The 2021 Bucharest Forum edition marks a double anniversary: ​​10 years since the organization of the first Bucharest Forum and 15 years since the establishment of the Aspen Institute Romania.

The 10th edition of the Bucharest Forum is scheduled for December 9 – 10, 2021, in a hybrid format. We are delighted to announce that the event will be held under the High Patronage of the President of Romania.

Bucharest Forum is an annual high-level event organized by Aspen Institute Romania and the German Marshall Fund of the US, Bucharest office. Launched in 2012, the mission of the Bucharest Forum is to create a multi-regional platform for innovative, forward-looking thinking on economic and security policies, and for promoting an action-oriented dialogue between governments, private sector and civil society.

Event Description  

While geo-economic politics has always been about power and who has it, never before in the last decades has this been at the backbone of international relations and development. Events of the recent years deepened the rifts between West and East, as well as within these, and the need and fight for power became the main rationale of actions and decisions. Technological developments, natural disasters as well as societal transformations tend to be exploited and analyzed in this key, drawing a picture of continuous confrontation at times with uncertain outcomes.

Yet common threats and opportunities, from the SARS-COV-2 pandemic to technological breakthroughs, should push strategists and officials to look beyond the short term, and design strategies that look at enduring and long-lasting effects. Will these determine a new rules-based international order, as some hope for and predict, or will systemic rivalry endure, and remain the backbone of future developments? The race for power between continents, countries and within societies and even between individuals can either be the engine of common progress, should synergies be accounted for, or the rationale for continuous conflicts, at all levels and in different realms of life.

This edition of the Bucharest Forum invites to a deep and long-term look into the implications and effects of this power struggle in technology, security, economy and human and societal values. Experienced officials and reputable strategists will discuss current developments and future alternative strategies to advance, or at least contain threats to, progress and development.

In particular, the event will address the twin digital and green revolutions which will determine the winners and losers of the current geopolitical competition. Economic models around the world will have to cater to ambitious climate goals in order to remain competitive and sustainable, and only those states and societies able to adapt to this new paradigm will be successful and influential on the world stage. At the same time, the digital transition and technological innovations are reshaping industries and disrupting existing businesses and operating models. The future belongs to those able to integrate in their economic models new trends in the fields of automation, AI, data exchange and e-governance solutions. Bucharest Forum will debate long-term opportunities and challenges for policymakers, business leaders, and citizens alike in the context of the digital and green revolutions.

Another crucial topic will be resilience, which has become the new keyword of the post-pandemic world. The event will analyze methods of improving the resilience of democratic societies in the face of a variety of military and non-military shocks, such as hybrid attacks using cyber and disinformation as tactics, pandemics, and natural disasters. Cooperation between and within states and societies is critical in dealing with such a variety of threats more efficiently.

Over the course of the annual editions organized so far, Bucharest Forum reunited a variety of speakers, high-level officials, international experts and journalists, high ranking private sector representatives as well as members of the civil society and research and academia areas, from Romania and the region, but also from the EU member states, United States of America, Canada, Asia, Africa, fulfilling its mission of building a truly international platform of reflection and dialogue.



Day 1. – Thursday 9 December

10.00 – 10.15 EET Introductory remarks

10.15 – 10.45 EET Opening

10.45 – 11.35 EET Panel 1: NATO Strategic Concept

Many argue the COVID_19 pandemic has brought closer a Big Reset that is needed to bring economies, societies and international relations in line with the new realities. Even those who do not adhere to this proposition agree with fundamental changes in the global environment, and to the need to adapt to the present as well as to the future. As the most important political and security organization NATO is looking both inwards and outwards to redesign its role and invigorate its vision, in the midst of external transformations and internal challenges. The panel will discuss this process, in correlation with similar and, hopefully, convergent processes of other major organizations (the European Union first and foremost). 

11.35 – 11.45 EET Coffee Break

11.45 – 12.30 EET Panel 2: Conservatism, Nationalism and Fundamentalism in Modern Societies

12.30 – 13.00 EET Power Conversation with Steven van Groningen, President & CEO, Raiffeisen Bank, moderated by Clara Volintiru, Director, Aspen New Economy and Society Program

Steven van Groningen, President & CEO of Raiffeisen Bank is known for his extensive expertise on the Central and Eastern Europe banking sector. He has been married to a Romanian Olympian since 1986 and has lived in Romania for more than 20 years, contributing to its civil society and expressing his appreciation for the country and its people. The conversation will focus on both the progress of the Romanian banking sector and economy in the years Mr. van Groningen has been active in the country, as well as on perspectives for the future, looking at what needs to be done to make sure Romania capitalizes on existing opportunities in the new economy.

13.00 – 13.30 EET Power conversation with Mariana Mazzucato on the New Economic Model – What Future for Capitalism?, moderated by Kim Dozier, Global Affairs Analyst, CNN (TBC)

13.30 – 14.30 EET Lunch Break

14.30 – 15.30 EET Panel 3 TBC

15.30 – 15.45 EET Coffee Break

15.45 – 16.30 EET Panel 4: Trade and Financial Markets

Both international trade and international financial markets have been severely disrupted by the pandemic, which affected supply and demand conditions as well as productivity. At the same time, the new economic model across the world will be fundamentally linked to the climate economy, and both public and private stakeholders can contribute to and benefit from the new financial instruments aimed at the massive investments required for a greener economy. The panel will discuss the latest evolutions as well as the outlook for the recovery of international trade and financial markets, while also looking at new developments brought by the emphasis on climate goals. At the same time, discussions will also analyze the resilience of the international trade and finance, looking at issues such as disruptions in supply chains disruption how to address them.

16.30 – 16.45 EET Coffee Break

16.45 – 17.30 EET Panel 5: Technology, AI, and Innovation

Technological innovations are reshaping industries and disrupting existing businesses and operating models. Technology has a powerful impact on citizens, shaping societies and presenting a series of opportunities and challenges for policymakers and businesses. The panel will analyze the impact of technology (including AI, automation and robotics) on the public sector and businesses, looking at how the digital transformation can facilitate both economic growth and social benefits. Challenges posed by new technologies will also be discussed, looking in particular at improving resilience in the context of technology-related threats.

Day 2. – Friday 10 December

10.00 – 10.20 EET – Introductory remarks

10.20 – 11.15 EET Panel 1: Democracy and Resilience

Societal developments in the trans-Atlantic space over the past few years have fueled movements and schools of thought that go against democratic principles and values, both philosophically and policy wise. Although present, visible and vociferous in all countries in this space, some societies prove more resilient in the face of autocratic and/or nationalistic tendencies than others. The panel will look at both these tendencies and the aspects of political, economic and social spheres that render some countries more stamina against anti-democratic endeavors.  

11.15 – 11.30 EET Introductory remarks

11.30 – 12.30 EET Panel 2: Building resilience in the Eastern neighborhood – in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania

The upcoming Eastern Partnership summit invites at further reflection upon EU’s relations with its partners in the East. The investment in governance, economy, security, people to people contacts in both the multilateral and the bilateral dimensions of the Partnership supports the reform efforts of those partners that are willing and able to deepen the ties with the Union. Since the adoption of the EU Global Strategy, the paradigm of institution building shifted rather to supporting the resilience of Union’s partners. The endeavor of strengthening resilience is challenged – in varying degrees – in the case of some Eastern partners that have to cope with protracted conflicts. In such a rather complex context, both the EU and its Eastern partners have to work towards strengthening some of the key elements of resilience: social trust, legitimacy of governance actors and effective design of governance institutions. The panel will analyze the challenges to strengthening the resilience of the partners in the East, while seeking to identify those measures that exists or could be built in the context of the Eastern Partnership, as well as with the support of other third actors, such as NATO.

12.30 – 12.45 EET Coffee break

12.45 – 13.30 EET: Panel 3 (parallel): Healthcare Systems’ Sustainability in Pandemic Times

The SARS-COV-2 pandemic has proved that healthcare systems across the world need to increase their sustainability in order to be able to rapidly respond to a wide variety of threats. To do so, improvements are needed in terms of: responsible public health policies; financing the healthcare system with a focus on financing prevention and innovation; as well as securing uninterrupted access to medical services to all categories of patients, including chronic patients. The panel will discuss possible measures to be taken in Romania and abroad in order to increase the resilience of health systems and their ability to with cope with extended pandemics.

12.45 – 13.30 EET: Panel 4 (parallel): Energy, Climate Change and the New Climate Economy

In Europe and, increasingly, around the globe, economic models have to cater to climate goals, signaling the transition to a green, sustainable paradigm as well as a shift towards new means of production and consumption. This provides significant opportunities but also poses important challenges to the public and private sectors alike. New financing tools and methods are being developed to support reforms that are necessary in the green transition and to finance innovative ways of producing energy, as well as economic sectors connected to the transition. In Europe, the Green Deal and the ambitious set of policy initiatives initiated in recent years will bring the rapid change of the energy sector, and there will be both winners and losers of this transition.  To capitalize on new opportunities, fully developed industrial and energy sector national strategies are required. Discussions will focus on ways in which economic models in Romania, Europe and globally can adapt to the transition while mitigating the risks associated with such a major shift.

13.30 – 14.15 EET Lunch

14.15 – 15.00 EET Panel 5 (parallel): Hybrid and Cyber Threats, Disinformation

Many argue we are at war. A war that is conducted not militarily, in the classical operation theaters, but through many other methods meant to weaken the cohesion of the trans-Atlantic and European space, and the strength of each country individually. A war that alters economies, armies, as well as the hearts and minds of citizens. While we know our opponents, as well as almost all of their tactics and methods, we seem not to be prepared, or willing, enough to device and employ methods to better resist and counter these attacks. The panel will discuss the extent of current threats as well as potential counter measures and obstacles that stand in the way of their implementation.  

14.15 – 15.00 EET Panel 6 (parallel): Future of Europe – Defense and Politics

The European Union is, once again, in a process of reinventing itself, strengthening its political and economic role internationally. Internal adjustments are needed to achieve this, in economic, security and societal sphere. While there are many conversations on European defense, a possible (or impossible) European army, there are only a few on the need for a new social contract and a new economic model. The European Commission has started a new strategy, developing an European Compass that will, many hope, help see, choose and follow the way forward, in parallel with a citizen-led (or so it is described) process of looking at the Future of Europe. The panel will discuss these efforts, in the context of non-linear developments in technology, society and international relations, among others.   

15.00 – 15.15 EET Coffee Break

15.15 – 16.00 EET Panel 7: Strategic competition in the Southwest Pacific Area

When discussing the state of international relations and the global balance of power, President Joe Biden’s administration has increasingly been referring to “strategic competition”, as opposed to President Trump’s “great power competition”. While the concept is still not fully developed, what is clear is that relations between the US and its regional Pacific allies, on the one hand, and China, on the other, are still marked by mistrust. This is the case in terms of both political and economic relations, while territorial disputes and military tensions are a constant reality. The panel asks what the future of competition in the Southwest Pacific Area will look like, while also looking at the role of other regional powers which have an interest in checking Chinese power, such as India.

16.10 – 16.50 EET High – Level Conversation with Keith Krach, Chairman, Purdue Center for Tech Diplomacy, Former U.S. Under Secretary of State; CEO, DocuSign & Ariba

17.00 – 17.45 EET Panel 8: Launching the Aspen Romanian Global Innovation Network (TBC)

For a structural change of the Romanian economy towards producing more added value, Romanian start-ups and SMEs must focus on innovative services and products. While many Romanians proved to be energetic innovators, much of this talent has gone abroad in search of more lucrative opportunities. Aspen Institute Romania seeks to connect Romanian innovation champions living abroad and willing to offer strategic guidance and support, to local entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders, in order to help shape the next generation of leaders in innovation in the country. This panel seeks to analyze ways in which the newly launched Aspen Romanian Global Innovation Network can support this process and create a community of Romanian innovators.