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Address at the Opening of the 6th Bled Strategic Forum

Bled, 9.9.2011  |  speech

Address by the Guest of Honour, Dr Danilo Türk, President of the Republic of Slovenia, at the Opening of the 6th Bled Strategic Forum entitled "The Power of the Future"
Bled, 9 September 2011

President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk, attended the Opening of the 6th Bled Strategic Forum and addressed the participants as the Guest of Honour (photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA)Thank you, our guests, friends of the Bled Strategic Forum for coming to Bled this year again. I hope that you will have a useful and enjoyable exchange of views and a discussion on a subject, which is keeping our minds busy continuously. Power obviously is a central concept in international relations and in politics more generally. In a forum like this we usually say that intellectual honesty and imagination are both needed in discussing any subject under discussion. That applies to the concept of power as well. This is something, which we have to discuss in its entirety and look at those aspects of power, which perhaps are neglected today, in order to figure out, what the future holds, to the extend we can, and also to figure out, which directions of politics and policy-making are necessary in a world like ours today.

Let me share with you some thoughts of my own. Power is a very demanding concept, something that can be discussed – as all fundamentals of human existence – in terms of duality. We all know about the famous inaugural speech by Sir Isaiah Berlin in 1958 at Oxford, at which he developed the famous two concepts of liberty. He explained that liberty can be discussed, can be seen and defined as negative liberty or negative freedom, which essentially protects human person or any other agent of liberty from foreign interference and from force, and positive liberty, liberty that gives the holder of liberty a capacity to strive for something good, to control himself and to define his choices in policy-making in the way the society, in which he lives, is organised and in which it functions.

This duality is something worthy of reflection every time we have something demanding to discuss. Let me give another example, which perhaps brings us a little closer to the subject of our discussion during this forum, and that is the concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty can also be discussed in terms of duality and indeed it has been discussed in that way. In the period after World War II for the most of the time sovereignty was primarily seen as freedom, – freedom from coercion, freedom from interference – and was seen as something worthy of protection. Subsequently, towards the end of the century another interpretation came to the fore, sovereignty as a responsibility. Again, similar to positive freedom, what is sovereignty there for? It is there to serve citizens, to protect citizens. The responsibility to protect had a great deal to do with the dual concept of sovereignty.

President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk, attended the Opening of the 6th Bled Strategic Forum and addressed the participants as the Guest of Honour (photo: Stanko Gruden/STA)When we talk about the power, obviously the duality comes to mind immediately, because the traditional distinction between hard power and soft power is pervasive, it's omnipresent, it was the first thing mentioned at the very opening of this forum today in a wide variety of ways. But then, if we look at the concept of soft power more clearly and with more sense of detail, we can see that there too we can discover a duality. We can certainly talk about external soft power – power, which is capable of being projected internationally and which exerts influence of the holder of the power. Let us just think about the power of culture, power of ideas, power of communications, power of messages coming from civil society. These are all elements of soft power, which are nowadays projected internationally and have huge influence on the way the international society functions.

But that's not all. There is an internal dimension of soft power. I suggest that we pay particular attention to that dimension today. The world is finding itself in a situation, in which no clear solutions are yet discernible and the search continues. Solutions are not offered and they are not even articulated. Therefore, thinking about the changes within societies, within those societies, which can be properly discussed or defined as holders of power, is something we need to focus on.

Just take a quick look. In the United States the very lively political debate nowadays clearly demonstrates the extent of a search for solutions to very serious problems of economics and politics. In China the rapid growth in the past decades has brought to the fore very serious questions of social cohesion and transformation of society towards a consumer society, the question of management of these changes. All that has to do to a great extend with soft power within the country. In Russia we can see a strong quest for modernisation, which reaches far beyond the technological aspect of modernisation, which reaches to the realm of law, changes in society and all other aspects of social reality, which can be defined as related or perhaps fundamental to soft power within a country.

President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk, attended the Opening of the 6th Bled Strategic Forum and addressed the participants as the Guest of Honour (photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA)And finally, European Union. European Union today is perceived as a large system, which finds itself in a serious discussion. The discussion has to do with the financial issues primarily, but also with political issues, which are fundamental to the search and success in finding the solutions to financial problems. How does that work in Europe today? If one reads newspapers in any European country, one can clearly see that there is a discussion on fiscal discipline, budgetary balance, financial stability and other requirements, which are needed for stability, which are needed for European Union to retain and develop its power, which is largely soft power, and to be able to project that power internationally. But then, very often the conclusion of those who suggest changes and who talk about institutional and legal arrangements necessary for the change, relate to international arrangements, the need for new treaties, the need for new sanctions, the need for new institutions within the European Union.

This is probably all necessary, but far from being sufficient and not necessarily the most important. The most important aspect of change, which Europe needs today, will have to come from within. The talk about financial stability, budgetary balance, reduction of public debt and other practical questions of today, all these questions will find their solution only to the extent and at the time, when the people of European countries accept the need, perhaps the inevitability of change. Therefore, change has to come from within. Change always comes from within. In a very dramatic sense we have seen this recently in the Arab world. Change has come from within and change has been dramatic.

In the European Union, obviously, we expect change of a different nature. But again, the change will come from within and it will have to do with internal soft power, with a soft power of civil societies, with the soft power of political ideas and, above all, the sense of responsibility, which requires for the European Union countries, each of them individually and each society within those countries individually, to be serious and seriously attached to such fundamentals of necessary success for the future as financial stability, budgetary balance and reduction of public debt. To the extent that this change can be generated from below and can be accepted by the people, the European Union can expect and hope for its future role internationally, it can hope to be able to organise its internal power, its positive freedom for a good choice and to be a force for good at the international level.

President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Danilo Türk, attended the Opening of the 6th Bled Strategic Forum and addressed the participants as the Guest of Honour (photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA)This may all sound somewhat abstract, somewhat perhaps esoteric. Nevertheless, politically speaking, this is fundamental and the governments will have to think about the reality of this fundamental requirement very seriously and very carefully in the months to come. I hope that the Bled Strategic Forum will be able to elucidate some of the questions that I have addressed and I hope that on that basis we will be able to derive from your views, from your thoughts, from your contributions some useful ideas and perhaps recommendations for policy-making in the future.

I wish you every success in your work. I am sure that this Bled Strategic Forum will, as its predecessors have done in the past, contribute significant thoughts for our work and I wish that you will enjoy the environment of Bled for creative purposes, for the soft power, which we need, and also that you will come back. Continuity is yet another aspect of soft power. Let us not forget that. I wish you every success and a good stay at Bled. Thank you very much.
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