The EU needs to “make sense” of the multitude of existing initiatives covering the Black Sea region in order to guarantee peace and energy security, said participants attending the ‘Fostering democracy and development in the Black sea region’ conference in Brussels on May 26.
EU must help the heterogeneous countries along the Black Sea coasts to find ways to guarantee and strengthen peace, without leaving aside issues such as human rights and fundamental freedoms, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht stated. De Gucht hosted the event, organised by CEVIPOL – Centre d’étude de la vie politique (ULB) and the Embassy of Bulgaria. He stressed that the EU is the “impartial party” which could streamline existing initiatives, which sometimes overlap.
Energy security as central issue
Strategic thinking about the future of the Black Sea is shaped by security concerns, especially energy security, several participants stressed. Threats such as terrorism, transnational organised crime, the “frozen conflicts” of Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh, illegal trafficking and migration should not be underestimated, participants stressed.
With the Black Sea becoming adjacent to the EU with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, the EU can now involve the latter as well as candidate country Turkey and the countries covered by the European neighbourhood Policy (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Moldova) in addressing its problems.
Academics more sceptical than diplomats
Academics who took part to the debate expressed the view that most of the Black Sea initiatives seem to be made by and designed for the diplomatic elite. Often so-called international initiatives are born to suit ambitions for regional leadership, while the civil societies are not even aware of them and remain forgotten.
Scientists questioned whether the Black Sea region was indeed a region, compared to other regions like Scandinavia, which always had such a statute. Several speakers considered that in fact the Black Sea region is “more a matter of politics than geography”.