Focus on security as Bled Strategic Forum enters 11th year

Bled, 1 September - The 11th Bled Strategic Forum, Slovenia's pre-eminent foreign policy event, kicks off next week. A high-profile meeting point for politicians, businessmen and members of academia and NGOs, the event will feature over 700 participants from 70 countries debating issues mostly associated with security.

Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec speaking at the opening of the Bled Strategic Forum 2015 on 31 August 2015.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Several high-profile guests will be in attendance, among them Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who will also pay an official visit.

They will both participate in the leaders' panel on Monday dedicated to growing instability, one of the highlights of the event, that will also feature Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Speaker of the Senate of Canada George Furey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is also listed as a panellist and has confirmed his attendance at the forum, but it remains unclear whether he will actually be able to attend.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec said this week that this would depend on Turkey's domestic situation. Cavusoglu was also invited last year, but cancelled in the last minute.

The majority of the 700-odd participants come from the region, but there will also be officials from overseas and senior representatives of international organisations.

Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Lamberto Zannier and Director General of the United Nations Office in Geneva Michael Moller will be among the guests as well.

The majority of the debates will delve into, or at least tangentially touch on, security issues in light of the growing threats to security in Europe and the world driven by terrorist attacks, the migration crisis, and Brexit.

For example, the first day will conclude with a debate termed Ordinary Radical(s): In Search of a Meaningful Response, which will centre on preventive action and feature individuals personally involved in preventing radicalisation.

The second and last day will open with a debate on the future of the EU and continue with panels dedicated to energy geopolitics, water risks, European security, terrorism and the media.

Another mainstay of the event, a debate on the Western Balkans, will feature Bosnian Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak, Serbia's Ivica Dačić, Kosovo's Enver Hoxhaj, Macedonia's Nikola Poposki and Hungary's Peter Szijjarto in the company of analysts and a senior member of the US State Department.

Business BSF will be forward-looking, with panels dedicated to the digital transformation of governments and businesses, smart cities, the future of mobility, and security in tourism.

The panels will feature officials as well as business representatives from the likes of Microsoft, Hitachi and Uber.

The tourism panel, meanwhile, will feature Slovenian Minister for Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek and a keynote address by Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization, for whom this will be the first visit to Slovenia.

The youth part of the event, Young BSF, which starts on Friday and runs until Monday morning, will touch on similar issues and will feature workshops, case studies and panels dedicated to mobility, smart cities and intergenerational cooperation.

The forum is also typically an opportunity for networking fostering the exchange of opinions between politicians, businesses and NGOS, and for bilateral meetings.

Minister Erjavec has announced he will hold bilateral talks with all counterparts arriving at Bled. Similarly, President Pahor is expected to hold talks with his Croatian counterpart Grabar-Kitarović.

There will also be a special meeting hosted by the Ministry of Public Administration featuring Western Balkan ministers in charge of digital technologies and directors of chambers of commerce from the region.

The Foreign Ministry organises the event together with the Centre for European Perspective (CEP).

© STA, 2016