Throughout its existence, the To Be Secure (2BS) Forum has proved to be an outstanding and important South-East European framework for affiliating the Montenegrin, regional and international eminent leaders and distinguished representatives.
As the century has passed since the end of the World War I, the people, the nations, the countries of Europe and the world at large have faced great successes and great failures. Not all successes ended up victories and not all failures ended up losses. Despite all this, Europe itself and Euro-Atlantic community as a whole, flying on the wings of shared values and common interest, managed to transform the international relations order and create democratic and globalized state of play, not known to human history before. But you see, when marching on a fast-paced track it means you leave behind those with slower or older engines. And the thing with the tracks, they are never linear! So these slower engines end up broken every once in a while, and the fast-paced track suddenly, to the great surprise of all these western democracies marching forward, becomes jammed.
Even as progressed as never before, and with all the great technology on our hand, we are still looking through our traditional lenses and there is greater need to look beyond these perceptions and to start unjamming the tracks at home.
The 9th2BS Forum, will highlight several focal points that trouble current regional and global security frameworks and raise special concern across Euro-Atlantic community in order to reanalyze and reboot common goals and joint efforts to further strengthen and secure sustainable and thriving future for SEE region and thus the wider Europe. It will search for the best approaches to do so through five main tracks.
- WESTERN BALKANS TRANSFORMATIVE FRAMEWORK TRACK
Western Balkan region has, together with the rest of Europe, been experiencing what many have identified as “the grand return of geopolitics”, with growing influence of Russia, China and Turkey that are reasserting their role and influence in the region through a combination of economic and political initiatives, and seemingly offer new formats to the Western Balkans. Within a region that has shown signs of considerable improvement from the war outbreak in the 90s to the European and Euro-Atlantic integrations, but not sufficient enough, having in mind that the progress is still slow-moving, due to the unresolved problems from the past, these external influences can have crucial impact in shaping the future of this region. Forum will serve as a platform for discussions on growing importance and need for an even more present role and investment of Americans and Europeans in what it seems to be currently transformative framework for the Western Balkans. Will 2019 be the year of resolutions for Western Balkans? What will be the new phase of Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue? Will Macedonia finally put a stamp on its name dispute? What the near future holds for Bosnia and Herzegovina? And on a longer run, can the EU and NATO or the provision of joining be enough of a stimulus for economic growth and prosperous future of the region?
- EUROPE’s POWER/AXIS SHIFT TRACK
Steady rise of right-wing parties is weakening mainstream politics across the continent and shaking the pillars of the EU. In combination with the efforts of European countries to consolidate on the migration issue that has ruffled many feathers and revealed discord inside “unity”, a lot of challenges are yet to be resolved. With the legacy of Brexit and UK trying to establish new model of relations with the rest of 27 members, it will inevitably have significant impact on further inner power balance within the EU. Another important milestone in 2019 – elections for European Parliament will reveal sentiment of hundreds of millions of EU citizens who will direct the Europe’s near track future. With UK leaving the Union and EU reforms at the top of the agenda, French-German duo is left to steer the wheel and reconcile distinct interests of all member states towards more united and prosperous future. Will there be a win-win solution or will the approach from the one of the axis prevail?
On the other side, challenges arise not only from within but on the brink of the EU borders as well. Two crucial elections for Ukraine in 2019, the presidential in March and parliamentary in late autumn will put to test European and Transatlantic bond.
- SECURITY AND DEFENCE TRACK: NATO MORE VITAL THAN EVER
We don’t need to look much further in the past than last century to see valuable history lessons. Two world wars taught us what horrific events and tragic losses derive when international relations are not grounded in commonly accepted rules and institutions. Even though NATO’s primary purpose was to safeguard against Soviet Union, nowadays when we are about to mark its 70thanniversary, it seems unjust to qualify NATO only as the most successful military alliance in modern history, even though it certainly is – it is also much more than just a defensive shield. NATO is a political alliance as much as military one, in a sense that it requires political commitment of each member state to one another as allies.
Today, when we face wide range of complex challenges, on one side progressively eroded relations between Russia and the West, caused by Russian dangerous behavior, with military buildup, hybrid tactics against democratic processes of other countries, etc. and reemergence of the nuclear and chemical threats on the other side, NATO’s role seems more vital than ever. With US withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan, it seems that we are in for a few very chaotic months, maybe even years, that will have long-term impact on international relations.
In marking the 70thanniversary of NATO we must remind ourselves that strong solidarity and commitment based on shared values among allies is what keeps us united and resilient to the diverse and multiple challenges we face and will face for many decades to come.
- DISINFORMATION ON TRACK RECORD
There is no doubt that the fourth revolution has occurred – that is a digital revolution. Although, it does not possess better technological and financial resources than the United States (USA) and Europe, Russia still succeeds in generating significant challenges during the extremely important processes. It is only that Russia anticipated before us that nowadays technology is keeping the world order.Free access to information, speed, anonymity, lack of geographical boundaries transcend traditional concepts of state which makes Russian hybrid tactics and activities much more effective, visible and multilayered. The issue of disinformation is complex, global and borderless. It undermines core values of one’s society, placing distrust and disorder in each other, in our democratic systems and institutions.
On the other side, news outlets have dropped most fact checking and critical analysis steps in order to churn out news more cheaply and quickly and as a result daft and untrue stories are appearing in mainstream news. This also created space for social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms (Viber, WhatsApp) to become main informative tool which not only shapes people’s opinions, beliefs and eventually values, influences election campaigns but is used to export beyond traditional borders, political proclamations, agendas and set of values and interests suitable to certain country, group of people or individuals. Are these companies doing enough in countering such campaigns? Aren’t we lacking a prompt, structured, institutional answers against it? We all, individually and collectively, have the right to be informed as well as to exercise that right but also bear the responsibility for the use and abuse of that right. Standing united, and calling for accountability of those who sow distrust, disinformation and distort the truth, is the only way to prevail.
- KEEPING THE TRAIN OF DEMOCRACY ON TRACK
We are living in an age of uncertainty, with growing distrust of people in their governments and institutions, rise of populist and right wing parties that are surging across the European continent. At the same time, great technological progress has changed the way we interact, align, gather around certain ideas and values, and more importantly how we exercise our rights and will in democratic societies. Technology has transcended the traditional borders of state and allowed for citizens to be more engaged and involved. Like any progress through history it is followed by both great opportunities and great responsibility. This responsibility is best described through words of Kofi Annan “Technology does not free us of the need for leadership, it makes leadership even more important”. Ultimately, if we want technology to be our partner and not our adversary, we need to start modeling it with people in mind. This grim picture needs to be a wakeup call. Democracy is not perfect. “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…” It has taken some beating lately, but is it strong enough to win the match?