20. October 2015

On November 9-10, 2015, FutureLab Europe participants Michał Gulczyński (Poland), Doris Manu (Romania), Zuzana Novakova (Slovakia), Linda Öhman (Finland/Germany) and Anja Aune Selmer (Norway) conveyed to Berlin to take part in the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum 2015.

Every year an international group of 200 eminent politicians, government representatives, experts and journalists gather on the occasion of the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum to discuss some of the most pressing German and European foreign policy issues. Like every year, FutureLabbers joined this remarkable crowd and added the voice of young Europeans to a debate traditionally dominated by older generations.

This year’s Forum focused primarily on Germany, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. More specifically, the Forum debated answers to the following questions: How can Europe develop a joint approach to dealing with refugees? How can we prevent relations between Russia and Europe from further deteriorating? What are the chances of a new regional order developing in the Middle East? Which opportunities could help diffuse the tense security situation in Asia?

Highlights of the programme included a keynote speech by the GermanFederal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and panel discussions including Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Sweden and Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister of Ukraine and current leader of All-Ukrainian Union “Fatherland”.

FutureLabbers reported from the Forum and shared their insight and opinions on the discussions that took place in Berlin on the FutureLab Europe blog:

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is in trouble. Out of the six member countries, five have contested borders, while the sixth is run by dictator. The EaP is no longer on the short list of priorities of the European Union and in this time of multiple crises – Greece, refugees, terrorist attacks, the coming referendum on Brexit or consistently growing nationalism, confirmed in the recent elections in Poland and France – it has almost completely disappeared from European media. Moreover, the initiators and most ardent supporters, Carl Bildt and Radek Sikorski, are now absent from European politics. In this situation, is there any future for EaP?

With the refugee crisis being the major preoccupation and challenge in Europe this year, it is no wonder that a great part of the 2015 Berlin Foreign Policy Forum (BFPF) was dedicated to discussions about the future of the Middle East, Syria in particular, and about the refugees themselves.

This time two years ago, protesters occupied Kiev’s centre in dramatic style. 21 months ago Russia’s parliament approved the use of force in Ukraine to protect Russian interests, followed by the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of a hybrid war in Eastern Ukraine. Now, 8000 dead and 1.5 million displaced victims later, the situation in Ukraine is no longer in the spotlight. Slowly but surely it has faded away from the front pages; no longer did it get much attention at this year’s edition of Berlin Foreign Policy Forum. In a world of competing issues, everyone’s attention span is limited.

World politics is becoming increasingly tangible to Europeans. Recent events such as the war in Ukraine, deteriorating relations with Russia, as well as the migration wave to Europe bring foreign affairs – and especially conflicts – closer to home. These events not only take place in Europe and its immediate vicinity, but are also increasingly intertwined, succeeding one another at an ever higher pace. Their complexity and the uncertainty brought with it makes foreign affairs more challenging to grasp, but also increases the need for a basic understanding of foreign policy and foreign policymaking.

China`s recent rise and development have caused tensions. Economic and military advancement never pass by unnoticed, especially not when it is a matter of balancing power on the Asian continent. With increasingly evident military capabilities, there is no wonder that neighbouring countries desiring to maintain their importance are concerned about China`s growing military power. The question remains, however, if such fears are grounded in reality.