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Bucharest Forum conference: 'East-West, Collision, Collusion or Co-operation?'

>>>Former French PM Villepin urges Europeans to 'reinvent and reorganise multipolarity'

By Edwig Ban
Bucharest Forum is an annual high-level event organized by the Aspen Institute Romania and the Bucharest office of the German Marshall Fund of the US. Since its inception in 2012, the mission of the Bucharest Forum is to create a regional platform for forward thinking on economic and security policies and for promoting political dialogue between governments and the civil society.
Bucharest Forum offers a unique opportunity for high level East-West conversation in a global transformative context. Specifically it facilitates an in-depth understanding of how the developments on the Eurasian nexus shape decisions for Europe and the Transatlantic link.
The seventh edition of the Bucharest Forum takes place between 8 – 10 October, 2018, at critical times for the region and Europe.
The current international context is in flux, as on both shores of the Atlantic national politics is driven by new agendas and discourses, imprinting a consequent dynamics to international relations, and affecting economic trends at national, regional and international levels. Brought to the fore by grievances of a plurality of citizens who feel left out of mainstream politics and economy, the new political trend and its economic philosophy are generating antagonistic approaches and actions of various actors, leading to numerous clashes of interest, intention and outcomes. Indeed, the main feature of the current context is the numerous clashes being either in incubation phase or out in the open.
On the first day of the event, former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin warned that Europe is about to disappear from the globe as a major actor.
Villepin, considered by some to be a visionary while criticised by others, highlighted the challenges currently facing the world, which, he argued, is characterised by 'disorganised multipolarity' - namely division, risk of confrontation and marginalisation.
Europe, said Villepin, is divided into issues such as Brexit, the issue of separatism in Catalonia, and 'illiberal' democracies. I do not think that the situation in Romania has to do with that in Hungary and Poland, Dominique de Villepin said in this context, referencing the controversial regimes in place in these countries.
The risk of confrontation is very high at present, the French diplomat warned, pointing to a so-called 'historical switch,' namely the assertion of one power simultaneously with the decline of another, a situation that has repeatedly led to historical warships. China - in full swing - is now an enemy to the US, exemplified Villepin, mentioning the political and economic steps of the US administration in relation to Beijing.
But the real battle today in the technology sphere, noted Villepin, mentioning in this context the Chinese project 'Made in China 2025' for the development of the high-tech sector, seen as a threat by other countries, especially the US.
Against this backdrop, Europe is now facing a specific risk of marginalisation, which can bring it to the situation of having no say, of not being able to take the initiative and of remaining in the defensive, added the French diplomat, who reproaches liberal democracies their inability to act against Euroscepticism and resonate with the public opinion.
The former French prime minister urges Europeans to 'reinvent and reorganise multipolarity,' which, he argues, can be achieved, first of all by recognising the denial of reality in recent years, including the fact that a rising country like China cannot be ignored, as Europe needs it as a partner and also the importance of emerging countries such as Africa or BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
Likewise, Villepin said, to find its voice in the current context, Europe must regain a continent of innovation, including in the sense of political and diplomatic initiatives. The French diplomat mentioned to the point a deficient representation of Europe in the UN Security Council and the need to improve the veto mechanism at the United Nations, also advocating for a return to 'project diplomacy', again giving the example of China.
Imagination, generosity, pragmatism and the power of personal example are, in Dominique de Villepin's view, essential in solving the migration problem as well as in relations with the illiberal regimes and with China.
Romania is important in my heart and every visit to Bucharest is an emotional moment, confessed Dominique de Villepin, who mentioned in his speech the role played in the European culture by names such as Mihai Eminescu, Gherasim Luca and Paul Celan. The survival of Europe is in our hearts, said the French diplomat.
Bucharest Forum brings together prominent politicians, thinkers, journalists and business representatives for three days in the capital of Romania, providing a platform for different actors to meet and discuss their interests, approaches and goals, and to analyse potential and existing conflicts while seeking ways to maximise the benefits that divergent visions can bring, and minimising their negative impact.

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