as one of the main challenges of our hyper-technologised and often borderless societies. To avoid the misuse of power around scientific breakthroughs, both on the part of states as well as non-state actors and individuals, a clear set of rules and guidelines need to be established. They would direct all areas of human activity heavily impacted by digital and other newly emerging technologies.

5. Incentive-driven Agriculture Policies: Many traditional human activities are facing the challenge of an aging population and disappearing knowledge pools in certain industries. Agriculture, particularly at local level, is a pertinent case in mind. To motivate producers in the agricultural sector to continually educate themselves and strive for sustainable production, we suggest a revision of subsidy policies and smart incentive-oriented approaches that enable local production to better dovetail with the industrial food sector. Such approach would result in higher quality of products while also ensuring a more secure form of income and sustainability for producers at all levels.

6. Green Urban Planning: It is projected that by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be urban. Cities, regardless of their size, should strive to increase and balance the size of their green areas. This can be achieved by traditional means, such as re-opening old and creating new parks in different forms, as well as using previously idle spaces, as is the case with rooftop gardens. This would provide a valuable example for city-dweller to also engage in responsible and sustainable production within the confines of their own homes and communities. Green urban planning should become an highly-ranked integral part of policy contemplations both at the state and municipal level, while also becoming a fulcrum of private undertakings.

7. Sustainable Consumption: It is important to stress that how we consume is just as important as how we produce. Since the bulk of the global consumption stress is rooted at the level of the individual consumer, the only way for us to lessen the ecological footprint of human consumption is to become more and better aware of the impact of our everyday activities. People should be encouraged to engage in moderate and ideally environmentally neutral consumption, something that can also be supported by innovation and awareness raising campaigns undertaken by both public and private actors, as well as on international level.

8. Increased Efficiency of Public Services: Today, large portions of the public sector seem to be trapped in a pre-digital era. This is perhaps most evident in the case of bureaucratic services, which many people consider to be the epitome of inefficiency and tediousness. It is even more remarkable when we consider the innovation and optimisation potential of modern technology on administrative processes and the fact that technology-based solutions are regularly adopted in the private sector to great avail. In addition to existing digital solutions, newly emerging technologies, such as virtual reality and blockchain should also be considered seriously and in a timely manner to enable e-governance systems to be fit to serve the needs of people in the 21st century.

9. Trust Building through Improving Transparency: Lack of trust both in public institutions and private organisations is undermining people’s ability to tackle contemporary challenges across the global policy spectrum effectively. As technology develops, this problem is likely to worsen, unless ethical standards are introduced along with scientific advancements. To this end, existing as well as emerging technologies should be taken up with the aim of improving the transparency of all societal and economic processes, through open data, big data and more. While process tractability is likely to be affected to an extent, particularly regarding privacy, we still regard these measures worthy of consideration given their trust-building potential.

10. Enhanced Cyber Security: In a world where not only virtual but also physical infrastructure is governed using digital systems, the enhancement of cyber resilience is paramount. To avoid intrusions and disruptions at an individual level as well as curtail systematic risk, a two-pronged approach is required. Firstly, we need to reinforce our technical capabilities by investing in nascent technologies, such as machine-learning and artificial intelligence, which will help us have the necessary level of control in an ever-more complex world. Secondly, restrictive standards should be put into place – they would clearly define which actions are permissible within the cyber realm and crucially how to deal with violations. Cyber security standards should be agreed at a global level and would need to be binding for all relevant stakeholders.

Support the Manifesto at: http://bit.ly/ybsf17manifesto


The 2017 BSF visited by record number of people

The closing address of the 2017 Bled Strategic Forum was delivered by Mr Andrej Logar, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia.

He noted that this year’s forum had been attended by more than 1,000 people from 70 countries and various international organisations, which was a new record for the forum. »I would like to thank each and everyone for making this possible,« he said.

According to H.E. Mr Karl Erjavec, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, the Bled forum is thus reaching its goal of becoming a regional Davos.

“Change has not only affected the context in which policy makers operate, it has shaped the way decisions are made as well as the way they are perceived. We cannot successfully address the key challenges of today while ignoring this reality, nor can we ignore the foundations upon which modern society is based on,” Mr Logar said, pointing to human rights, the rule of law, good governance and democracy.

“From nuclear security and transboundary water management whether in the European Union, the Mediterranean, or in the Western Balkans, we need to adapt to present context and develop strategic mission for the future,” he said.

»I’m confident that our discussions here in Bled today and yesterday played a part in this mission.«

Mr Logar thanked the panellists, moderators, high-profile guests, other participants, the organisers and sponsors, and expressed hope to see everyone again next September at the 2018 Bled Strategic Forum.

Source: Slovenian Press Agency

WB accession to EU a two-way process requiring effort from both sides, panel hears

A high-profile panel debate on the Western Balkans wrapped up the two-day Bled Strategic Forum (BSF), with the participants agreeing that the EU accession prospect has a transformative effect on the countries in the region, but also that the accession is a two-way process that requires effort from both sides.

Entitled Western Balkans: EU Enlargement – Is Pretending the Name of the Game?, the panel featured ministers or deputy ministers of foreign affairs of seven Western Balkan countries as well as representatives of the European Commission, the European External Action Service, the EBRD and the US State Department.

H.E. Mr Ditmir Bushati, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania, said that he believed that the EU had a transformative effect in the region, as the “atmosphere is more peaceful than ten years ago”.

“It goes without saying that all countries have made effort towards the accession process”, he said, but admitted that the process was not the “most popular game in the town” any more, and that “you do not win or lose elections on the European ticket”.

H.E. Mr Igor Crnadak, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that his country needed very precise and concrete messages from European partners. “We need more predictability in the process, but we also must not be avoiding our duties and obligations”.

Crnadak warned that a high level of support of EU accession process in the country should not be taken for granted. “If people start to perceive this process as something eternal, they will start looking for alternatives, and this is something we want to avoid.”

H.E. Mr Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, is pessimistic about Serbia’s prospects to join the EU, as “we are being so late that we are getting an impression we will never enter the European Union”.

Mr Dačić has the feeling that the European Union as an organisation “does not have a fair attitude towards Western Balkan countries”. “Either we will join the EU or the EU will join us. I hope that we will enter before the EU falls apart.”

H.E. Prof. Dr Srdjan Darmanović, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro, said that his country believes in the EU and that it was working hard to become a member. Montenegro has hope in the EU unity and the European idea, according to him.

“Our region has always needed an additional source of stability, the EU is that source”, he said, adding that the strong presence of the United States and regional cooperation was also needed.

H.E. Mr Nikola Dimitrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Macedonia, spoke about Macedonia as an example of “how not to do enlargement”, as the transformative effect had turned the country upside down.

“Macedonia is an example of what happens when there is no perspective and when progress reports are softened up, when a country stops taking reforms seriously,” he said, adding that the country was nevertheless showing political will to make changes.

Mr Valon Murtezaj, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kosovo, agreed that the EU enlargement process is transformative. “The process is quite long, and it is sometimes very complex, but it is very doable, and it is a motivation for all our governments”.

What Kosovo needs to do internally is to identify the problems and tackle them individually, speed up development and reforms and establish regional cooperation. “We are slow but on the right path”.

Looking from the perspective of a Western Balkan country that has already joined the EU, H.E. Ms Marija Pejčinović Burić, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, said that the process should be transformative, otherwise something was wrong.

Pejčinović Burić added that the EU should establish a system of monitoring and benchmarking for future rounds of enlargement, noting that some rounds of enlargement in the past did not need to be transformative because the countries in question had already been full democracies and market economies.

Mr Hoyt Brian Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the US State Department, said that it would be an exaggeration to say that the process had been transformative for the Western Balkans.

According to him, the joke that the EU pretends to offer membership and Western Balkan countries pretend to make reforms still holds true. The region “only accepts change when faced with necessity and only recognise necessity when amidst of a crisis”.

Mr Thomas Mayr-Harting, Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia at the European External Action Service, said that the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had been very clear that the future of the region lied in the EU.

“We reiterated months ago that the process has been transformative”, he said, adding that there had been a number of “remarkable successes” in the region recently, including a “new beginning in Skopje” and the justice reform in Albania.

Mr Walter Deffaa, European Commissioner Cretu’s special adviser, said that “one should not underestimate the transformative power of cooperation between the Western Balkans and EU that is happening at the moment. This are kind of mini laps of an integration. And then there are much higher profile, politically, the macroregional strategies. We have four strategies there, and two important macroregional strategies that are of importance for the Western Balkans counties, the Danube and Adriatic-Ionian strategy. And here again, having it for the first time in this kind of set up, that for high profile initiatives, endorsed by the European Council, the Western Balkan participating countries – they are there on an equal footing. They are shaping and deciding on development issues for the Danube and for the Adriatic Ionian region. Serbia, for instance, is very active now, when it comes to the Danube. These are concrete examples of what can happen in very concrete terms in the area of regional cooperation.”

Mr Pierre Heilbronn, Vice President, Policy and Partnerships at the EBRD, noted that all stakeholders needed to be included in the process, pointing to the role of civil society and entrepreneurs as something that has the capacity to transform the society.

Source: Slovenian Press Agency

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urges against looking away, world is breakable

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein presented at the Bled Strategic Forum on Tuesday the office’s work and human rights developments in the world, noting an erosion of commitments built on the experience of enormous human suffering in the first half of the 20th century. He was very critical of the US president.

“That energy has been dissipating for 70 years now… We find a sort of half-hearted commitment to these treaties by those countries who should know better… Once you start justifying to yourself why it’s ok to torture, to undertake surveillance without court orders.. This is a fast downhill spiral into the abyss,” he said, speaking of a moment of great struggle.

He went on to present his office’s operations, pointing out it was present practically in every conflict in the world. He feels it is telling the office only occupies 3% of the UN’s budget, which makes him doubt whether a real commitment to human rights exists. “The Swiss spend ten times as much on chocolate every year.”

Asked by moderator Dan Damon of the BBC World Service to speak about US President Donald Trump, whom Al Hussein had described as somebody “recklessly driving the bus of humanity down a mountain road”, the UN official spoke of an unsettling capriciousness.

Invoking Trump equivocation of the sides in Charlottesville, he said the office of the US president was too important, too powerful and required a dignity that encouraged respect. Once you lose that respect, you can no longer use this power in fast moving situations.

He feels it is important to talk about Trump, because a stage has been reached where a single wrong tweet by Trump could send the US decades back in terms of racial conflicts, while there is also the issue of other countries mimicking the US. “We saw it with Cambodia”, where the press was attacked with Trump’s words.

Mr Al Hussein also indicated that Trump and the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte hade contributed to the disappearing of a sense of shame in the international community that has been at least a minimal motive for fixing human rights issues.

Mr Al Hussein also touched on the situation in Myanmar, saying the reports coming from there about the persecution of Rohingya Muslims were comparable to atrocities being committed by ISIS. He feels Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi should resign if she cannot exercise any effective power.

Meanwhile, as to potential ways to strengthen the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, he spoke of efforts to diversify the basic financial support and to decentralise, increase the organisation’s presence on the ground.

However, he stressed that “the UN cannot carry the entire load” of human rights violations in the world, with many countries choosing to look away.

“It is true that we have trade relationships, but in the end if we don’t have a stable world, if everything is falling apart?…The world is perfectly breakable, we have broken it in the past,” Mr Al Hussein warned.

Source: Slovenian Press Agency

Violinist Pogacnik presents his musical approach to business, politics

Mr Miha Pogacnik, a violinist, visionary and cultural ambassador of the Republic of Slovenia, presented at Business BSF his resonance platform, a method he uses to empower business and political leaders to experience classical music as a specific European strategy for vision, the mobilisation of human potential and action.

The concert violinist works with companies to, as he described it, bring resonance into organisations, a process which he presented in condensed form at the special panel entitled Musical Leadership Strategy – For a European Identity in a Multipolar World.

He said he realised the importance of resonance four years ago, when he played his violin at the Great Pyramids in Egypt, which he described as having “enormous resonance”.

The overarching aim of his action is to highlight the role and importance of culture, which Mr Pogacnik said was the most powerful inner substance, despite many people thinking that culture is not important.

Unlike such people, he puts culture at the top of the pyramid of human needs. Indeed, he said artists turned the pyramid upside down, making genius a basic need of theirs.

Mr Pogacnik argued in favour of passion in management as a means of creative stimulus, using the pattern of classical music composition as a blueprint for how managers should go about thinking about ideas.

By doing that, managers can filter out good ideas and focus on them instead of working on too many ideas at the same time and then ending up empty-handed. Mr Pogačnik sees this as a way of breaking the corporate cycle of pressure and panic.

In music, we are actively learning emotional intelligence. We realise that most of the problems cannot be solved in the head alone, Mr Pogačnik said, calling it “heartstorming”: changing the corporate culture requires changes in the heart.

Mr Pogacnik uses the same approach in working with the European Commission on what he described as “polyphonic European identity”, its aim being to find in each country the essence of culture that can play together with other country essences.

He said that geniuses such as the painter Cezanne in France, and the Romantic poets Goethe in Germany and Prešeren in Slovenia had succeeded in extracting such universal essences in their cultures. Art needs to be repositioned to regain a central role in society, he stressed.

Source: Slovenian Press Agency