Ljubljana, 30 August 2017 – The world has been changing rapidly. While globalisation and digitalisation have significantly increased the pace of our lives and brought us closer than ever before, we are confronted with fundamental challenges to our perceptions of politics, the economy, security and society. Organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Centre for European Perspective under the title New reality, the twelfth Bled Strategic Forum, to be held on 4 and 5 September, will try to find ways to adapt to the new realities without forgetting the foundations on which our modern societies were built. The political-security Forum event will again be accompanied by the Business BSF and Young BSF, as well as several side events.

| Bled Strategic Forum (BSF)

The Leaders’ panel will feature a debate on today’s rapid changes, which present profound challenges to our self-perception, politics, the economy, security, and society. With the world order possibly at the breaking point, it will seek a strategic vision on how to adapt to the new reality without forgetting the foundations on which our modern societies were built.

Federica Mogherini will continue with the session Address by the High Representative / Vice-President of the European Commission before the Special panel – A new vision for a new reality, where instability, poor development, environmental changes and conflict situations that cause grave human suffering and result in violations of basic human dignity, social stability, peace and international law, will be debated. Long-term global peace, stability and sustainable development can be achieved only through result-oriented and enduring dialogue, taking into account the basic values, norms and principles enshrined in the UN Charter.

Conversation with the President-elect for the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly will feature Miroslav Lajčák, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, and will revolve around the priorities of the forthcoming presidency of the UN General Assembly, as well as the issues currently at the top of both United Nations and international agenda.

What drives Europe and the world in the 21st century? Is the move towards a society of change and innovation reshaping Europe’s economic model? How can Europe deal with growing economic (and political) inequalities within the EU and beyond, and how can we restore trust in democracy, especially among the younger generation? An informal chat entitled The Future according to Tanja Fajon and Jacques Rupnik will ‘pick the brain’ of two thinkers on the topic of big societal issues that are the EU’s key challenges for the decade to come.

The growing use of the Internet and social media platforms, where anyone can share their version of the truth and spread misinformation, has fragmented the commonly agreed basis for reality and led to the polarisation of public opinion. The ‘fake news’ phenomenon, the alternative facts phenomenon, along with media hacking, the changed rules of the political game, and the role of the media, will be discussed by the Night Owl Session – Fake news, and do the media still need editors?

The panel discussion Global nuclear governance: Quo vadis? will confront the unstable and unpredictable global security situation. Increased tensions, aggravated by public statements about the possible use and modernisation of nuclear weapons, as well as military exercises that simulate their deployment, including unannounced drills, and developments in other regions around the globe are a great cause for concern.

The uneven distribution of freshwater in the world, its vital importance for life and development, as well as factors such as population growth, urbanisation, and climate change, all determine the relationship between peace and water, as well as increase the relevance of the latter. While some states have already demonstrated their commitment to preserving this vital natural resource for future generations; nevertheless, global awareness of the importance of the nexus between water and peace still lags behind current pressing trends. The success of international initiatives and comprehensive awareness of the urgent need to address the challenges that water poses for peace and security will be addressed by the panel discussion on Water for peace and security.

The economic and financial crisis, unstable eastern and southern neighbourhoods, migration pressures,and generally deteriorating security situation have in recent years eroded trust between the Member States and caused a shift in relations between the EU institutions. With such developments occurring at a time when major global players are turning away from multilateralism and considering economic protectionism, the panel discussion on The European Union in a changed world will weigh in, whether the EU will be able to consolidate from within and re-establish itself on the global stage as a bastion of multilateralism and free and fair trade.

A growing list of nightmares, perfect storms, and global catastrophes fuel fear of the future. But there is another way of looking at the future. We do not have to be pessimistic or optimistic; we can simply have realistic hope, like future-oriented thinkers and doers who do not ignore reality, but take these challenges into account when exploring the possibility of making a better future for many more generations. The reasons for hope will be discussed by the panel discussion on Realistic hope – How transformation happens faster than one thinks.

The serious challenges faced by the Countries on all the shores of the Mediterranean today will be debated at the panel discussion on Southern Mediterranean and the promise of regional integration. In the context of global instability, and yet of immense regional opportunities, we will discuss the scope and a need for strengthened multilateralism and, even more importantly, for stronger integration in the South.

As history teaches us that protecting human rights and dignity helps prevent conflict, dispel ignorance, instil respect for others, and build better societies that are more resilient to threats from within and from without. What is the role of human rights in today’s society, why do we need them, and how they can help us face the insecurities of modern times will be discussed with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at the session entitled Human rights in times of change.

Never before in the history of foreign affairs or diplomacy have heads of state had a method of such immediate and uncensored communication at their disposal as they have today with social media tools such as Twitter. Some argue that foreign policy should not be conducted via Twitter, while others feel that Twitter and the vast array of social media tools available today could launch a new form of public diplomacy, called Public Diplomacy 2.0. To Tweet or not to Tweet in foreign affairs will be the focus of the panel on the Digital diplomacy in the 21st century: To Tweet or not to Tweet in foreign affairs?

The side event entitled InvestTalk Slovenia will present opportunities for investment and business climate in Slovenia. Presentations will be held by the representatives of SPIRIT Slovenia – Public Agency for Entrepreneurship, Internationalization, Foreign Investments and Technology, as well as representatives of the the Bank Assets Management Company, who will present concrete business cases and investment opportunities.

The debate on the Western Balkans, a recurrent topic at the Bled Strategic Forum, will assess a lack of implementation of agreements in a panel entitled Western Balkans: EU enlargement – Is pretending the name of the game? While this may be a consequence of the fractured relations in the region, the internal political situation in individual countries, the situation in the EU, and the slow pace of the enlargement process it should have been clear by now that it is in the EU’s strategic interest that the enlargement process has no real alternative.

| Business Bled Strategic Forum (Business BSF)

Organised in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Administration, the American Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia, and the German-Slovene Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the 2017 Business BSF will focus on the role of innovations. As the world is changing rapidly it no longer suffices to understand these changes solely on the basis of past experience and to adapt to a new reality with traditional approaches. We need to create and implement new business, economic and social concepts and new approaches in order to successfully address the challenges of our new reality.

The gap between reality (awareness) and the near future (new reality) will be discussed by the AmCham Business Breakfast – A Changing World: How Do We Feel and Co-create the New Reality?, while in the second part, breakfast will continue with the session entitled Red Monkey Innovation Management Organizations and Regions in Search of a New Balance and a discussion on how to bridge this gap.

The innovation movement is growing and acquiring a global dimension, and the new reality demands a genuine effort to achieve sustainability. What role does innovation play in the new reality and how does it manifest itself will be discussed by The role of innovation in a new reality session. However, as even the most visible and successful technological innovations are not enough to drive change, they can act as a trigger. Transformation in its broadest and real sense entails changing both the mind-set and culture in a particular organisation or society as a whole. Thus, the session will also take into focus the need for social innovations.

The special session Musical Leadership Strategy – For a European Identity in a Multipolar World will feature the social innovation brand of Miha Pogacnik, known as the “resonance platform”. By using the disruptive method, he empowers business and political leaders to experience the genius of classical music masterpieces as a specific European strategy for vision, the mobilisation of total human potential and action.

While the rapid ongoing digitalisation and technological transformation of the economy and society holds many promises, it also brings disruptions, transforms our societies and the way we live and work, and opens new issues on regulation. The session entitled Innovative Europe – Opportunities for a new breakthrough will therefore address the main obstacles to, and/or catalysts for, a new breakthrough in the field, as well as how does the business sector perceive these opportunities for Europe as a whole.

The modern technological platforms connecting supply and demand are assuming the roles of accommodation providers, tour operators, taxi drivers, tour guides and restaurants (for example: Airbnb, Couchsurfing, Uber, Blablacar, EatWith, ToursByLocals etc). This collaborative economy is causing profound shifts in tourism. The needs, wishes, and motivations of contemporary consumers, but also the ways to address the question of what the fair rules of the game are for all tourism stakeholders in the existing system and how to establish effective cooperation to the benefit of all, will be discussed by the tourism panel entitled The collaborative economy: sharing, cooperation or simply business?

| Young Bled Strategic Forum (Young BSF)

Under the title (Dis)connected reality, the seventh edition of the Young BSF will bring together successful and innovative young leaders, diplomats, academics, representatives of NGOs and business professionals from all around the world between 1 and 3 September. They will discuss the different ‘realities’ of our physical world that seem completely disconnected from the reality that our societies actually live in. Young BSF will give visionary young leaders an opportunity to form real, connected, or virtual partnerships and networks. This goal-oriented forum will seek to prompt discussions and create synergies between different ideas, turning them into connected or disconnected realities of, and for, everyone.

Bled Strategic Forum in brief

Over the years, the annual Bled Strategic Forum has become established as a leading conference in Central and South East Europe focused on discussing and seeking solutions to pressing regional and global issues. The Forum attracts some one thousand participants, including heads of state and government, ministers, diplomats, businesspeople, scholars, youth, and media from around the world. It also provides opportunities for bilateral and multilateral meetings with prominent regional and global actors, as well as possibilities for networking and exchanging ideas between political and business leaders.