The first day of GLOBSEC 2023 heard from global leaders on topics related to overcoming global fragility.

A welcome address by GLOBSEC’s Founder and President Róbert Vass marked the official start of the 2023 GLOBSEC Forum in Bratislava, led by hosts Kimberly Dozier and Kevin Baron.

Róbert Vass highlighted that “there is an impressive representation in Bratislava, 63 countries including many world leaders, business leaders and distinguished journalists — together we can make a difference.

His speech touched upon many of the critical issues and crises that Europe and the world are currently facing, including the war in Ukraine and the country’s road to peace and reconstruction, future of democracy, cooperation in finance and health sectors, as well as the looming digital threats.

As an African proverb says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ We need the cooperation of the international community to go far,” underlined Róbert Vass.

Slovak President, Zuzana Čaputová’s opening remarks:

In her keynote speech, President Čaputová pointed out the exceptional unity and solidarity of Europe in all aspects of the war in Ukraine. More than a year in the war, “we are far more resilient than we expected and we are stronger than our opponents,” said the President in her address, stressing that, “every inch of NATO territory is and will be defended.”

In her speech, she also said we should enforce already existing legislation and be ready to strengthen it if needed to prevent the spreading of lies and propaganda. At the global level, we should press the owners of social media to control the content and take more responsibility.

Watch the full keynote speech below.

Strong Ukrainian messages in line with showing continuing support for Ukraine

Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, made it clear that “We will stand by you and when the war ends, Ukraine will be a member of the EU. […] There is no question on the accession of Ukraine. We are a candidate country. That’s the transformative power of Ukraine.”

Michal Šimečka, Vice-President of the European Parliament, remarked, “People say we shouldn’t have high expectations, but for Ukraine — the expectations are already there. [But] if the elections go the other way, there may be an overturn of EU policy and, therefore, of Ukraine accession.”

Katarína Mathernová, Deputy Director-General for Neigbourhood Policy and Enlargement, European Commission, highlighted the need for detailed integration plans: “We are missing talks on how to equip Ukraine after the reconstruction. We need to help Ukraine on the mass of projects needed after the war.”

Watch the full discussion below.

By building back a better Ukraine, we can build a better Europe. As Sergiy Boyev, Deputy Minister for Strategic Industries of Ukraine, stressed, the time for reconstruction has come: “Once you think it is time to start reconstruction, it is [already] too late.”

Special Envoy of France for Ukraine’s Relief and Reconstruction, Pierre Heilbronn, underlined that France has been contributing to the ongoing reconstruction efforts straight away: “In fact reconstruction is already happening in Ukraine. […] From day one, France provided the support for Ukraine [both] on the military and on the other side.”

Thierry Déau, Chief Executive Officer at Meridiam, called for private sector mobilization: “Reconstruction always takes longer than we believe. […] We need this blended finance approach. We need to focus on mobilizing private capital.

To conclude the discussion on the reconstruction of Ukraine, Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), pointed out, “Banking is not about running from the risk. […] We have to consider the civilian side more and more.”

Full panel available below.

Building resilience of Europe in the face of War

The Former President of the Republic of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, led the S3 ministers into a heated debate about European geopolitics.

Miroslav Wlachovsky, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, highlighted: ”What is the biggest room in the world? The room for improvement. […] Europe must move from player to player, and the Balkans are the prime example.”

Alexander Schallenberg, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria, said: “We became neutral very strictly in military terms — but not on values. Austria was never neutral and never will be. […] The war is a global matter. It’s a war but not [just] a European war.”

Jan Lipavský, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, pointed out: “We need to protect Europe from this evil idea of Russian imperialism. With every sanction package and legislation, we get closer. […] Russia is a threat to Czechia. Russia will present a threat to Europe’s security for many decades.”

Watch the full debate below.

At times of the Russian war in Ukraine, disinformation is strongly used by Putin’s regime to influence narratives and instrumentalize them with regards to the war. Kevin Baron from Defense One led the “Pesky Populists: Who’s Winning the Battle of Ideas?” discussion that illustrated that this war is not only a matter of military capacities.

I hate to say this, as I am a big defender of the freedom of speech. … But sometimes we mix up freedom of speech with the freedom to spread lies,” stated Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, Ingrida Simonyte.

President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, enhanced the caution about the rise of #populism in Europe, “We thought that by ignoring populism, it would go away. Today, it grew.”

Until 20 years ago, we used to operate in the real world, and we still regulate this. Today, we [also] operate in the virtual world … and the size of the real and virtual are different. The size of the virtual world can be problematic in influencing people,” said Eduard Heger, the former Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic.

For the full panel see below.

AI can be an opportunity for democracies in Europe and beyond to be more transparent, but it all depends on how it’s used. The “AI, Algorithms, and the Next Advance” panel focused on making technology strengthen democracy.

Robert Ivanschitz, Associate General Counsel, Corporate External Legal Affairs, Central Europe, Middle East & Africa at Microsoft, called for a joint action between the governments and Big Tech: “If we really create coalitions between companies, specialized NGOs and elected representatives, then we can act faster against cyberattacks.”

Michael Chertoff, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of The Chertoff Group, expressed his concern about possible digital threats on different levels, “AI can be an offensive and defensive tool. … Something that scares me is that somebody will let AI take life-death decisions.”

Richard Marko, Chief Executive Officer at ESET, stressed on a need for a strategic and empirical approach, “We need to see the fundamental problems and then the impact of using AI. […] AI needs to get rid of myths; it needs to get back to its roots and be researched at universities properly. That would help democracy and the inverse would hurt it.”

Watch the discussion below.

Mitigating Global Consequences of Conflict  in a Global Dialogue

Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, H.E. Paul Gallagher, reminded the audience today during his speech that fostering understanding and solidarity are crucial steps in resolving the Ukrainian conflict. Indeed, he stated, “Greater good cannot be achieved by one alone. We as human beings are all connected.”

While both diplomatic and military steps are essential to end the conflict in Ukraine, everyone underestimated Ukrainian capacities to use Western weapons.

In this latest panel at 2023 GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum, entitled “All Quiet on the Eastern Front: Helping Ukraine to Win the War,” State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Kostiantyn Vashchenko, reiterated that the territorial integrity of Ukraine is a necessity.

Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO, Gen (Ret) Philip Breedlove voiced his admiration of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ use of Western weaponry: “Ukrainians have overperformed in almost every case our expectations in training and using the weaponry we gave them well. The training and repairs by their technicians will be less of an issue than the West getting the logistics right.”

Jaroslav Nad’, Former Minister of Defense of Slovakia, echoed Breedlove’s sentiment that Crimea is Ukraine: “Crimea is the most important part of the ‘no Russian boots on the ground’ policy.” He also explained that Ukraine helped Slovakia during the Second World War, and asked the audience, “therefore, how could we refuse to help them?”

The full panel is available below.

In the discussion on making Russia accountable, all the panelists agreed existing legal measures provided by all international organizations can and should be used in a complimentary way to proceed with prosecution of Russia´s war criminals. The process is already well underway, evidence is getting summarized and can be used for trials.

Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine, concluded: “the ICC has a leading role in ending impunity for international crimes. I think we all agree that Putin´s arrest warrant is a historic decision, not only for Ukraine but for the global community.”

Watch the full discussion below.

About GLOBEC 2023

The 18th edition of GLOBSEC’s annual Bratislava Forum will take place from 29 – 31 May, to which a record number of regional and international politicians as well as renowned opinion leaders, have confirmed their attendance. The meeting will convene 1200 leaders from over 60 countries, including 11 heads of state and government from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and beyond.

The programme of the GLOBSEC 2023 Forum calls on leaders from the CEE region and beyond to address immediate needs regarding geopolitical cooperation and security issues while laying the groundwork for a more sustainable and resilient world. It also focuses on working toward solutions while enhancing public-private cooperation on the interconnected issues of energy, innovation, infrastructure, and health. The full agenda is available here.

The GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum is the preeminent international strategic conference on the frontlines of a newly divided world. Over the 18 years of its existence, the Forum has established itself as the most distinguished platform throughout the CEE region. This year it has been organized with help from the Czech and Austrian governments.


GLOBSEC is a global think-tank based in Bratislava committed to enhancing security, prosperity and sustainability in Europe and throughout the world. It is an independent, non-partisan, non-governmental organisation. With its presence in Bratislava, Brussels, Kyiv, Vienna, and Washington, GLOBSEC’s mission is to influence the future by generating new ideas and solutions for a better and safer world. To this goal contributes the annual GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum, one of the leading global security conferences. GLOBSEC also organises the annual GLOBSEC Tatra Summit, a conference that provides the opportunity for experts to have fruitful political discussions on the future of Europe.