Black Sea Synergy, speech made at the Conference Black Sea Synergy on board of the cruiser “Ukraine” sailing from Odessa to Istanbul, 22-23 October 2007 (Text and Power Point)


 First draft of the speech to be delivered by

 Mr. Yaşar YAKIŞ

Chairman of the EU Commission in the Turkish Parliament,

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

in the


on board of the cruiser Ukraine sailing from Odessa to Istanbul

21-23 October 2007


The role that the Black Sea could play in the international politics transcends the limited geographical area of the coastal countries that surround it. Its role extends to Euro-Atlantic relations. It may affect the power balance in the Caucasus region, including countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan that are not riparian of the Black Sea. It may also affect the power balance further away in the Middle East. Furthermore, the Black Sea geographical area, which was virtually ignored during the cold war era, has now to be regarded as an integral part of the reconstructed Europe.

 The Black Sea is important for the EU for several reasons: It is an important alternative route for energy and it is surrounded by spots of frozen conflicts. More important than these, it is a region of huge cooperation potential.

I – Black Sea as an alternative energy route

The search for an alternative route for energy consumed by the EU countries intensified when a disruption occurred in the gas supply from Russia to Belarus in January 2004 and to Ukraine in January 2006. This caused subsequent disruption in the gas supply to EU countries.

A closer look at the present supply situation will give an idea of the importance of the subject.

If we draw a north/south line in the eastern Black Sea, 70 % of the world energy sources lie east of this line and the major consumer countries west of this line.

EU received in 2006 from the Russian Federation 400 million metric ton of oil equivalent of hydrocarbon or almost 1/3 of the consumption of EU-25.

Current trends indicate that the EU will import 70 % of its energy in 2030 compared to 50 % now.

            A document called “The Road Map for the Common Economic Space” approved at the EU-Russia Summit in May 2005 contains a list of general statements but is vague on specific concrete action to be taken.

EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement expires at the end of 2008.

In the absence of a community-wide cooperation, Russia may choose to cooperate bilaterally with the member states of EU. We cannot say whether this will happen. However, if it happens, its consequences are not easy to estimate.

In addition to these uncertainties, the Caspian Sea basin is emerging as an important energy source for oil and natural gas. Secure energy supply requires the diversification of both the supply routes and the sources of energy.

The 2004 and 2006 disruptions of the gas supply led the Russian Federation to look for alternative routes for its gas deliveries. It also led the recipient countries to diversify the sources and the routes of energy.

As a result of these developments, the importance of the Black Sea basin became prominent as an alternative route. Both the Black Sea itself and the territories of its riparian countries are used as supply routes.

Oil tankers carry huge volumes of crude oil through the Black Sea and Turkish straits to the western markets. In addition to the tanker traffic, there are existing and prospective pipelines to carry oil and gas in the region:

a)      A pipeline carrying Russian gas to Turkey through Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria is operational since 1988. Initially it had a capacity to pump 8 bm3 gas per year. In 1996, this capacity is increased to 14 bm3/y.

b)      A gas pipeline called Blue Stream crosses the Black Sea. This pipeline, laid on the seabed, has a capacity of 16 bm3/y. The offshore part of it runs 3996 km. from a point south of Novorossiisk in the Russian Federation to the Turkish Black Sea port of Samsun.

c)      Talks seem to be under way for carrying crude oil by tankers from the Russian port of Novorossiisk to the Bulgarian port of Burgas and to pump it from there to the Greek port of Alexandropolis for further shipment towards the Western European destinations.

d)      Bakou-Tbilissi-Ceyhan oil pipeline: Inaugurated in 2006, it carries 1 million barrels crude oil per day that is to say 50 million tons per year.

e)      Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline: It has a capacity to carry 1,5 million barrel oil per day from Kirkuk to Turkey. It is operational since decades and continued to operate during the Iraqi war despite frequent disruptions due to explosions in the Iraqi territory.

f)        Bakou-Tbilissi-Erzurum gas pipeline that has become operational in July 2007 carries 6,6 billion m3 gas per year.

g)      Iran-Erzurum pipeline is in service since 2005 and carries 10 billion m3 gas per year to Turkey.

h)      Egyptian gas pipeline has already reached the Syrian city of Homs on its way towards Turkey. It has 230 km. more to reach Turkish border.

i)        When the political and military situation stabilizes in Iraq, a gas pipeline could be laid from the gas rich northern provinces of Iraq to the Turkish national gas grid and from there to potential western recipients.

j)        These are incoming gas and oil pipelines to Turkey. As to the outgoing pipelines, a gas pipeline will be inaugurated next month, November 2007, between Turkey and Greece with an ultimate capacity of 11 bm3/y. Initially Greece will buy 700 million m3 gas per year and will increase this purchase to 3 bm3/y in subsequent years. The remaining 8 bm3 will be pumped to Italy. The pipeline will cross the Turkish-Greek border to northern Greece and from the Greek port of Igoumenitsa it will cross the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

k)      Another project called Nabucco is at the stage of planning. It will carry natural gas from Turkey to Austria through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. The capacity of this pipeline may be as big as 32 bm3/y.

The stability and security of a region ridden with that many pipelines and sea routes is naturally very important for the EU. Therefore the energy dimension of the Black Sea region is more important than many other dimensions.

II - Frozen Conflicts

            There are several conflict zones in the Black Sea basin. It has become a tradition to call them frozen conflicts, but some of them are not entirely frozen since they break out again from time to time.

            There are several common features in 4 frozen conflicts. One of them is that they all resulted from the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. Second, all of them are within the territory of the former Soviet Union. Third, the Russian Federation is the major player in all of them.

a)      Trans-Dniester (or Transnistria)

The breakaway State of Trans-Dniester was born when the Soviet Union began to fall apart. The Moldovan territories that were on the left bank of the river Dniester were inhabited by mainly Russian speaking population while the population living on the Moldova proper spoke Moldovan and identified strongly with the neighbouring Romania. This frightened the Russian-speaking population of Moldova living on the left side of Dniester who felt a much stronger allegiance to Moscow. As a result of this, it proclaimed independence in 1990. The independence is not recognized by any country.

The sustainability of this territory as an independent State is questionable without the diplomatic recognition of the international community. Its annexation to the far away Russian Federation is neither easy nor practical. And a solution that will satisfy both the Russian Federation and the remainder of the international community is not yet at sight.

b)      South Ossetia

South Ossetia  was an autonomous oblast of Georgia in the Soviet times. Now the greater part of it is controlled by the government of the de facto independent South Ossetian Republic which is not recognised by any country.

A cease-fire is monitored by a Russian dominated military force whose neutrality is questioned from time to time. However the EU did not show eagerness to share or take over the task of monitoring from the Russian forces.

In April of 2007, the Georgian government created for this territory of 70 000 inhabitants a temporary administrative unit (Provisional Administrative Entity of South Ossetia). It is headed by ethnic Ossetians and it will enable Georgia to administer the region through local leaders and to negotiate with Ossetian authorities regarding its final status.

On 6 December 2006, the OSCE Ministerial Council in Ljubljana adopted a resolution supporting the Georgian peace plan which was subsequently rejected by the South Ossetian de facto authorities. One can guess that the Ossetians autorities could not do it without the support of the Russian authorities.

c)      Abkhazia

Abkhazia is recognized as an autonomous republic of Georgia. It has a population that dwindled from 550 000 in 2002 to 190 000 in 2007. Only 18 % of this population is Abkhazian. The secessionist movement of Abkhaz ethnic minority declared independence from Georgia in 1992. An armed conflict broke out in 1992 and 1993 between the de facto independent entity and Georgia. With the military assistance of the Russian army the Abkhazians forced the Georgian army to retreat and it resulted in an ethnic cleansing and mass exodus of Georgian population from Abkhazia.

The complicated nature of the conflict and of the region may be observed in the fact that Abkhazia is supported by Russia, but it also receives help from Chechen fighters, their traditional allies but at the same time the sworn enemies of the Russians. Still more strange is that Chechens who are helping separatist Abkhazians improved their relations with Georgia to such an extent that the Russian Federation accused Georgia for allowing Chechen fighters to take refuge in the Georgian controlled Pankisi valley in South Ossetia.

A cease-fire was agreed in 1994 and a Russian dominated force is monitoring the cease-fire. The sovereignty dispute is far from being resolved. Only less than 17 % of the territory is cotrolled by the de jure government of Abkhazia and the remainder by the Russian backed separatist government.

The Russian Federation extends various types of assistance to Abkhazians vith a view to bringing them closer to Russia.

South Ossetian and Abkhazian conflicts affect negatively the relations between the Russian Federation and Georgia.

d)      Nogorno-Karabakh

This geographical region was an oblast within the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan during the Soviet era. It has around 190 000 inhabitants. It is officially part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It declared independence on 10 December 1991, but it is not recognized by any country including Armenia. However Armenia does not recognize its being part of Azerbaijan either, claiming that the region declared independence at the same time that Azerbaijan became an independent State and that both of them are equally successor States of the Soviet Union.

This approach contradicts several international resolutions:

–         Three UN Security Council Resolutions (853, 874, and 884) and two UN General Assembly resolutions 49/13 and 57/298 refer to Nagorno-Karabakh “as a region of Azerbaijan”.

–         A Council of Europe resolution states that “the territory of Azerbaijan includes the Nagorno-Karabakh region.” Another Council resolution states that “Considerable parts of the territory of Azerbaijan are still occupied by Armenian forces.” The resolution further states that ” the occupation of foreign territory by a member State constitutes a grave violation of that State’s obligations as a member of the Council of Europe “.

–          The EU declared that “it does not recognise the independence of Nagorno Karabakh. The European Union cannot consider legitimate the ‘presidential elections’ that were scheduled to take place on 11 August 2002 in Nagorno Karabakh”.

–          The US State Department issued a Report where it stated that “Armenia continues to occupy the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories”

Despite this unequivocal position of all major international organisations, no concrete step is taken to resolve the dispute. Azerbaijan is steadily progressing in its way to become an oil rich country and a country that will be able to allocate more money for defence. Therefore, if we presume that Armenia has to withdraw sooner or later from the occupied Azerbaijani territories, the delay in the solution of the conflict may make Armenia’s job all the more difficult.

Nogorno Karabagh is the core of the conflict, but it has more ramifications: Armenian forces occupy seven provinces in Azerbaijan proper and one million Azeris or one fifth of the population are evicted from their homes and became internally displaced persons.

 Without the Russian support Armenia has no capacity to sustain this occupation.  In 2006, Russia published a Great Encyclopedia in 63 volumes, which described Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent entity that belonged “historically” to Armenians. This is like saying that the territories between Moscow and the Black Sea belonged “historically” to the Golden Hordes.

Each one of the frozen conflicts enumerated above is shaped by different parameters. The solution applicable to one of them may not be valid for another one. However we may say that 1) the political will of the major players is not strong enough to place these conflicts high on the agenda; 2) progress cannot be expected to resolve these conflicts without the cooperation of the Russian Federation.

III – Black Sea as an Area of Cooperation

The role of the Black Sea region as an energy corridor and the frozen conflicts make it an important region from the military standpoint, but it also offers huge potentials for cooperation both in military and economic fields.

a) The importance of the region from the military standpoint.

After two of the riparian countries of the Black Sea have become members of NATO and EU, the security and stability of the region has become a Euro-Atlantic issue at the same time. Other developments such as 9/11, the Iraqi war and the uranium enrichment program of Iran made the region all the more important.

            As far as the security is concerned, we may talk of risks rather than threats in the Black Sea region. It is not beyond the capacity of the riparian countries to cope with these risks. There are two indigenous initiatives to address such risks: Blackseafor and Operation Black Sea Harmony. These initiatives are based on two pillars:

–         The ultimate goal of the initiatives is to attain all littoral countries of the Black Sea.

–         The maritime security of the region should be complementary to the Euro-Atlantic security system, because the maritime security is indivisible.

These two initiatives are recognized at present as major security providers in the Black Sea maritime area.

 i) The Blackseafor

Originating from a Turkish initiative BLACKSEAFOR (Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group) was created in 2001 with the participation of all the littoral States. It aims at contributing to friendship, good relations and mutual understanding in the region through enhancement of cooperation and interoperability among the naval forces of the littoral states. Operations and tasks of BLACKSEAFOR range from counter-terrorism to search and rescue, humanitarian assistance, environmental protection, mine-counter measures, goodwill visits and any other task to be agreed by all parties.

All littoral states of the Black Sea have the common understanding that the security in the Black Sea constitutes vital importance for the littoral states and that, therefore, they should take primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and stability in the area through engagement of their common assets and capabilities. BLACKSEAFOR is an instrument in place that can be used for the achievement of this objective.

Currently, with a view to better responding to new risks to security, BLACKSEAFOR is undergoing a transformation process.

ii) Operation Black Sea Harmony

This initiative was launched by Turkey initially as a national operation to deter, disrupt and prevent the threat of terrorism and illicit trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and related materials in the Black Sea. The Operation is now open to all Black Sea countries. Russian Federation and Ukraine have already joined the operations of the Black Sea Harmony.  The aims of these operations are to:

–         Demonstrate naval presence;

–         Exchange of information on suspected merchant vessels;

–         Conduct reconnaissance operations; and

–         Trail or shadow suspected merchant vessels.

The Operation consists of regular patrols with frigates and patrol boats in pre-defined surveillance areas in the Black Sea. Helicopters, submarines, maritime patrol aircraft and coast guard vessels assist in this activity.

Operation Black Sea Harmony is conducted in cooperation with the ongoing NATO Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean.

In addition to these initiatives, a meeting is held in Istanbul in 2006 with the participation of the coast guards commanders of the littoral countries. They signed during this meeting a document under the title of “Agreement on Black Sea Coast and Border Guards Cooperation Forum”.

There is also an initiative launched by Bulgaria. It is the creation of an institution called Black Sea Border Coordination and Information Centre. This Centre is established in Burgas in 2003 and is aimed at the maritime security of the littoral coastguards.

Montreux Convention

There is an international Convention signed in 1936 in Montreux, Switzerland, that limits the tonnage of the military vessels that non-littoral countries of the Black Sea would be allowed to keep in the Black Sea. The provisions of this Convention should not be perceived as an obstacle to cooperation with non-littoral countries. It is rather meant to preserve a military balance for the stability in the Black Sea. The most important provisions that limit the tonnage of the military vessels of the non-littoral countries could be summarized as follows:

-          the aggregate tonnage of the vessels of the non-Black Sea Powers shall not exceed 30 000 tons; 

-           This upper limit may be increased to 45 000 tons in case the tonnage of vessels of one of the riparian countries exceeds at least by 10 tons the tonnage of the Soviet fleet in the Black Sea (the reference to the Soviet fleet is formulated as “the tonnage of the strongest fleet at the time of the signature of this Convention”). 

-           The tonnage which any one non-Black Sea Power may have in the Black Sea shall be limited to two-thirds of the aggregate tonnage of the all other non-riparian fleets present at a given time in the Black Sea.

b) Black Sea as an area of economic cooperation

            The complementarities between the economies of countries surrounding the Black Sea offer this region enormous potentials for cooperation. The cooperation initiatives in the military fields are explained in the previous chapter. As to the cooperation in the economic field, the most concrete initiative in this area is the establishment of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

The Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC)

The establishment of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) was the very first initiative to capitalize on the new parameters that were emerging in the region after the fall of the Soviet Union. BSEC was established on the idea that stronger economic cooperation among the Black Sea countries would enhance stability in the region by helping the member states to achieve sustainable economic structures. Thus, its institutional framework was set up with the underlying motive of integrating the region into the world economy. Taking economic cooperation as a common denominator, the founders of the Organization had the far-reaching objective of turning diverse approaches in the region into a common understanding of peace, stability, democracy and the spirit of conciliation. In this context, BSEC has come a long way towards helping the member States’ ongoing process of transformation.

It cannot be claimed that BSEC has met all the expectations in its 15 years of existence. However, a new spirit of cooperation has started to emerge between the member States. Several reasons might explain why BSEC could not achieve the desired level of effectiveness in its initial phase.

a) Frozen conflicts in the region are perhaps the most important reasons.

b) Lack of concrete, project-based achievements, which would have made BSEC more meaningful to all concerned; and

c) Failure to draw up attainable short-term strategies, which might have given the Organization more visibility and credibility.

These shortcomings could be attributed to the fact that BSEC was the first example of an institutionalised and widely inclusive multilateral cooperation platform in the Black Sea region consisting of member countries with divergent economic and social experiences, as well as different visions and agenda for their future.

Consequently, a total consensus on the side of the members could not easily be reached with regard to their expectations from the Organization.

However, recently, the Organization has achieved a visible degree of progress with the common efforts of all its members. This is due to a growing understanding among the members on the essentiality of BSEC, as a regional cooperation platform and a common determination towards shifting to a project-oriented and result-based approach within the Organization. These facts demonstrate that in its fifteen-year evolution process BSEC has been able to gather its members around common ideas, goals and policies that, itself, is sufficient proof of the success of the Organization.

The growing local and international interest in the Black Sea region imposes on BSEC the obligation to play a more active role and the re-emerging spirit of cooperation between the members gives the BSEC the chance to respond positively to new opportunities and challenges.

The BSEC area includes a population of 330 million inhabitants and a territory of 20 million square kilometres with dynamic human potential and rich natural resources including oil and natural gas.

The BSEC needs to be restructured to ensure a more effective decision-making mechanism as well as due and rapid implementation of the decisions taken at the top level. This restructuring cannot be achieved by amending the regulations or by adopting a number of decisions. Instead, BSEC should be transformed into an organisation with a certain degree of flexibility to be able to respond quickly to new challenges in an ever-changing global environment.

Deepening of existing cooperation with other organizations, such as OECD and UNDP, and effective implementation of ongoing partnership projects should also be regarded as a priority.

Another main pillar is the endorsement of a sector-by-sector approach, which will also correspond with the project-oriented vision that BSEC has recently adopted. At the level of a given sector, priority should be given to making further progress in the fields of trade and investment, transport, energy, environment and combating organized crime. A brief outline of the strategy to be followed in some cooperation areas are provided below:

a)      Energy

This is one of the main areas of cooperation, but this subject is discussed is detail in the previous paragraphs.

a)      Transport

Recently, the BSEC has witnessed a considerable degree of progress in the field of transport. Concrete steps have to be made to materialize the Black Sea Ring Highway and Motorways of the Sea, which will further deepen the cooperation between the major ports of the Black Sea, to preserve the momentum of cooperation achieved in this field.

b)      Trade and Investment

 There is a huge potential for trade between the Black Sea countries, which have complementary economic structures. Therefore, trade and investments among the BSEC countries should be made easier by taking further steps on issues such as visa facilitation, elimination of non-tariff barriers and further interaction between the business communities of member countries.

 Another important step for trade facilitation will be the elimination, to the extent possible, of the non-tariff barriers.

c)      Combating Against Terrorism and Organized Crime

Terrorism and organized crime have become major sources of concern for all over the world including the Black Sea region. The trans-national nature of issues such as terrorism, illegal migration, trafficking in human beings and drug make the cooperation between the law enforcement authorities inside the region more and more essential to overcome this common threat.

d)      Raising Awareness of a Common Black Sea Identity

One of the most important missions of BSEC is raising awareness of a common identity among the peoples of the Black Sea that, despite their own diversities, have historical, social and cultural ties. Underlining these common values will help create an environment of understanding in a region where the search for stability, peace and prosperity has always been the priority.

e)      Environment

Environmental problems are characterized by their international nature, as well as by their increased complexity and interrelation with other socio-economic factors. Problems, such as water and air pollution, generation of solid and hazardous waste, soil degradation, deforestation, climate change and loss of biodiversity cannot be contained within political borders. The degradation of the environment of the Black Sea region calls for an urgent and consolidated action from the BSEC members. The environmental problems of the Black Sea are inextricably linked to those of the Mediterranean and need common approach with the countries of the Mediterranean basin.


        The Black Sea basin is a region full of opportunities but full of challenges as well. The frozen conflicts constitute an obstacle for the full utilisation of these opportunities. The littoral countries are the first to benefit from these potentials.

            After Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession to NATO and EU, the Black Sea has become an area of direct interest for the West. However, any action that does not take into consideration regional balances and sensitivities is likely to fail.

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