Bled Strategic Forum 2019 – History and Prospects for the Future

Under the title ‘(Re)sources of (In)stability’, the 14th Bled Strategic Forum, to take place 2 and 3 September 2019 in Bled, Slovenia, will be dedicated to discussing the role of (re)sources regarding peace and security, sustainable development and economic progress.

Over the past seven years, the Bled Strategic Forum has grown into a successful platform for high-level strategic dialogue among leaders from the private and public sectors on key issues facing Europe and the world in the 21st century. Welcoming prominent guests from Europe and beyond, the Bled Strategic Forum has established itself as an important annual gathering aimed at making commitments for the implementation of new strategies designed to confront the most pressing issues of today’s Europe and the world. Organized jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia and the Centre for European Perspective, the Bled Strategic Forum is one of the leading international conferences in the region.

At the end of 2005, Slovenia was wrapping up its OSCE Chairmanship. As a relative newcomer on the European Union’s political stage, the country had already been thinking about how to transpose its previous activities into something long-lasting and impactful. The idea was to continue with the active approach and contribution to the international community; to have an impact and leave a positive mark and legacy for future generations. As a result, in 2006 the first Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) international conference took place, organized jointly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia and the Centre for European Perspective.

Launched with a vision to bring together decision-makers from different fields, encourage an open debate on contemporary political, security and development challenges, and search for new ideas and solutions, the first BSF ran under the much-focused title “Political Reform and Sustainable Development in the South Caucasus”. What started as a vision, concept, and idea, became a reality and a permanent reminder that being a small country doesn’t prevent you from having an impact on the global stage, especially if you have boldness and eagerness to open and discuss the most challenging and pressing issues in the international arena. Bled Strategic Forum became a window of Slovenian foreign policy and an event which transcends the usual borders between foreign policy, security policy, and society as a whole. What started as a foreign policy and security conference, quickly adapted to the new reality of globalized and constantly changing world, where you cannot search for solutions in a vacuum, but must adopt a comprehensive approach, where you look for both the big picture and little dots which make this big picture possible.


Over the years, the Bled Strategic Forum grew in significance and numbers. Last year BSF hosted some 1200 people from 80 countries, with some media calling the event a “regional Davos”. The attraction of the panels and participation grew significantly in the last 14 years. Today, BSF is one of the biggest conferences in Central and Southern Europe and a permanent feature in the European strategic debates.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story, and often they divert the view from more important things. The aim of Bled Strategic Forum is not to be the biggest conference around, but to make an impact with interesting topics, invigorating debates, participants coming from different strands of society, be it from politics, business, or civil society. The BSF firmly believes that only with an inclusive approach, we will be able to find answers to the most pressing and vital issues of today and tomorrow. The world has become an unpredictable place. Traditional methods of finding solutions don’t work anymore, traditional way of “doing business” is constantly being challenged with new paradigms in the development of our societies, and advances in technology and artificial intelligence are putting pressure on all of us to adapt quicker and better.

BSF 2007

We live the age of disruption, where the butterfly doesn’t even have to clap its wings in China in order to cause issues and problems in Europe or elsewhere. This interdependence, for better or worse, is a constant reminder that solving national or regional questions can only be done within a global community and an inclusive and transparent approach. In this context, Bled Strategic Forum evolved over the years from a conference which at the beginning opened specific regional or European topics, to a conference addressing the biggest global challenges from three key perspectives – politics, business, and civil society. In previous years, BSF included the Business BSF and Young BSF and put more emphasis on including prominent think-tanks and members of civil society into the program.


If we look at the titles of previous editions of BSF, we can easily see how the Forum became more and more comprehensive and more and more inclusive. It started in 2006 with the aim to look at the situation in Southern Caucasus, but in the following years the focus shifted and included a broader outlook. Let’s take a closer look at some of the topics discussed in previous years.

Convened just ahead of the first the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council, the second Bled Strategic Forum discussions followed the title “European Union 2020: Enlarging and Integrating”. Under the title “Global Outlook for the Next Decade”, the 2010 Forum tackled some of the main challenges of the upcoming decade, namely the energy transition, water challenges, re-vitalization of the economy, and the transformative power of the Internet. The participants also exchanged views on the EU’s role in a multipolar world and ways to reconnect the Western Balkans, aspiring to find answers on whether the international system will be up to its challenges.

In 2011, the Bled Strategic Forum discussed “The Power of the Future”. It focused on the so-called new players – especially the BRIC countries, European challenges in the Mediterranean, EU-China relations, Afghanistan, the future of energy, challenges and perspectives in the Western Balkans, the role of small countries in global affairs, as well as food security and the role of innovation in economy. That year, an important innovation had been introduced – the Young BSF – which aimed to attract a younger audience, i.e., future decision-makers.

Changes in Europe prompted by the economic and financial crisis were in the focus of the 2013 Bled Strategic Forum titled “A Changing Europe in a Changing World”. As the Forum celebrated 10 years of existence, with the emergence of new conflicts and against the backdrop of the escalating migrant crisis in Europe, calls for partnerships resounded under the title “Visions of New Partnerships” as we recognized that the increasingly complex new challenges are putting all of us to the test.





The 2017 Forum, “New Reality”, reflected on the world we live in and the profound challenges to our self-perception, politics, economy, security and society. It concluded that technology-driven social change, economic disruptions and security risks would persist in the new reality we are experiencing, but also that we are able and equipped to develop joint solutions.Last year, Bled Strategic Forum ran under the title “Bridging the Divide”. Although rifts in the international arena run deep and bridging them will require patience, some of the bridges still stand, at least for the time being.


In 2019, as we are eagerly approaching 15 years of BSF’s existence, the Forum will, under the title “(Re)sources of (in)stability”, discuss the role of (re)sources and their interlacing with peace and security, sustainable development and economic progress. Resources, their availability and regional dispersion, are important shapers of strategic relations in the international community. Their effective management maintains stability, reduces security risks and contributes to improving living standards, whereas uneven and unjust distribution leads to inequality and the concentration of resources in the centers of power.

We are impressed and humbled by the high political, business and civil society presence at the BSF. We are proud that many important guests find the time and space to visit Bled Strategic Forum and contribute to the debates and discussions. Over the past years, the BSF hosted Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers, SGs of international organizations, CEOs and directors of the most important strategic institutions in Europe and elsewhere. One news article is not nearly enough to put all the names on the paper.

To conclude with what at the end of the day matters the most – friendship. In all the years since the first BSF, we have had the privilege of making many new friends and partners and have built new relationships. Our minds grew more and more open and we hope that the same can be said for the minds of all Bled Strategic Forum participants.

The complex and interdisciplinary challenges of today’s globalized world require comprehensive solutions, which Bled Strategic Forum and its participants have never been afraid of bringing up and discussing. As such, BSF gives a voice to differing positions, views and understandings of the topics that require the attention of the wider international community.

With the ever-changing global situation, the Bled Strategic Forum and its additional programs –   Business BSF and Young BSF – remain determined to strive towards innovative thinking and forward-looking visions. Bled Strategic Forum made it a norm and tradition to discuss even the less conventional and most troublesome issues. It is our determination that the Forum will continue to grow, evolve and influence various policy agendas and solutions of tomorrow.

The Author: MATEJ GREGOREC, Bled Strategic Forum

Bled Strategic Forum