The Model Conference 2023 took place on April 4th, at the Auditorium of the University of Economics in Bratislava. Organized by students in the final year of their Master’s degree in International Relations, the conference’s main topic was international conflicts as a threat in the 21st century. Among war in Ukraine, disinformation, and the pandemic, the world needs diplomacy today more than ever; this reflected the salient points by Ferdinand Daňo, rector, and Rudolf Kucharčík, dean of the Faculty of International Relations at the University of Economics of Bratislava, as well as by Kristína Baculáková (project coordinator), and Linda Anna Rusnáková (chairwoman of the Model Conference 2023). The importance of diplomacy was also praised by the State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ingrid Brocková, who stressed Slovakia’s commitment to helping its neighbor Ukraine. The Russian war had systemic consequences impossible to ignore.
Economic, humanitarian, and political costs cascaded on Slovakia since the beginning of the aggression. Bratislava staunchly supports the accession of Kyiv to the EU and wants to make sure that the Russian Federation’s leaders will be held accountable for their crimes, eventually. Furthermore, Slovakia unconditionally welcomed and welcomes Ukrainian refugees. Indebtedness, financial insecurity, and hunger do not only affect just Ukraine. This means that the war goes far beyond Eastern Europe. The aggression triggered the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, with 8 million people fleeing, Brocková underlined, and 4 million internally displaced people. 18 million (40 percent of the Ukrainian population) need humanitarian aid. Showing “compassion and solidarity”, the UN and EU, Brocková insisted, must continue to actively support the Ukrainian people and institutions.
Martin Nesirky, Director of UNIS Vienna, remembered the audience that yesterday was International Mine Awareness Day. Mines are threat to the civilian population and a barrier to social and economic development worldwide. A problem connected, the arrival of humanitarian aid in crisis locations, such as Eastern Ukraine. Removing deadly weapons, supporting national authorities, and ensuring safe access to schools and hospitals, is a priority for the UN, Nesirky warned. And quoting Nelson Mandela, he recalled that human rights must be preserved for anyone: they are the pillars of human dignity. Armed conflict threatens human rights and the UN 2030 Global Agenda’s goals. Keeping standing up for human rights – by for instance tackling rampant disinformation and misinformation in any possible fora – is connected to peace and prosperity worldwide.
Later on, the Model Conference 2023 unfolded in two sections. The first one dealt with politics and approached the current social, political, and military situation in Ukraine: from the granting of visas to Russian citizens to humanitarian aid, and the invasion’s international consequences. Moderated by Katarína Strauszová, project assistant at GLOBSEC, in this panel guests noted how Russia is currently suffering several losses on the ground. Foreign policy advisor Jana Kobzová specified that now Russia is controlling 17 percent of Ukraine, including Crimea. Vladimir Putin planned a short and quick Blitzkrieg in Ukraine, but soon the Russian Army lost control of the Kyiv region. The West must continue to support Ukraine. Investing more in building partnership coalitions to stand for and with of Ukraine must be the West’s first concern. And it is in Slovakia’s interest too.
The Ambassador at Large for Ukraine Martin Kačo agreed with Kobzová on the fact that Russia did not achieve the military goals it wished. It appears that Russia did not understand how Ukraine evolved since the fall of the USSR in 1991 and the European direction it has taken since. Putin is likely to raise the temperature of the conflict since he has elections in 2024 and he must present the Russian electorate with some significant victory in Ukraine. Tomáš Valášek, MP, had a more optimistic tone: Ukraine is today military better equipped than one year ago, but the West must, again, continue to support it. The political and economic consequences of not helping Ukraine are higher than supporting it. And while NATO has been identified as the key institution of defense and security in Europe – yesterday Finland became the thirty-first member of the Atlantic Alliance – sanctions are working.
This was the main topic of the second part of the Model Conference 2023: the economic panel. Moderated by Oliver Sýkora, it mainly addressed the economic impact of the war on Europe. Lucia Rosiarová, the head of Compliance Reinsurance at Swiss Re, stressed that sanctions to prevent future conflicts and deter ongoing conflict on the attacker’s side. The main goal is to force a change to put an end to the conflict: that is why some packages of sanctions were agreed upon at the European level. Chief economist at the National Bank of Slovakia Michal Horváth explained why sanctions did not have a big impact on Russia. The country did manage to move its main business to other counters. However, the deals Moscow makes with its new partners are much less profitable than those with the European partners.
The macroeconomist at VÚB Bank Michal Lehuta linked the issue of sanctions with inflation in Europe. Since the war in Ukraine, the EU Member States managed to rise the LNG imported by other partners, lowering the general rise of prices. The recent decision of the ECB on the interest rates was discussed as well: a higher cost of money means that loans are more expensive and risky. Finally, Zdeněk Čech, the head of the Economics Analyses Section of the European Commission in Slovakia, explored how Slovakia will have to face future economic downturns. Only strict cooperation with partners and independence of Russia’s gas will efficient and productive for both the country and the Continent. Questions raise about whether this is realistic in the medium-long term. Slovakia managed to diversify its energy portfolio in 2022, but it was not enough to face the systemic consequences Russia posed by starting the war.
(Published on amedeogasparini.com)