A Synergy for Black Sea Regional Cooperation

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Fabrizio Tassinari (CEPS) looks into the manifold challenges arising from the Black Sea area, taking into account recent developments that should raise the EU interest in the region. He also advocates the idea of an EU initiative to make most of the existing attempts of regional cooperation in this area.

F. Tassinari browses an insightful picture of the civilisational and, above all, geo-strategic background of the Black Sea crossroads. He then goes on to list the reasons why “Black Sea regional interdependence […] is emerging as a focal point in Europe’s ongoing transformation.” These include:

  • The progresses of the “Euro-Atlantic community” in the region; 
  • Russia’s persistent assertiveness towards its former ‘near abroad;’
  • The 2003-2005 waves of democratic ‘colour revolutions’ in Georgia and Ukraine, 
  • The EU enlargement process expanding to Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey; 

The author also draws the lessons from embryonic experiences of regional cooperation in the area, be they economic like the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation (BSEC), political – following the Community of Democratic Choice (CDC) pattern, or multi-objective such as the Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development in Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova (ODED-GUAM). 

Although he seriously questions the effectiveness of these organisations, he thinks they have prepared the ground for the EU promotion of regionalism in its periphery, which he sees as “the logical extension of the European integration rationale of pooling resources, coordinating action and building confidence through enhancing transnational cooperation.”

Against this backdrop, the paper assesses the EU’s means for engagement in the Black Sea crossroads, namely: enlargement; the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the EU-Russia relationship. On that particular issue, the author calls for a more “strategic” and “holistic” EU approach, that could “systematise and upgrade” forms of regional cooperation in the area. 

The “Black Sea synergy” would revolve around “partnerships” in five priority areas, e.g. environment, energy, transport, internal security and democracy, each one led by “the most plausible actor or mechanism” from all existing organisations mentioned above.

The overarching organisation of the system could be operated through annual Black Sea Forum meetings, on the model of the one that took place in Bucharest on 5 June, he notes. At the end of the day, the new “Black Sea synergy” should work along the following principles: “coordination;” “pragmatism;” “ownership;” “flexibility;” “consistency;” and “visibility.”

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