The Brief, powered by Eni – Bled Forum kicks off new political season for EU

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Slovenia launched the annual Bled Strategic Forum eleven years ago. In time, it has gained recognition as a mini Davos, where decision-makers debate contemporary political, security and development challenges and search for new ideas and solutions.

One of the advantages of the forum is that it always takes place in the first days of September, reopening the political season for the EU after the summer break.

This year (3-4 September) I went to Bled, attracted by the high-level speakers. How could I miss, for example, a panel with EU First Vice President Frans Timmermans and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó, at a time when Brussels and Hungary trade barbs over the refugee crisis?

And how could I not listen to what Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu will say, addressing an international audience the day after his country was the punching ball of Germany’s one and only pre-election debate?

At a time when one tweet can send global shockwaves and one push of the button can change the world, global nuclear governance will be discussed in the beautiful lakeside town of Bled. One of the panels is even called “To tweet or not to tweet”.

And at a time when international law is grossly disregarded in many places, Slovenia sends the message that the least the EU could do is set a good example and abide by its own legislation — which unfortunately is not the case in many areas.

The Polish case represents probably the biggest challenge, while Slovenia has its own frustrations with regard to the the Piran bay border case.

The need to reform the EU following the Brexit referendum is another big topic on the Bled agenda, keeping in mind that the next major step in that direction will be the German-French proposal, expected to be discussed at the European Council on 19 and 20 October.

Last but not least, the EU needs to stop navel gazing and listen to the wider world. Global issues such as universal access to water cannot be swept under the carpet.  The forum will address this and other issues.

Massive change is happening. But this year, the Bled forum takes place in a somewhat quieter atmosphere, at least in this part of the world, as the Western Balkan route for migrants is basically sealed.

Last year, the refugee crisis eclipsed all other issues. Is the EU capable of learning from its mistakes? I’m not sure I’ll get a definitive answer but I’ll keep asking.

This Brief is powered by Eni – After the summer break, we are back in full swing, more than ever motivated to help build a future where everyone can access affordable, sustainable and clean energy. Innovation is the key word – and Eni After 6 the place to discuss it.

The Roundup

“Brexit is a threat to…” + insert any topic and you will have a headline these days. But this one should be taken seriously: disruption to the European Emission Trading Scheme will shatter our chances of meeting climate change goals, writes think tank E3G.

Leaving aviation out of carbon pricing is inefficient and disastrous for the environment – an “overreaction” by the Commission, scared by industry bosses. But the discussion in the European Parliament may end this unsustainable VIP treatment, writes green transport advocate Andrew Murphy.

The EU has not learned its lesson from the Volkswagen scandal, says Green MEP Karima Delli. Electric cars are the future but we should not put all our eggs in one basket – read our interview here.

Scottish waves are breaking records for tidal power – and could supply half of Scotland’s energy needs. Perhaps independence supporters will go with the tide.

If water had a gender, it would be a “she”. Gender-sensitive water management has a positive effect on women’s participation in the community as well as on sanitation and health. So water may be a she, but the solution concerns us all, writes Bruno Tisserand after last week’s World Water Week.

“Equal pay for equal work in the same place”: the posted workers debate must tone down and broaden out, and France may have the answer according to Frederic De Wispelaere and Jozef Pacolet.

Ukraine is going for wholesale reforms but resistance to the fight on corruption and the ongoing crisis going on in Crimea risk holding it back. Ukrainian deputy PM tells us what’s at stake for Europe.

Moscovici called Europe’s handling of the Greek debt crisis “a scandal” for democracy – the Economic Affairs Commissioner seemingly weighing in against his own boss.

Europe is the elephant in the room in this German electoral campaign – despite Macron’s plan for a common eurozone budget and finance minister, which both need German support to take off. Instead, Merkel and Schulz clashed over Turkey and migration in an “awkward” televised debate.

If you were wondering where Nigel Farage went, he is campaigning for the far-right AfD in Berlin this Friday. Given his track record, this is probably good news for European anti-fascists everywhere.

Look out for…

A debate on European populism, extremism, and Euroscepticism – get that ANGST out on Tuesday 5 September at Brussel’s Planetarium.

Views are the author’s.

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