MORE than 600 participants, including the presidents of three countries, several prime ministers and other ministers, as well as representatives of international security agencies and NGOs from nearly 50 countries came to Slovakia’s capital to attend the seventh year of the Bratislava Global Security Forum (GLOBSEC), organised by the Slovak Atlantic Commission (SAC).

Multiple panel discussions took place during the forum, held from April 12 to 14, and recommendations and ideas generated in Bratislava are expected to be presented to the NATO summit scheduled for Chicago in May.

“[GLOBSEC] Bratislava is becoming the place where one needs to be and to present oneself,” Rastislav Káčer, president of the SAC, told the media in mid February.

Over the past seven years, GLOBSEC has built a reputation as a forum with extraordinary political importance and this is supported by the presence of participants from nearly 50 countries, said Róbert Vass, one of the founders of the forum and secretary general of the SAC.

Issues such as transatlantic relations, the Arab Spring and current challenges in the Middle East and the Balkans were discussed as well as the European Union’s Eastern Partnership, with a significant focus on economic conditions within the EU.

“The reasons for this are obvious,” Vass stated in the SAC press release. “A healthy economy and economic stability are a key challenge for Europe, from national defence budgets to the role of multinational corporations.”

Vass said the significance of the current global and European economic situation on security issues was one of the reasons why the SAC asked the Brussels-based Bruegel economic think tank to cooperate in preparing several panel discussions at the forum.

“Europe has found itself at the point where the ice breaks and defines the future of European integration,” Vass noted in SAC press release.

Vass also suggested that Slovakia should not only participate in decisions made in Brussels and other capitals but should become one of the countries forming the agenda.

Several other events accompanied the forum. The Young Atlanticist Summit involved younger, emerging leaders from NATO countries in a simulated crisis situation and their exchange and discussions will continue at the NATO meeting in Chicago.

The Young Atlanticist programme is sponsored by the Atlantic Council of the United States, a non-partisan, non-profit foreign policy think tank.

“GLOBSEC is the only European forum which will exclusively welcome future political leaders and diplomats from NATO member and partner states this year,” according to the SAC press release.

For the first time, the organisers of GLOBSEC also awarded a joint Czech and Slovak Transatlantic Award to two individuals who significantly contributed to the development of transatlantic relations, peace, prosperity and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region.

The awards went to Ronald Asmus, a US diplomat and political analyst who died in 2011, and Alexandr Vondra, the Czech Minister of Defence.

PM Fico opens the forum

When preparations for this year’s GLOBSEC started, the organisers worked with representatives of Iveta Radičová’s government. But after the change in the government the forum was opened by Prime Minister Robert Fico and forum discussions were attended by several newly-appointed state secretaries (i.e. deputy ministers) from Slovak ministries, the Sme daily reported.

Though the organisers had to delay the date of GLOBSEC 2012 because of the fall of the government last October and the March 10 early parliamentary elections, most of the forum’s participants had confirmed their participation without concern about who would lead the Slovak government.

“We have been organising GLOBSEC for seven years during every government and all the participants perceive it as a non-partisan project in the field of policy, security and economy,” stressed Vass, as quoted by Sme.