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12th Annual Conference of the German-Nordic-Baltic Forum

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“2020 as a stress test for the European Union: Challenges in times of the Covid-19 Pandemic”

COVID-19 has severely shaken the European Union (EU). How can the EU gain more autonomy in an ever-changing world order, especially when it comes to inter­na­tional supply chains and health security? To what extent can EU member states reconcile national sover­eignty and the pursuit of multi­lat­er­alism? How can a liberal market economy be recon­ciled with greater European economic autonomy? What does European resilience mean and what concrete measures does the EU need to take to strengthen it? How can the EU’s green objec­tives still be achieved in times of pandemic? In light of these questions, the twelfth German-Nordic-Baltic Forum (GNBF) was held in cooper­ation with the Finnish Institute of Inter­na­tional Affairs (FIIA) during the fall of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic not only affected the choice of topics, but also the format of the forum. Under the heading “2020 as a Stress Test for the European Union: Challenges in Times of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, more than 40 experts from politics, ministries and admin­is­tration (so called “Planners”) as well as experts from relevant research insti­tu­tions, think tanks and univer­sities (so called “Thinkers”) from the partic­i­pating countries discussed current European issues in the shadow of the pandemic. The focus was on regional challenges in politics, economy and society, but also and above all on possible forms of cooper­ation in Europe while also consid­ering the respective national perspec­tives. The dialogue between Planners and Thinkers made it possible to sharpen the under­standing of the respective positions and views, to commu­nicate German European policy and to develop possible common strategies.

The 12th GNBF thus continued the successful tradition of a multi­lateral exchange even if it had to be shifted entirely into virtual space. To this end, it was struc­tured into three distinct events on 27 and 28 October 2020 and 2 December 2020.

The Forum was opened on 27 October 2020 by two public speeches by the Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppu­rainen and the German Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office Michael Roth, followed by a debate with more than 100 young scien­tists, students, and thinkers and planners.

On 28 October 2020, a total of 30 Thinkers came together in a “Thinkers brain­storm” for partic­u­larly intensive discus­sions in three different parallel virtual working groups. After the opening by Mr. Sebastian Groth, Head of the Planning Staff at the German Foreign Office, and his counterpart in Finland, Ms. Sini Paukkunen, the partic­i­pants discussed four current and highly relevant topics that had also been addressed during the opening discussion the previous day: The European Green Deal; the EU and multi­lat­er­alism; the EU’s resilience and its economic recon­struction through the Next Gener­ation EU program. In doing so, they agreed on a list of relevant and concrete challenges for the future of the EU in the stress-test-Corona year 2020.

On 2 December 2020, 24 Thinkers and 24 Planners met digitally to discuss again in a solution-oriented manner the four topics in four parallel virtual sessions. Short input state­ments from repre­sen­ta­tives of the planning staffs and ministries of the partic­i­pating countries were a source of inspi­ration during this final event.

The debates on the four cross-cutting topics provided the basis for the elabo­ration of specific policy recom­men­da­tions, which were written down in detail in a discussion paper that was contin­u­ously revised by IEP and FIIA during the forum.

We express our sincere thanks to all the moder­ators, discus­sants and other partic­i­pants who made the Forum 2020 a (digital) success despite the difficult initial situation caused by the pandemic. We would also like to express our special thanks to our cooper­ation partner, the Finnish Institute of Inter­na­tional Affairs, our digital host, the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Prospectum agency, the German Foreign Office, the German Embassy in Helsinki and all other partic­i­pating ambassadors.

The discussion paper of the 12th German-Nordic-Baltic Forum, which presents the results of the discus­sions, can be found here. A German trans­lation of the discussion paper will be published in the integration shortly.