Bled Strategic Forum: Europe Needs More Solidarity Now

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Blad Strategic Forum
Blad Strategic Forum

ZAGREB, Aug 31, 2020 – Central European leaders gathered at the Bled Strategic Forum in Slovenia on Monday, saying that during the time of the coronavirus Europe needed more solidarity and should abandon double standards for its member states.

The Bled Strategic Forum, the most important foreign policy event in Slovenia, hosted a panel discussion on the topic “Europe after Brexit and Covid-19”, with the prime ministers of Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, and Bulgaria, the president of Serbia and the director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in attendance.

At the start of the discussion, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic spoke about Croatia’s presidency of the European Union in the first half of the year, underscoring that the maximum had been done in the circumstances of the pandemic, a crisis which “started as a health problem and grew into a crisis of all aspects of society.”

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who participated via video link from Rome, said that the pandemic highlighted the value of solidarity and that the EU proved that it could respond as a community of interests inspired by common values.

He added that the present crisis was a great chance for a stronger and more cohesive Union.

IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva, who too participated via video link from Sofia, said that there was the reason for optimism. Together we created ground under the feet of the global economy by creating liquidity, she said.

She underlined that the second round of financial aid to the world economy has to be tied to investments in digitization, education, and the capacity to deal with climate change that will affect us even more strongly than the coronavirus.

She added that it was natural that at the start of the pandemic each country shut itself within its own borders. However, with its Next Generation package of financial support, the EU proved that that was history and that observers from outside Europe were pleased because Europe showed its solidarity.

Plenkovic said that in the months to come it was necessary to reach a balance between national measures, which once again showed the importance of the role of states, and a European and global response, adding that there was a consensus n European policy that it was necessary to fight the coronavirus together.

Democratic standards topic at Bled Strategic Forum

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban denied the accusations against his country, saying that democracy in Hungary was at the same level as that in Germany and Italy, but based on a Christian and not a liberal model. He added that Europe needed a joint army that would be the driver of technological innovations.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that inequality still existed in the EU as far as freedom was concerned because companies from the Union’s east did not have the same opportunities as those in its west.

We have to retain solidarity and unity in Central Europe but also be a part of the European Union. The Central European dimension is different but it is not contrary to the EU, he said. 

Janez Jansa, the prime minister of the host country, accused European policy of being hypocritical in 2014 because it did not condemn “election thievery” in Slovenia when he was a “political prisoner”, while today it is condemning countries where there are no political prisoners.

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic spoke about double standards in western Europe, citing as an example attempts to storm the parliaments of Serbia and Germany.

When that occurred in Belgrade 27 people were arrested and that was presented as a dictatorship, and when such an attempt was made in Berlin and more than 300 people were arrested, that was then proof of democracy, said Vucic.

Serbia wishes to join the European Union, but Brussels should show more respect, Vucic said, adding that in his country the EU is perceived as an institution that is creating pressure for Kosovo’s independence which is why 40 percent of Serbia’s population is opposed to that integration.

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