Organized by: Aspen Institute Romania

Main Partners: Aerostar, Alliance Healthcare, Google 

Knowledge Partner: Kearney

International Partners: Aspen Institute Kyiv, Aspen Institute Central Europe

Supporting organizations: Economist Impact Events, AmCham       

Media Partners: Emerging Europe

Institutional Partner: Committee for Budget, Finance and Banks, Chamber of Deputies of Romania

Aspen Institute Romania will organize the roundtable conference „Rising Europe – A New Center of Gravity: A Fresh Outlook on Southeastern, Central and Eastern Europe”, to be held under the aegis of the Bucharest Forum – A New European Architecture Program, on May 25-26, in Bucharest.

For the foreseeable future, the world will cross turbulent times, marked by economic uncertainty and security threats. The post-war equilibrium has been broken, and a broader rearrangement has to emerge, that will, ideally, build a stronger Europe with strong transatlantic links. It is not only the trans-Atlantic space that is transforming, but indeed the entire world is in need, and search, of a new realignment. For Europe to maintain and even grow its strength, based on commonly shared values and principles, a conversation about its new architecture needs to start now. A conversation that this time around, will include countries of Central, South-Eastern and Eastern Europe as serious players and full stakeholders.

As part of its commitment to offer a platform for reflections and conversations on A New European Architecture, Aspen Institute Romania (AIR) is organizing a deep reflection exercise on Central, South Eastern and Eastern Europe – New Center of Gravity. The exercise will comprise a round table conversation and a scenario-building exercise, to be held on May 25, 26 respectively. The round table will bring together strategists, officials and businesspeople around the issues of security, business and economic development in Central, South Eastern and Eastern Europe, and the region’s influence in and importance for EU’s geopolitical and economic ambitions. The scenario building exercise, to follow the round table, will help develop and analyze possible mid-term scenarios for the region, their implications and consequent actions needed to further regional potential.



Thursday, May 25

10:00 – 10:10 Introduction

  • Teddy Dumitrescu, Acting President, Aspen Institute Romania

10:10 – 10:20 Keynote Speech

  • Mircea Geoană, Deputy Secretary General, NATO; Founding President, Aspen Institute Romania (online)

10:20 – 11:30 Attaining and protecting peace

The war in Ukraine revealed, yet again, security vulnerabilities on countries on the Eastern flank, and indeed of Europe. At the same time, intensified rearmament of the countries in the Western Balkans raises concerns about a new conflict in the region. Both Eastern flank and Western Balkans need to be part of a European security arrangement that increases each country’s defense capabilities, while minimizing, or best avoiding, the risk of a new war. Serious investments in modernization of weaponry and rearmament, a more strategic approach to local defense industries need to be doubled by intensified efforts to mitigate conflicts and avoid escalation. As part of a larger European conversation, protecting peace on the Eastern flank and in Western Balkans has become a priority.

  • Iulian Fota, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Romania
  • Simona Cojocaru, State Secretary, Ministry of Defense, Romania
  • Yevgeniya Gaber, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council in Turkey
  • Vuk Vuksanovic, Senior Researcher, The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  • Denis Cenușa, Affiliated Expert, The Expert-Grup, Republic of Moldova, Associate analyst, Eastern European Studies Centre, Lithuania
  • Zsuzsanna Végh, Visiting Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Berlin Office

Moderator: Alina Inayeh, Advisor to the President, German Marshall Fund of the US

11:30 – 11:40  Coffee Break

11:40 – 12:50  Financing development in the region

Over the past decades the financial sectors and markets in the region have been subject to major structural reforms including privatization, liberalization, and acquisition by foreign banks. While still lagging behind the rest of Europe, a large unexploited potential still exists. The region is host to an impressive number of successful start-ups, and capital markets for their financial needs are slowly developing. The end of the war and Ukraine’s reconstruction will bring new impetus to these markets, also subject to international developments in the financial sector.

  • Cameron Munter, Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations, CEVRO Institute in Prague, Former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan and to Serbia
  • Matteo Ferrazzi, Senior Economist, European Investment Bank
  • Radu Ciocoiu, Executive Director, Regional Corporate and Public Sector, Raiffeisen Bank Romania
  • Ionuț Stanimir, Director of Marketing & Communication, BCR

Moderator: Casandra Halip, Consultant, Kearney

12:50 – 13:30  Lunch Break

13:30 – 14:50  Decoupling and connecting – infrastructure, digital, energy

The war in Ukraine has provided the momentum for investing in regional infrastructure that will allow for the increased flow of goods, including pharmaceuticals, and services. Improved digitalization within each of the countries in the region, as well as better digital connections between them has become an important milestone in their economic advancement. This is why the Three Seas Initiative’s digital pillar emphasizes investments in digital infrastructure and advanced technologies (AI, Cloud). Finally, in the quest for energy from sources other than Russia, better energy connections will allow for a better distribution of resources currently available or in the course of being developed.  

  • Claudiu Staicu, General Director, Intermediary Body for Transport, Ministry of Transport of Romania
  • Joanna Zasuń, Director of International Relations Department, Central Transport Hub for the Republic of Poland – CPK
  • Darko Trifunovic, Director, Institute for National and International Security (online)
  • Iulian Trandafir, CEO, Alliance Healthcare
  • Joan Barata, Senior Legal Fellow, Future of Free Speech Justitia

Moderator: Radu Puchiu, Director, Aspen Technology & Society Program

14:50- 15:00 Coffee Break

15:00 – 16:20  A New European Architecture – in partnership with The Economist Impact Events

The EU must seize the moment to bring Western Balkans and Eastern Europe closer, in order to stabilize both regions and counter the influence of Russia and China. The EU offered candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and accession talks are underway with Montenegro and Serbia. The accession process will be tedious and lengthy.  Moldova and Ukraine will have to adapt to EU’s norms and regulations, the EU will also have to identify solutions to incorporate the two with the least disturbances to its policies, processes, and economies. Countries of Wester Balkans are still navigating internal controversies and geo-political hesitations, yet the desire of their populations to be part of Europe remains the guiding compass. In the lead to full accession, new political arrangements are offered to the entire region, to ensure their inclusion in European politics.

  • Ihor Prokopchuk, Ambassador of Ukraine to Romania
  • Hugues Moret, Special Envoy for the European Political Community, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France
  • Adam Balcer, Program Director, Collegium of Eastern Europe Jan Nowak-Jeziorański
  • Daniel Hegedüs, Senior Fellow & Senior Program Officer, German Marshall Fund of the United States Brussels office
  • Mamuka Tsikhelashvili, Research Fellow, Levan Mikeladze Diplomatic Training and Research Institute

Moderator: Joan Hoey, Analyst Central and Southeast Europe, The Economist London

Friday, May 26 – Scenario Building Exercise, in collaboration with KEARNEY – By invitation only –