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

Panelists
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.

BSF 2017: Digital Lunch

Monday, 4 September, at a working lunch titled »Digital Lunch«, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration of the Republic of Slovenia Boris Koprivnikar welcomed and hosted ministers from the Western Balkan region and ministers from the Member States of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP).

“Digital Lunch” presents a follow-up to last-year’s Ministerial Meeting that was organised as part of the Bled Strategic Forum 2016 on “Digital Transformation of the Western Balkans”. There, countries committed themselves to continue cooperation in the field of digitalisation. At the same time, they supported the Common Digital Initiative which was signed by the chairmen and CEOs of the Chambers of Commerce in the Western Balkan region, who were also present at the said meeting.

This year Minister Koprivnikar extended his welcome to all Member States of the South-East European Cooperation Process, as Slovenia began its presidency to this union with 1 July 2017. One of the priorities of Slovenia’s presidency is digital transformation of society; that is why we wish to strengthen the excellent cooperation in digital transformation.

The Digital Lunch was attended by representatives from Montenegro, Greece, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia.

In his introduction, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration and the host of the meeting Boris Koprivnikar presented the achievements and areas of work of the Slovenian Ministry of Public Administration which is also responsible for the state IT and the field of information society. He stressed the importance of Open Data and the possibilities of its use. Slovenia has incredibly well-developed trust services which are integrated with the economy, banks and insurance companies. Among Slovenia’s many achievements, Minister Koprivnikar mentioned e-Invoices and blockchain technology. The latter is an area where Slovenian companies are achieving great success. The centralisation of the state IT was also one of the topics discussed during lunch; Minister Koprivnikar explained that this is a long process, as it requires a lot of negotiations; however, that it is essential for continuous development of the state IT.

This in-depth conversation concluded with an invitation by a representative from the Republic of Serbia, which will take the initiative from Slovenia and host the next year’s ministerial meeting of the topic of digitalisation.

All present agreed that the cooperation should be strengthened, especially in the areas pertaining to digitalisation, where all countries face the most challenges.

Minister Koprivnikar concluded that Slovenia will certainly continue to help their neighbouring countries in the region by providing its best practices and cutting-edge expertise.

Working dinner of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration Boris Koprivnikar with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia Ana Brnabić

Ana Brnabić and Boris Koprivnikar talked about and searched for possibilities of concrete cooperation between the two countries in the field of digital technology.

As the visiting delegation presented, the Government of the Republic of Serbia established the Office for Information Technology and e-Government. Their objective is to establish a national Data Centre with Telekom and connect the state informatics in 4 blocks under the auspices of the Government: Telekom, Government, Ministry of Defence and Minister of Internal Affairs, etc.

Slovenian side presented the process of establishing the State Cloud Computing and in relation to this touched the open-code system and cybersecurity.

The two delegations discussed the blockchain technology and how Slovenia with its Digital Coalition connects several companies (170 Slovenian companies) which are at the very top in the world in this field.

They also touched the topic of e-Invoices. As the Slovenian side presented, we have an obligatory electronic payment of invoices since 2015.

Based on the signed Memorandum on Cooperation in the field of digitalisation which the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Slovenia signed in January 2017. The two countries have established working groups on e-Invoices, State Cloud and registers. The two countries in wish to strengthen and upgrade their cooperation.

At the end of their conversation, Ana Brnabić and Boris Koprivnikar discussed Open Data. As Minister Koprivnikar said, all data are public good and should be publicly available, unless of personal or security interests. In Slovenia, this philosophy is mirrored in the OPSI (open data) portal. Minister Koprivnikar sees the future in Open Data, as they create new services and jobs.

Rapid changes and new realities at the core of the 12th Bled Strategic Forum

The time has come to announce the 12th Bled Strategic Forum that will be taking place on 4 and 5 September 2017 under the title “New Reality”.

The world is rapidly changing, with globalisation and digitalisation significantly increasing the pace of our lives and bringing us closer together than ever before, as well as presenting profound challenges to our self-perception, politics, the economy, security, and society. Established political, economic and social elites are losing ground. Populist, nationalist and extremist movements are on the rise. It is difficult to keep up with the vast amount of information that bombards us daily, let alone evaluate its true value or meaning and put it in a proper context. Such challenges of the new reality we live in will be addressed through the panel discussions, round tables and one-on-one interviews at this year’s conference in the idyllic environment of Bled, Slovenia.

The leading conference in Central and South East Europe that provides the needed high-level platform for discussing pressing regional and global issues brings forth also the questions of the role of the business sector, big corporations and small businesses and the challenges of the younger generation in their aspirations for the better future. Therefore, the forum also incorporates the Business BSF, addressing the topic of “Innovating New Reality” and Young BSF, taking place on 1-3 September 2017, tackling the “(Dis)connected Reality”.

Attracting some one thousand participants, including heads of state and government, ministers, diplomats, businesspeople, scholars and the media from around the world, the Forum is a unique opportunity for bilateral and multilateral meetings with the foremost regional and global stakeholders and offers the possibility of extensive networking among political and business leaders of today.

We are excited to share some further details about the conference in the weeks to follow – stay tuned via our website, Facebook and Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Tourist Information Center (TIC) Bled, Bled Tourist Association.

2016 BSF concludes with success

The 2016 Bled Strategic Forum has now officially concluded!

With more than 31 separate events, 136 moderators and speakers, as well as around 1000 participants (including BSF, Business BSF and Young BSF), the 11th Bled Strategic Forum was the biggest and most successful event in its history.

We would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Centre for European Perspective, volunteers, our moderators, speakers, guests, institutional partners, sponsors and everyone else who helped to make this years’ Bled Strategic Forum come true.

Wishing you all the best and looking forward to welcoming you all at the 12th Bled Strategic Forum that will be taking place on 4 – 5 September 2017!

Do not forget to save the date!

Yours,

BSF Project Team

Security and Sustainability in Tourism

Tourism creates a better world, but with the rise of tourism come more responsibilities, Mr Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, told a panel on Security and Sustainability in Tourism at the Business Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) on Tuesday.

“1.2 billion people travelling across the borders of their country can present 1.2 billion opportunities or 1.2 billion catastrophes,” Rifai warned, adding that the tourism industry must constantly seek to find ways to make the world a better place.

Peace should not be taken for granted and in today’s globalised world no country can sustain peace on its own. “Peace in Slovenia depends on peace in the region and in the world. A problem anywhere is a problem everywhere,” he said in his address to the panel.

Mr Rifai believes a key challenge for the future will be to enable obstacle-free travel despite security measures. Security measures are necessary, but they must be humane, he said, warning against the closing of European borders. He also called for the continuation of visa liberalisation process.

Mr Rifai believes countries should not react with panic to security threats, but must work together instead. People should not be advised against travelling to places where locals need their help and support the most, he stressed.

Ms Helen Marano, Senior Vice President of Government and Industry Affairs at the World Travel & Tourism Council, UK, agreed that tourism can contribute to better understanding of different cultures and thus to peace. She too warned against the closing of borders and building of walls.

Addressing the panel, Mr Zdravko Počivalšek, Minister of Economic Development and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia, said that tourism was faced with increasingly many challenges, foremost connected to terrorism and migration.

He called for sustainable development. “There can be no security without sustainability and no sustainability without security,” he said.

Slovenia is dedicated to green and sustainable tourism, said Ms Maja Pak, Director-General of the Slovenian Tourist Board. “Natural resources improve the quality of life and the latter is one of the most important elements of a safe country,” she stressed.

According to Dr Terry Stevens, MD at Stevens & Associates and Professor at School of Management, Swansea University, UK, world leaders have a great responsibility. Panic and overreactions should be avoided, decisions must be proportionate and reasonable, he warned.

Ms Tatjana Juriševič, CEO of travel agent Kompas d.d., Slovenia  said that panic among tourists was often created by the media. “It is important to stay rational,” she stressed.

Ms Eva Štravs Podlogar, General Director of the Directorate for Tourism and Internationalization at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia, pointed to cooperation in the branch, noting that all Slovenian stakeholders were included in the drawing up of a new national tourism strategy.

Ms Irena Gueorguieva, Deputy Minister of Tourism of the Republic of Bulgaria, stressed that tourism connected people and warned that all stakeholders carried responsibility for the overall stituation.

Ambassador Dr Gusztav Bienerth, Government Commissioner for Tourism at the Prime Minister’s Office, Hungary,  too pointed to the importance of cooperation, calling on Slovenia to back Budapest’s candidacy for the Summer Olympics in 2024.

Dr Mario Hardy, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, Thailand, called on European countries to present themselves to Asian tourists as safe countries that are far away from France.