12th Annual Conference of the German-Nordic-Baltic Forum
Download Discussion Paper
“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.