Achieving and Maintaining Synergy in the Black Sea Region, 19th Economic Forum, Krynica-Zdroj (Poland), 11 September 2009


19th Economic Forum,(Panel discussion on “Black Sea Synergy: A New Regional Governance?”

Krynica-Zdroj, Poland, 11 September 2009


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The first question that has to be answered in this panel is whether a regional governance could be developed for the Black Sea region. The second question is, in case such a governance could be developed, should it driven by the regional institutions such as BSEC or by the EU initiatives such as Black Sea Synergy?

Economic Cooperation

The answer to these questions depends on what type of governance is aimed at. If it is going to be an economic cooperation, the BSEC could achieve part of the task.

 BSEC is the first international cooperation framework addressing the problems of the region. It was born as an entirely regional initiative. It has a unique potential to promote cooperation among its members in a whole range of areas from energy, environment and transport to the fight against organized crime. It is the most inclusive and the only full-fledged economic cooperation organization in the region.

Certainly it cannot be claimed that the Black Sea has met all the expectations in its 17 years of existence. However, a new spirit of cooperation has started to emerge among the member States. One has to remember that many of these member States were in opposite military alliances for decades.

In case more ambitious targets are aimed at in the economic cooperation, the support of the EU may be indispensable. The EU has a legitimate interest in the region especially after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania and successive disruptions in energy supply. The Black Sea Synergy seems to be conceived an instrument to translate this interest into action. However there are two uncertainties here:

–                            Firstly we do not have a clear idea of what the Synergy consists of. The framework is there but the content is not clear enough.

–                            Secondly the main actors in the Black Sea region, Russia and Turkey, are not part of the decision making process of the EU. If these two countries are not fully involved in the decision making process, the chance of success will be limited.

The foregoing comments are valid for an economic cooperation. Now I turn to another type of cooperation.

Political or Military cooperation

If political or military dimensions are to be added to this cooperation or to the governance, the conditions will be different. There are several reasons for it:

One of them stems from the attitude of the regional players. I don’t think that the major player of the region, namely Russia, could be persuaded easily to accept the involvement of trans-Atlantic structures in the Black Sea. The other regional player, Turkey, is disillusioned on more than one occasion because of the attitude adopted by certain EU countries in the question of Turkey’s accession process to the EU. This attitude damaged the credibility of the EU in the mind of the Turkish public opinion.

Second reason stems from the international status of the Black Sea. The Black Sea is perhaps the only sea in the world whose status is defined by an international convention, namely the Montreux Convention. This Convention discriminates the riparian countries against the non-riparians. The size of the naval vessels that the non-riparian countries could bring in the Black Sea cannot exceed 2/3 of the size of the biggest riparian naval force in the Black Sea and their combined size cannot exceed 45 000 tonnes in any circumstance. Furthermore they cannot stay in the Black Sea more than 21 days.

These constraints will of course limit the projection of power of a non-riparian State in the Black Sea and as a consequence of this, its capacity to influence the developments in the region will be limited.

Russia and Turkey have a special status in this equation:

a)      Firstly because of the provisions of the Montreux Convention:

–              Russia has the biggest naval presence in the Black Sea; therefore any country that is not riparian cannot bring into the Black Sea a naval presence that exceeds 2/3 of the Russian naval force.

–              Turkey is, in a sense, the custodian of the Montreux Convention, because the implementation of the provisions of this Convention has to be monitored by Turkey since the naval forces of the non-riparian countries that will enter the Black Sea will have to cross the Turkish straits and the Turkish Straits are naturally controlled by Turkey.

b)      Secondly because Russia and Turkey are major players in the region for reasons independent from the Montreux Convention.

–              Russia is a super power even after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. It has a population that exceeds 140 million inhabitants. It possesses huge energy sources and vast territories.

–              Turkey is a negotiating country with the EU. It has a population of more than 70 million inhabitants. It has young and skilled labour force. It is the 6th biggest economy of Europe and 17th biggest economy of the world. It has a democracy that functions better than in many other countries of the region.

 In view of these features, any initiative pertaining to the Black Sea region that does not include Turkey and Russia will have lesser chance of success.

This argument is valid both for hard power and soft power firstly because both Turkey and Russia can contribute to soft power as well as to hard power; secondly because, recent examples in various unstable areas of the world demonstrated that soft power that is not supported by hard power has limited effects in shaping the developments in a region.

To conclude, the Black Sea Synergy may contribute to the economic cooperation to complement the shortfalls of the BSEC in case its content is properly defined. As to cooperation in political or military fields the chances are dimmer.

Thank you for your attention.

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