Bled Strategic Forum to discuss uncertain future
Ljubljana, 29 August - The 11th Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) will take place on 5 and 6 September. The new BSF secretary general Peter Grk has told the STA that the past year has shown the future is uncertain - and this is what the traditional event in the lakeside resort of Bled will try to address.
Having grown into the pre-eminent foreign policy event in Slovenia, the forum will host numerous prominent guests.
"At the moment we have around 700 participants from 70 countries and eight international organisations. This shows that the BSF is one of the leading forums in Central and SE Europe," Grk said.
In addition to top Slovenian officials, the event will feature Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who is coming for an official visit to Slovenia with a team of ministers.
Speaker of the Senate of Canada George Furey will also pay an official visit will as part of the BSF.
According to Grk, the attendance of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will probably draw the most attention among all foreign ministers in Bled.
"His attendance will certainly be welcomed, considering that Turkey is in a very sensitive situation when it comes to domestic policy," he said.
Grk expects that Cavusoglu will also present Turkey's views and positions on the future development of its relations with the EU, and on migrations.
Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec will be hosting another eight foreign ministers - from Romania, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Latvia, Hungary and Sri Lanka.
Aside from foreign ministers, numerous other cabinet members will be in attendance.
"This shows how important the moment is...Considering the unpredictability of the situation in Europe after the events in the past year...the question is in which direction the EU is headed," Grk said.
Participants will address the issue of how the EU will develop, where to place it in the international community and "how we will respond to the instabilities in our neighbourhood."
"What this year has shown is that the only certain thing is that the future is uncertain," he said, mentioning the refugee crisis, terrorist attacks and Brexit.
According to Grk, the BSF is an opportunity to detect trends and try to find joint answers to them. "Without cooperation, solidarity and understanding of the situation, things could go wrong. We need to avoid this."
Also coming to Bled are Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Lamberto Zannier and Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva Michael Moller.
"We are also happy that the debate on security and tourism will feature Secretary General of the United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai, who will be making his first visit to Slovenia."
The forum will also try to address future challenges in business. "In three panels we will discuss digital transformation, digital cities and the future of mobility. These are the three ideas that are currently developing the fastest."
In this context, representatives of Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Hitachi, Uber and other companies will participate, Grk announced.
Smart cities will be a highlight of the Young BSF forum, which will take place between 2 and 5 September. "Youths are those who create smart cities and, after all, they will be living this unpredictable future."
Grk explained that issues related to youths were very important for Slovenia and that the country was very active as part of regional initiatives in determining the agenda for youth in the Western Balkans.
"Empowering young people is key for a transparent, democratic and development-oriented Europe. Positive prospects of young people are of key importance in the context of keeping them away from possible negative opportunities," Grk told the STA.