Hot topics: Bled Strategic Forum and Political Turnaround in MontenegroAdriatic Journal 31 August 2020
Author: Ana Potočnik
Bled strategic forum attended by record number of EU leaders
This year’s Bled Strategic Forum (BSF), taking place today, is strongly marked by the coronavirus crisis both in topics and organisation. The conference, titled “Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID–19 World: Neighbours – Regions – Global World: Partners or Rivals?”, is organised as a hybrid event, with discussions being held both on-site and online. The number of delegates has been reduced from 1,400 to only 300. But the organisers say this will not impact the quality of the forum that will have the focus on cooperation among Central and East European EU member states post-coronavirus pandemic.
Today, the 15th Bled Strategic Forum hosted a high-level diplomatic meeting that, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, was attended by as many as seven prime ministers: Slovenia’s PM Janez Janša and Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Croatia’s Andrej Plenković as well as the Czech, Polish and Bulgarian prime ministers. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also joined from Italy via the digital platform, while Slovenia’s President Borut Pahor and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić also gave their views on the main panel. The EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy also attended. Most anticipated was the Janša-Orban-Vučić panel who discussed Europe after the coronavirus and Brexit.
The director of the International Monetary Fund Kristalina Georgijeva and the director of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach joined the forum for the first time via video. This year, the forum will last one day only.
Pompeo visits Slovenia
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Slovenia in August, meeting high state representatives for talks on 5G networks and energy investments. The countries signed a joint 5G security declaration, seen as an effort by the US to build alliances against China’s cyber power. The declaration excludes “untrusted vendors” from 5G networks, Pompeo said at the press conference with Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Janša in Bled.
"I know. that Slovenia prides itself on being a science and technology leader, and becoming a 5G clean country, as you're doing today, solidifies that position. The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to restrict freedom for all of us."
- Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State
The Chinese Embassy in Slovenia responded to Pompeo’s remarks, saying it hoped the signing was not directed against China. “We expect that Slovenia will meet its commitments and continue to provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.” Pompeo also met with energy executives and Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, and discussed with Slovenia’s PM “the enormous potential of next-generation nuclear technology to deliver clean, reliable, diversified energy that will help ensure political independence and economic prosperity for Slovenia and the entire region”.
Pompeo urged Slovenia to make a “quick commitment” to what he said was an “important partnership” the US is happy to fund, citing his announcement in February that, as part of the Three Seas Initiative, the US would contribute US$1 billion for energy infrastructure in Central Europe. Mike Pompeo’s visit is the first visit of an American Secretary of State to Slovenia since 1997, when Madeleine Albright visited the country.
Close result in Montenegro’s elections
According to preliminary results published by Montenegro’s State Election Commission on the basis of 98.55% of the processed votes, Milo Djukanović’s Democratic Party of Socialists won 35.12% of the votes in the parliamentary elections, and the coalition For the Future of Montenegro 32.52%. The turnout was as high as 75.9%.
The coalition “Peace is our nation” won 12.55%, and “Black and white” 5.57%. This means the opposition could work together to break the 30-year monopoly of power of the Democratic Party of Socialists. The leader of the pro-Russian opposition list For the Future of Montenegro, Zdravko Krivokapić, has already thanked voters for their support on television and stated that “the 30-year regime has fallen”.
According to the SEC, 141,767 voted for the DPS, while 131,333 for the coalition For the Future of Montenegro.
Among the topics that marked the election campaign was the dispute over the Freedom of Religion Act, which the Serbian Orthodox Church strongly opposes. The conflict deeply split Montenegrins and led to mass protests.