Over a relatively short period, Europe and consequently the EU have been faced with a number of difficult situations, having lived through the financial and migration crises and Brexit. The direst of crises – the COVID-19 pandemic – still continues, affecting the entire world’s social, economic and political structure, Europe, the EU, its Member States, and every individual.
In these challenging years, the EU has been changing, adapting and transforming. It has adopted new measures, but its organization has remained the same. The latest health crisis caused by the pandemic has put the EU’s functioning to a critical test, both in Europe and at the global level: its responses are slowed down also as a result of the weakening trust in international law and international organizations, and at the same time, the world is observing an alluring illusion of the apparent greater efficiency of autocratic modes of governance.
Where – in this respect – do opportunities for the EU’s robust engagement at the global level, together with transatlantic and other like-minded democratic partners, lie?
How can we rise to the global challenges the free world is currently facing, including preparedness for crises – health, cyber or any other?
To be able to enforce its standards and values, the EU must build up its resilience to crisis and its own strategic and production sovereignty in the health, economic, social, defence and cyber fields. Post-crisis economic recovery can only be possible through an evolution of the economic model channelling investments into digital and green projects. Investing in knowledge, technology, R&D, infrastructure, energy and digital connectivity, and artificial intelligence is becoming part of the global competitive race. An important factor in determining the winner will also be the ability to come up with the right responses to the demographic changes in the EU and around the world. Furthermore, the European way of life and values demand prompt answers to the questions related to migration management, asylum policy, integration and the functioning of the Schengen system. And even more importantly, the understanding of another common European value – the rule of law – must be deepened.
The European way of life and the EU itself still inspire and attract many, both in Europe and beyond. However, the EU has competitors promoting different values. This is why it is vital to extend its influence and strengthen its external political power and capability to deal effectively with European and global geopolitical processes, particularly in its immediate vicinity – in the Western Balkans and its southern and eastern neighbourhood. And to reap success, the European Union needs a well-functioning transatlantic partnership.
So, what will the future of Europe be like?
This year, together with young people who will be living this future, we will seek answers to these questions at the Conference on the Future of Europe, the 2021 Bled Strategic Forum and the Young Bled Strategic Forum.