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2020 Bled Strategic Forum


Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID–19 World

Neighbours – Regions – Global World: Partners or Rivals?

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected societies and economies around the globe and has permanently reshaped the world as we know it. If we wish to create a resilient and sustainable global community capable of responding to the challenges of the 21st century, the reinvention of our societies is inevitable. The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed many of the vulnerabilities of the current global system, and its consequences will disrupt just about every area of our lives.

We are entering an unprecedented era of crisis management. In these challenging times, with global response inefficient and inadequate, we are seeing a renewed shift in the international community towards enhanced neighbourly and regional cooperation and a need for new initiatives. The pandemic has clearly revealed the issues and problems that effective multilateralism is facing, and brought to the forefront different concepts of international cooperation. Good neighbourly relations and robust regional initiatives will play a significant role in redefining and reinventing the way the global community faces new and asymmetrical threats in the future.

Emerging regional groupings, such as the Three Seas Initiative, open up new opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe to bridge infrastructural gaps in the fields of energy, mobility, and digitalisation, undertake strategic investment projects, and strengthen transatlantic cooperation. In this context, artificial intelligence and digitalisation, in particular, have untapped potential to become a game changer in helping us reinvent society in a sustainable manner.

The European Union finds itself in the midst of these changes, and our ability to understand, adapt to and mitigate them will determine our future political, security, and economic outreach. In this new reality, the EU needs to lead by example and promote as well as safeguard these values, which have enabled us to prosper and develop as a groundbreaking project, redefining relations between states, regions, and societies.




7.30–19.00 | Registration and Information 

@Rikli Balance Hotel


8.00–9.30 | Combo AmCham Business Breakfast: Collaboration between Businesses, State, Civil Society and Academia as the Right Response to the New Normal

@Rikli Balance Hotel

In partnership with AmCham Slovenia.

Any state wishing to rise to the challenges of the new reality will have to be a state with active citizenship, innovative business practices, agile public administration, and trusted academia and experts. In today’s world facing a dynamic shift, with fundamental changes in everyday life, business and management, cooperation is a core value driving the progress of any modern society.  Having an open dialogue and a good model of broad stakeholder participation yields progress, innovation, fast decisions, proactivity and security, and what is more, guarantees the country a competitive edge and ensures a high quality of life.

What countries have the best models of such cooperation and are considered success stories at the global level? What is the level of stakeholder cooperation in the region and worldwide? What constitutes successful cooperation and what are the main ingredients for success? What can we do to improve cooperation at the national level and beyond?


9.00–9.30 | Gathering

@Bled Festival Hall


9.30–10.00 | Opening

@Bled Festival Hall


10.00–11.30 | Leaders’ Panel: Europe after Brexit and COVID-19

@Bled Festival Hall


11.30–13.00 | Foreign Ministers Session

@Bled Festival Hall


13.30–14.30 | Networking Lunch

@Rikli Balance Hotel


14.30–16.00 | European Security and Asymmetric Threats

@Rikli Balance Hotel, Arnold Hall

In partnership with the George C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia.

After the end of the Cold War, the European security architecture has never been under more stress than today. The future of the Open Skies Treaty, a landmark arms control mechanism signed in 1992, is in doubt because of compliance issues. These include restrictions on observation flights over Kaliningrad where Anti-Access/Area Denial measures have been deployed. The security environment in Europe is also being altered by an increasing entanglement of conventional and nuclear systems and the existence of the destabilizing “escalate-to-win” doctrine. The COVID-19 crisis contributed to the existing challenges by causing a suspension of verification activities and confidence and security building measures, while encouraging disinformation campaigns. This proliferation of hybrid threats is exacerbated by the refusal of some actors to even acknowledge them. European security therefore seems increasingly precarious, while the possibility of another COVID-19 wave could put additional strain on defence systems at the national level, while also placing European defence budgets under pressure.

What is the future of arms control in Europe? How can a meaningful dialogue on asymmetric threats be established among different actors? What are the prospects for a post-COVID-19 European security architecture? Can increased cooperation between the EU and NATO provide the necessary answers?


16.00–17.30 | Digitalization as the Driver of Economic Recovery in CEE

@Rikli Balance Hotel, Arnold Hall

In partnership with Google and the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia.

The COVID-19 crisis is fast-tracking digital transformation across the globe, and especially in Europe affected by extended lockdown periods. Even amidst immediate crisis management, governments have mobilized more resources than earlier to support digitalization as they see its immediate benefits. Countries that are skilful in exploiting digitalization and move decisively in this direction may be able to come out of the crisis better positioned both in terms of the economy and in terms of their international influence. Crucially, the CEE region has unique fundamentals in digital growth that persist despite the crisis. It possesses a deep talent pool, robust digital infrastructure, which has proven itself during the past weeks, and vibrant tech ecosystems, while lacking legacy technologies.

Can digitalization be the key driver of growth in the CEE? What are the key barriers preventing such a development? How will the new post-COVID-19 geopolitical and economic realities influence digitalization in the region?


17.30–19.00 | Is the Future of Cyberspace Only as a Domain of Conflict?

@Rikli Balance Hotel, Arnold Hall

In partnership with Microsoft and the Information Security Administration of the Republic of Slovenia.

 Technology has become central to our lives, particularly as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world is shifting to digital faster than ever before; digital technologies enable employees to work remotely, they advance medical research, facilitate distance learning for schools and help maintain relationships. However, there are some who seek to take advantage of this expanded reliance on technology. Of particular concern are malicious cyber activities hampering the ability of critical infrastructures, some of them, e.g. the health sector and research institutes have been at the frontline of the response to the pandemic. COVID-19 has also highlighted the importance of critical infrastructure, especially the security and resilience of communication systems, including 5G.

The panel will explore whether the only future for our common online environment is that of a domain of conflict. The panellists will touch upon what can be done to protect our critical assets, and particularly on what are some of the best practices to prevent, discourage, deter and respond to cyber threats, as well as on how governments can join forces with the private sector in that endeavour. It will also look at what can be done at the international level to hold perpetrators accountable.


19.00–19.15 | Closing Remarks

@Rikli Balance Hotel, Arnold Hall



TBA | City Diplomacy and the Future of Multilateralism

In partnership with Global Diplomacy Lab.


14.30–16.30 | #EVENT2/5 Stewarding Sustainability Transformations in Slovenia

In partnership with Circular Change Conference.