Munich Security Conference (MSC) Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger speaks at the opening ceremony of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, Germany, Feb. 16, 2018. The future role of the European Union (EU) as a global actor and its relations with Russia and the United States are among the key focuses of the 54th MSC, which officially opened here Friday afternoon.(Xinhua/Luo Huanhuan)
MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) -- The future role of the European Union (EU) as a global actor and its relations with Russia and the United States are among the key focuses of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC), which officially opened here Friday afternoon.
Over 500 participants from around the world attended the three-day major annual gathering for international security issues, amid uncertain transatlantic relations and challenges to the liberal international order, mainly protectionism and nationalism.
In addition, participants will also discuss an array of global security issues, such as conflicts in the Middle East, especially the deteriorating relations between the Gulf states, and political developments in the Sahel region in Africa.
Moreover, arms control issues will be a point of emphasis, in particular the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) nuclear program.
We came much closer to the brink of inter-state conflicts," said Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the MSC, at the opening ceremony. "We must make concrete steps."
WORLD AMID MULTIPLE SECURITY CHALLENGES
Since its foundation in 1963, the annual MSC has become a forum dedicated to promoting peaceful conflict resolution and international cooperation and dialogue. Participants discussed an array of new threats to the international community.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged participants "not to miss the opportunity of a peaceful resolution" to the standoff over DPRK's nuclear program, saying a military solution would have "catastrophic consequences".
Guterres said the world faces the threat of a nuclear conflict for the first time since the end of the Cold War because of events surrounding DPRK's nuclear ambitions, and stressed the need for global pressure for a diplomatic solution.
"NATO's goal is a world without nuclear weapons, but as long as they exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said at the conference that Middle Eastern states should put their differences behind them and forge a security pact modeled on the EU in order to pull the region back from the brink.
Participants also discussed technology's impact on democracy, as Guterres said that, it is high time to discuss in a serious way about international legal framework in which cyber wars take place.
On the sidelines of the conference, nine major global corporations have agreed to sign a joint cyber security declaration. In an initiative championed by Siemens, firms including the European aerospace company Airbus, German carmaker Daimler, U.S. software company IBM and German insurance company Allianz, vowed to adopt shared rules and standards with regards to cyber security.
The declaration highlights ten specific areas in which politicians and businesses are urged to do more to ensure the safety of an increasingly-digitalized world.
Economic issues are also discussed on the first day of the conference, with discussions concerning the global economic order and the return of protectionism.
TRANSATLANTIC TIES IN TENSION
At her opening address, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen strengthened Europe's responsibility in the future, saying that "We want to remain transatlantic, and at the same time become more European".
"It is about a Europe that can also throw more weight in the military. This can be more self-reliance and self-responsibility -- ultimately in the NATO," said von der Leyen.
While making committed to anti-terrorism efforts, the German defense minister also stressed the role of development besides security, in achieving long-term security, comparing to NATO and Marshall Plan after the WWII.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said at her opening address that she believed that France and Germany will renew European defense cooperation and France is ready to join hands with Germany to address short-term and long-term security threats of Europe.
However, while stressing "unbreakable" transatlantic bond and welcoming EU's efforts on strengthened defense, Stoltenberg warned the risk of weakening transatlantic relations and EU's duplicating of NATO's role.
"We welcome EU's efforts on defense. It can further strengthen European pillar within NATO....EU cannot protect itself by itself," he said.
Among the conference's some 500 participants are U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Other participants include British Prime Minister Theresa May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey.