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

Future Leaders Delve into Global Citizenship and Smart Cities at Young BSF

Young international leaders were kept busy at the Young Bled Strategic Forum (YBSF) as they tackled the Generation of Global Citizens over the weekend. It was all about smart cities, youth mobility and participation, and intergenerational cooperation for some 30 participants from all over the world.

Welcomed at the opening ceremony and networking event in Bled on Friday by Mr Peter Grk, Secretary General of the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF), Mr Klemen Ponikvar, Programme Director of the YBSF, and Ms Sabina Đuvelek, Business Challenge Coordinator, the participants really rolled up their sleeves on Saturday morning when they travelled to Ljubljana to engage in a debate on smart cities at Town Hall.

To get the debate off, the participants were presented Ljubljana’s stint as the European Green Capital of 2016 as well as Ljubljana’s vision through 2025 focusing on green development, by Ms Simona Berden of the Municipality of Ljubljana.

The moderator, Mr Blaž Golob, the CEO of SmartIScity, pointed out that there were more than 120 definitions of what a smart city is. Broadly speaking, smart cities are places where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunication technologies to the benefit of its residents and businesses. “Is there a cognitive, a self-learning city somewhere in the future,” he challenged the participants. Also highlighted was the need for smart cities to be made for citizens, with Mr Rajendra Kumar, an architect at 100 Indian Smart Cities saying: “Cities are always for citizens, whether we’re dealing with a population of 100,000 or a million.” Another point, already touching somewhat on the topic of the second panel, mobility, was raised by both Mr Mark Boris Andrijanič, a member of Uber’s Public Policy team for Central and Eastern Europe, and Mr Julij Božič, Chief Innovation and Digital Officer at BTC, who stressed that “it is all about changing the mindset in mobility”.

At Ljubljana Town Hall, the future leaders were also addressed by Mr Zoran Janković, Mayor of the Municipality of Ljubljana, who, turning to the Slovenian capital, explained that building cities was all about vision. “We started to teach our children in kindergartens ten years ago to sort waste,” he illustrated, pointing to the need of educating people to bring about change. Since its decision to introduce waste sorting, Ljubljana has come a long way: as much as 65% of waste is now sorted at home.

The debate in Ljubljana was leveraged by the future decision-makers to start drawing up strategic solutions for a Sustainable Intersection in Ljubljana, consisting of a zero-waste shop, a café and bed & breakfast – an over-the-weekend task in a seven-team competition – with the help of experts from the municipal utility Snaga and SmartIScity.

To help the teams better mould their projects, the organisers of the Young BSF – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia in partnership with Zavarovalnica Triglav, Association Ypsilon, Snaga, SmartIS City, Municipality of Ljubljana, Adriatic Grupa, IEDC, and the traditional partner, the Centre for European Perspective – set up two further debates, one on youth mobility and participation, and one on intergenerational cooperation.

In the former, the panellists agreed that while young people may feel their voices are not heard, they are, as long as they are substantiated and based on critical thought. This was pointed out by Mr Igor Cesarec, the president of the Association of Slovenes Educated Abroad VTIS, who believes that young people should move past the mindset that their voice is not heard. Mr Samo Novak, a senior adviser at the Office of the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, pointed out that young people should be empowered, but that empowerment does not come “through an EU-funded project, because it is a long-term project”. Young people have to be taught how to use their voice, because empowerment only comes through critical thought. What is more, empowering “young generations with a voice that is heard and based on critical thought, on genuine arguments” can lead to incremental change – a middle path between no change and revolutionary change. He also suggested “critical thinking should be part of school curriculum.” Touching on youth mobility, Mr Cesarec, who currently lives in New York, stressed that brain drain had a very bad connotation in Slovenia. However, he believes that this should not be the case, as “you can be sitting in the middle of Ljubljana and be less active, contribute less than someone on the other side of the world.” What is more, a country needs to be attractive for people to live, work or study there, regardless of their nationality. “At the very core, you should enable people to come back.” Wherever they have lived, they will bring something back to their country; if they are not enabled to come back, they will not bring back a fresh perspective, Mr Cesarec stressed.

Participants in the third and final panel highlighted the need for the inclusion of the young as well as the elderly in society. Ms Tjaša Sobočan of Simbioza Genesis and Ms Đuvelek, the programme director of Association Ypsilon, agreed that intergenerational cooperation was a two-way process. “Intergenerational cooperation and dialogue are not that simple. The issue needs to be spoken about and acted upon. We have found our place in the world, but we must not forget about others,” Ms Đuvelek pointed out to the young leaders participating in the forum. Mr Jernej Pikalo, professor of Political Sciences at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences and former Minister of Education, Science and Sports of Slovenia, said that demographic trends in Slovenia, as well as in many other countries, were not sustainable in the long run. “Today, we are deciding for the next 20 or so years,” Mr Pikalo stressed, pointing to the need to involve young people in decision-making.

Geared up with all the information from the panels, the teams took the Sunday afternoon to fine- tune their entries before the evening challenger round of presentations.

The jury, consisting of Mr Janko Kramžar, CEO of Snaga, Mr Klemen Ponikvar, Programme Director of YBSF, Mr Blaž Golob, CEO of SmartIScity, and Ms Sabina Đuvelek, programme director of Ypsilon Institute, selected Game Changers the winner.

The team, Nina Pižorn, Luka Jesenšek, Zala Velkavrh and Gašper Kos, came up with a solution dubbed World 2.0 – a place where sustainable community could grow and promote ideas through active participation. “It throws away old habits and promotes new, sustainable, and environmentally and socially conscious mindset,” the group wrote in their presentation. “The World 2.0 intersection functions as a hub that satisfies several day-to-day needs: eating and drinking, shopping for groceries, learning and making, and last but not least, socialising.” They added to the main concept the idea of a digital platform because “World 2.0 is also a virtual world, based on a platform where people are living their virtual lives in our sustainable intersection”.

Their solution will be presented to business executives, ministers and other participants of the Business BSF on Tuesday.

Young BSF Closes with Mimosas and Addresses by Programme Director, Bled Mayor

The Young Strategic Bled Forum (YBSF) closed over breakfast on Monday morning with addresses by Mr Klemen Ponikvar, Programme Director of YBSF, and Mr Janez Fajfar, Mayor of Municipality of Bled.

Mr Ponikvar expressed hope that panels, touching on important challenges “that Slovenia and other developed countries are facing these days”, had been useful. He pointed out intergenerational cooperation and demographic change, political participation and the case study on smart cities.

“I’m so happy with the results of your case studies. I know there was a lot of work, but the end results were very good and Mr  Mr Janko Kramžar, CEO of Snaga, the company you were working for, was impressed by everyone,” Mr Ponikvar praised the seven teams competing in the business challenge – drawing up strategic solutions for a Sustainable Intersection in Ljubljana.

Mr Fajfar meanwhile stressed the importance of such events, as they are a good way of meeting new people, exchanging views and creating networks. “Especially at your age, it is important to make a kind of a network,” he added, pointing to how knowing people can improve their lives. “I hope you made some friendships.”

Thus ended the three-day event focusing on the Generation of Global Citizens and featuring some 30 international young leaders and three topical panels – on smart cities, on youth mobility and participation, and on intergenerational cooperation.

Game Changers Win Young BSF Case Study Competition

It was time for the highlight of the Young Bled Strategic Forum on Sunday evening as seven teams competing in the business challenge – drawing up strategic solutions for a Sustainable Intersection in Ljubljana, consisting of a zero-waste shop, a café and bed & breakfast – presented their projects.

The jury, consisting of Mr Janko Kramžar, CEO of Snaga, Mr Klemen Ponikvar, Programme Director of YBSF, Mr Blaž Golob, CEO of SmartIScity, and Ms Sabina Đuvelek, programme director of Ypsilon Institute, selected Game Changers the winner.

The team, Nina Pižorn, Luka Jesenšek, Zala Velkavrh and Gašper Kos, came up with a solution dubbed World 2.0 – a place where sustainable community could grow and promote ideas through active participation. “It throws away old habits and promotes new, sustainable, and environmentally and socially conscious mindset,” the group wrote in their presentation. “The World 2.0 intersection functions as a hub that satisfies several day-to-day needs: eating and drinking, shopping for groceries, learning and making, and last but not least, socialising.” They added to the main concept the idea of a digital platform because “World 2.0 is also a virtual world, based on a platform where people are living their virtual lives in our sustainable intersection”.

Their solution will be presented to business executives, ministers and other participants of the Business BSF on Tuesday.

Intergenerational Cooperation Beneficial to Both Young and Older People, Hears Third and Final Panel at Young Bled Strategic Forum

Challenges and benefits of intergenerational cooperation were discussed as participants of the Young Bled Strategic Forum sat down for the third and final panel dealing with the issue of the rapidly ageing global population.

Drawing on mainly Slovenian experience, the Simbioza Genesis social enterprise working on building a digital society through intergenerational cooperation and active youth participation, was highlighted as an example of good practice.

Ms Tjaša Sobočan of Simbioza Genesis pointed out that the odler people were largely left out of digital society which is why Simibioza was focused on brining it closer to them with the help of young volunteers. According to her, intergenerational cooperation is a two-way process. The young are empowered by the fact that they are teaching the older people, while on the other hand they get to learn about life from their mentees. “Young people are developing the sense of responsibility and this is promoting a trust-based society,” Ms Sobočan added.

This was echoed by Ms Sabina Đuvelek, the programme director of the Association Ypsilon, who added that when addressing intergenerational cooperation it was all about changing the mindsets of both the young as well as the older people. “Intergenerational cooperation and dialogue are not that simple. The issue needs to be spoken about and acted upon. We have found our place in the world, but we must not forget about others,” she pointed out to the 30 or so young leaders participating in the forum.

Mr Jernej Pikalo, professor of Political Science at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences and former Minister of Education, Science and Sports of Slovenia, pointed out in the debate that Slovenia was a two-sided country in digital literacy – on one hand, young people are among the best in digital literacy, while on the other, older people are among the worst. However, intergenerational cooperation is about much more than just digital literacy, he added.

For instance, “pension reform is usually seen as an issue for the older people in Slovenia, but that is not right. In 40 years or so, we’ll all be pensioners. This is why society as such should focus on intergenerational dialogue – about how we want to live in the future, how we want to develop our society.”

Demographic trends in Slovenia, as well as in many other countries, are not sustainable in the long run. “Today, we are deciding for the next 20 or so years,” Mr Pikalo stressed, pointing to the need for including young people in decision-making.

This was gladly taken upon by Mr Tin Kampl, the president of the National Youth Council of Slovenia, who firmly believes that the young should be included in social dialogue as they are those who will be reaping the fruits of today’s efforts. “Political actors must see that the interests of young people are important in the shaping of society,” Mr Kampl stressed.

Young BSF Kicks Off with Debate on Smart Cities

Participants of the Young Bled Strategic Forum (YBSF), who were welcomed at Bled on Friday evening by Mr Peter Grk, Secretary General of the BSF, Mr Klemen Ponikvar, Programme Director of the YBSF and Ms Sabina Đuvelek, Business Challenge Coordinator, got down to real work this morning as they came to Ljubljana to engage in a debate on smart cities at the Town Hall.

To begin the debate, the participants were presented Ljubljana’s stint as the European Green Capital of 2016 as well as Ljubljana’s vision by 2025, which is focused on the preservation and protection of environment, including by envisaging a green zone in the city centre, which has been car-free for several years now, by Ms Simona Berden of the Municipality of Ljubljana.

In the debate, the moderator, Mr Blaž Golob, the CEO of SmartIScity, pointed out that there were more than 120 definitions of what a smart city is. Broadly looking, smart cities are places where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunication technologies to the benefit of its residents and businesses. “Is there a cognitive, a self-learning city somewhere in the future,” he challenged the participants. While speaking of smart cities, Japan is already discussing smart communities, Mr Golob added.

This was taken on by Ms Mai Araki, chief officer at Japan’s NEDO, who stressed in her address that the concept of smart community was introduced in Japan in 2010. Following the 2011 devastating earthquake and tsunami, a reform of the energy market was introduced and the market is now more regulated. Ms Araki moreover noted that before the reform, smart cities had been introduced by property developers or real-estate agencies and everything had been very individualised. However, now, utilities operate the basic infrastructure required for smart cities, making it easier to implement the concept.

Turning to his homeland, Mr Rajendra Kumar, an architect at 100 Indian Smart Cities, presented the initiative to turn 100 Indian cities into smart cities. “Cities are always for citizens, whether we’re dealing with a population of 100,000 or a million,” he pointed out.

Mr Mark Boris Andrijanič, a member of Uber’s Public Policy team for Central and Eastern Europe, meanwhile stressed that smart cities also include car sharing, which “can solve a lot of problems for cities, such as air pollution and congestion”. “We are competing with the notion that everyone must have a car. We believe that services like Uber can make our cities smarter, greener…” This was echoed by Mr Julij Božič, Chief Innovation and Digital Officer at BTC, who stressed that “it is all about changing the mindset in mobility”.

The participants were moreover addressed by Mr Zoran Janković, Mayor of the Municipality of Ljubljana, who turned to the Slovenian capital, explaining that it was all about vision. “We started to teach our children in kindergartens ten years ago to sort waste,” he stressed, pointing to the need of educating people to bring about changes. Since its decision to introduce waste sorting, Ljubljana’s has come a long way, as as much as 65% of waste is now sorted at home, the mayor added.

Later on, six teams began working on their projects in a competition to find strategic solutions to a Sustainable Intersection in Ljubljana – a zero-waste shop, cafe and bed & breakfast with the help of experts from utility Snaga and SmartIScity. Their projects will be presented on Sunday evening, with the winning team receiving the main prize and getting their solutions presented to business executives, ministers and other participants at the Business BSF.

Youth Mobility and Political Participation was in the focus of the second panel at the Young Bled Strategic Forum, with the panellists agreeing that while young people may feel their voices are not heard, they can be if they are substantiated and based on critical thought.

This was pointed out by Mr Igor Cesarec, the president of the Association of Slovenes Educated Abroad VTIS, who believes that young people should move past the mindset that their voice is not heard. “It is hard to get your voice heard, but if substantiated, it can be.” Maybe not the first time, maybe not the second, but it will get heard if someone’s claims are substantiated. What is more, Mr Cesarec highlighted the importance of participation, not only political, but also economic and social.

Mr Samo Novak, a senior adviser at the Office of the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, meanwhile pointed out that young people should be empowered, but that empowerment does not come “through an EU-funded project, because it is a long-term project”. Young people have to be taught how to use their voice, because empowerment only comes through critical thought. What is more, empowering “young generations with a voice that is heard and based on critical thought, on genuine arguments” can lead to incremental change – a middle path between no change and revolutionary change. Moreover, “critical thinking should be part of school curriculum.”

The role of mass media in encouraging participation among the young was also touched upon in the debate, with Ms Irena Joveva, a journalist at POP TV, stressing that it was journalists’ job to report and help people get a picture of events around them. According to her, media should get people to participate, as everyone, “especially young people should be involved in daily political developments”. Young people must stand up, must be active, they need to follow developments, she concluded.

Mr Lawen Hawezy, UNDP Consultant on Syrian Refugees and Iraqi IDPs, meanwhile connected participation to mobility, stressing that refugees, who do not leave their countries of their own volition, were another group of people whose voice does not get heard.

On the other hand, the moderator, Mr Miha Pongrac, a former Youth UN Delegate and journalist, raised the question of brain drain, of young educated people leaving their home country and not returning home.

Mr Cesarec, who currently lives in New York, stressed that brain drain had a very bad connotation in Slovenia, with the people who have left the country often being treated like traitors. “That is not true …You can be sitting in the middle of Ljubljana and be less active, contribute less, than someone on the other side of the world.”

What is more, a country needs to be attractive for people to live, work or study in, regardless of their nationality. “At the very core, you should enable people to come back.” Wherever they have lived, they will bring something back to their country; if they are not enabled to come back, they will not bring back a fresh perspective, Mr Cesarec stressed.

Better future for the youth in the Western Balkans

Brussels, 21 June 2016 – At the conference ‘Better future for the youth in the Western Balkans’ – organized with the support of the Slovenian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Young Bled Strategic Forum – Slovenian members of the European Parliament Ms Tanja Fajon (S&D) and Mr Franc Bogovič (EPP) stressed the importance of ensuring a better perspective for the region’s youth. “Slovenian efforts to promote the EU future for the Western Balkans youth are very welcome and more than 150 participants at today’s conference only confirm this,” two MEPs emphasized in a crowded room in the European Parliament.

MEP Franc Bogovič (EPP) expressed his firm support of the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans which is, also in terms of geography, part of Europe. “It is crucial to boost economic development in the region, meaning more jobs for young people, and to promote reforms needed for a gradual implementation of EU standards. This is why I call on the European Commission to introduce a cohesion policy with more EU funds for the Western Balkans countries,” added MEP Bogovič, who is convinced that we have to deliver a more tangible European perspective to the Western Balkans’ youth through concrete projects and visible results.

MEP Tanja Fajon emphasized that the EU already has a series of programs designed for youth which should be explored, additionally prepared and better used. “I call on the leaders in the Western Balkans to enable more favourable conditions for the young, otherwise massive and worrying brain drain of a generation which should be the motor of society’s progress will never stop. I strongly welcome the introduction of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) of the Western Balkans and I hope it will be successfully promoting reconciliation through cooperation and exchange. In light of this, I also expect the next Berlin process Summit in July to be concluded with more concrete proposals in this direction, which will be gladly supported in Slovenia and in the European Parliament,” Fajon concluded.

The conference was opened by a keynote speech by the EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Ms Corina Cretu, followed by two panels at which Slovenian Minister for Education, Science and Sport dr. Maja Makovec Brenčič, Albanian Minister for Youth and Social Welfare Mr Blendi Klosi, State Secretary at the Slovenian Ministry for Foreign Affairs Ms Darja Bavdaž Kuret, Head of the Negotiation Team for Serbia’s accession to the EU Ms Tanja Miščević and NGO representatives as well as experts from the region participated.

Mr Peter Grk, Secretary-General of the Bled Strategic Forum and Slovenian national coordinator for the Western Balkans, also took part in the conference, moderating the second panel entitled “Balkan youth bloom for brighter future of the region.”