The time is right for Europe to strengthen its confidence

Highlights from Globsec 2017: Day 1 (May 26)

Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Slovak President Andrej Kiska, Polish President Andrzej Duda (left to right) attend the opening of Globsec 2017 in Bratislava. Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Slovak President Andrej Kiska, Polish President Andrzej Duda (left to right) attend the opening of Globsec 2017 in Bratislava. (Source: SITA)

Honorary Chairman of Globsec, Amb. Rastislav Káčer, joined by Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák welcomed the guests of the Forum. Mr Káčer welcomes everyone in the room called symbolically called Maria Theresia remarking that the queen of Austrian Empire was also a political leader in the time of change.

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“Peace is not just the absence of conflict – it is the ability to solve conflicts by peaceful means. It is our task to make sure the way of the word prevails over the way of the force. Diplomacy is the tool to prevent conflicts. Where we fail in this respect, the weapons and despair follow. The time is right for Europe to strengthen its confidence,” Lajčák said.

Read also: GLOBSEC forum will host guests from 70 countries Read more 

The first day began with three presidents in the room. Slovak and Polish Presidents, Andrej Kiska and Andrzej Duda, deliver their opening statements. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia joined a panel debate later in the programme.

The first panel debate featured Jakub Wisniewski, Parag Khanna, Stephen Walt and Stéphane Dion exchanging views on the global trends they expect to see in the future. See their background here.

Jakub Wisniewski kicked off with Shakespeare’s story of three witches, from Macbeth. Three sisters are the three trends that prophesise about the future that will happen if we ignore the warning signs:

1. The world of rules is tottering.

“Citizens now use technology to follow their leaders. Governments use technology to follow their citizens. But we need world of rules more than ever.”

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2. The open model of society is vulnerable.

“In the world that our children inherit, what defines a superpower will not be its weapons of mass destruction that can never be used. It will be the ability to combine and build; the power of mass innovation and mass teamwork.”

3. We are living in the post-truth society.

“We in the West have our narratives, our stories to tell. We just forgot how to tell them. We have our own appealing, emotional narratives.”

Finishing his remarks, Wisniewski called for vigilance:

“We are not bound by fate to fail in our efforts, like poor wretched Macbeth. If only we pay attention. Beware of the three weird sisters!”

Other panellists join the stage, Parag spoke about trade relations being the main driver of future international relations.

“I believe we are inexorably heading into a multi-polar and multi-civilizational world,” he stated.

Stephen Walt believes that the there are some trends are more predictable than other:

“Many aspects of the future world order are NOT that uncertain. Over the next twenty years, we know who the major powers will be and we can also identify many of the states that are likely to experience severe economic, political, or social difficulties. The future “world order” is not entirely unknown,” he said.

Stéphane Dion addressed the question of relations with China talking about the values. Canada should and will engage with China while keeping our values.

World order is not a question of values, it is about the distribution of power, Khanna and Walt agree.

Relations with China remain the main issue of the debate. Stéphane Dion makes a point saying we have the strenght that China does not. And that’s democracy.

“One child policy will result in a huge labour shortage, hitting a storm demographically,” said Stephen Walt.

Wisniewski doesn’t share the optimism of presidents after seeing the NATO Summit. We could all agree that even from body language of other leaders at the Summit, we can tell we are all afraid what the leader of the free world will do, he adds.

Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Globsec Future kicked off as well with opening by Vazil Hudák, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank who stressed the importance of capturing and nurturing the innovation in order to adapt to the future. He identified the gap in growth equity as a significant obstacle of spreading innovation worldwide and avoid concentrating the trend-setting companies in centres such as Sillicon Valley.

Opening of the debates at the Danube Space focused on navigating the challenges of the Fourth industrial revolution. Former Bulgarian president, Rosen Plevneljev, argued that history is no longer made by the politicians. It is an outcome of the work of the dreamers, innovators and entrepreneurs. Politics is merely reacting and following up these days, no longer leading. Therefore, the Fourth industrial revolution majorly questions all pre-conceived ideas of the ability of the politicians.

Picking up on Mr Hudák’s welcoming remarks, Philippa Malmgren, pointed out that financial system needs to catch up as well. We have to move away paper currency and traditional accounting system. Financial operations running on blockchain and in the cloud will allow us to get rid off our current tax system which will be able to self-regulate. Therefore, the challenge of the shadow economy might be solved entirely.

“I see a dramatic change in the way we do economics. Blockchain and cloud will make the shadow economy disappear,” said Philippa Malmgren, former Special Assistant to the President of the United States

On the other hand, Ms Malmgren warned about the incredible dependency on the electricity that is underlining the whole process of the Fourth industrial revolution. Seemingly, nobody is really taking into account the vulnerabilities we unintentionally create along the way.

Contrary to the President Plevneljev´s conviction, Ms Malgren is hopeful about the future of employment. Automation will eradicate numerous jobs but free up human capital to handle creative processes. In terms of skills-building, we are better equipped than ever to do this.

Vice-President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, focused on the role of cities in the process of the Fourth industrial revolution considering the ongoing hyper-urbanisation of the world. The cities will play crucial role in enabling their citizens to adapt to the future requirements. From experience, Vice-President Šefčovič, considers mayors the hidden driving force of the transformation who are capable to think very innovatively on the local level.

“We need not only smart cities but also smart villages. The urban development is important especially here in Slovakia so that villages do not become empty,” said Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for the Energy Union, European Commission

Addressing the capability of the governments to adapt, Martina Larkin from the World Economic Forum pointed out that technology enables and empowers the citizens in a way that governments cannot do at the moment. However, they are slowly getting active and willing to shift their decision-making. Newly created Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution by the WEF supports the efforts of the governments all around the world to share the know-how about the necessary adaptation.

“Because of the inspiration from the private sector, we start to notice much more dynamism in governmental sector as well,” said Larkin.

Visegrad Perspectives for New Europe

Witold Waszczykowski, Miroslav Lajčák, Péter Szijjartó and Václav Kolaja shared the stage to contemplate on the positions of Visegrad countries on the future of Europe.

Steve Clemons of the Atlantic opened one of the most explosive panel asking ministers if there is a united Visegrad perspective. All four agree that their vision is the vision of strong Europe as each country gets stronger with the European project going forward.

Ministers also get to the question of recent NATO Summit, where Minister Szijjártó agrees with Trump that we, Europeans should do more for our own defence.

Is there a common V4 position towards Russia? Lajčák remarked that as members of NATO and EU, Visegrad does indeed have a common stand.

Although we criticize European bureaucrats in Brussels, he would exchange none of them for Putin he would not exchange it for Putin.

On the issue of Eurozone Minister Lajčák noted he would like other EU member states join the Eurozone. Minister Waszczykowski remarked that Poland will not join in for number of years citing economic reasons and fear of losing some economic sovereignty.

Homegrown Solutions for the Middle East

Lyse Doucet, Minister Çavuşoğlu of Turkey, former Minister of Jordan Nasser Judeh, Sir John Jenkins and Tarek Osman take the stage to talk about the situation in the Middle East.

“We always wanted to get Deash closer to strike them harder,” said Nasser Judeh.

Tarek Osman notes that militant Islamic groups will remain in the region, but he hopes to be wrong on this one.

Ministers expressed their optimism that Daesh will be pushed out of Mosul and eventually defeated. The real challenge is the reconstruction of the region after that. Audience by show of hands agrees with that notion.

Identity politics in the middle east is crucial, highlights Tarek Osman, the philosopher of this panel as labelled by Lyse Doucet. The nationalistic aspect of conflicts in the region are indeed crucial.

On the issue of Iran Tarek Osman suggests Iran has to be brought to the table when discussing future of Syria and and Iraq.

Minister Çavuşoğlu remarked that cooperation with Iran is not a strategic choice. We need to cooperate with Russia. They have delivered what was promised, he adds.

Timely intelligence sharing is crucial for the fight against Daesh, remarked Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

The text was originally published as part of the daily summaries from the GLOBSEC 2017 Bratislava Forum.

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