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Black Sea Synergy: Approaches for a deeper cooperation

by Nico Lange, Maik Matthes
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Ukraine organized the international conference “Black Sea Synergy” on October 21-23 in cooperation with the Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation (PAUCI), the Odessa City Council and the Center for US-Ukrainian Relations (CUSUR). On a ferry boat, going from Odessa (Ukraine) to Istanbul (Turkey), 100 conference guests from Ukraine and eight other countries discussed about the new Black Sea Synergy Concept of the European Commission (launched in April 2007) and tried to take a stock of the previous and possible future measures of cooperation of the Black Sea states. The event was supported by the International Renaissance Foundation, the German Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Delegation of the European Commission to Ukraine. Please find here a résumé and a compilation of the speakers' statements.

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One of the primary aims of this event was to bring together experts and key decision-makers from the Black Sea countries as well as from the European Union, in order to discuss possible future joint projects promoting Black Sea cooperation.

The conference explored the opportunities and challenges of cooperation in the Black Sea following the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union and ways of supporting Turkey’s drive for EU accession. For the first time a group of experts accompanied by representatives of NGOs and local politicians from Ukraine made such a journey in search of synergies bringing Ukraine into the wider regional framework.

Trying to resume the outcomes of the conference there should be pointed out: The participants agreed that the Black Sea region plays a more and more important role in European and world policy. But many “frozen conflicts” slow down the development of the region. These conflicts should be resolved by negotiations, including all local as well as external actors.

A great field of interest is – especially for the European Union – the energy sector. But not only: Economically the Black Sea region is substantially increasing its weight. The Black Sea Area with its 330 million people is already now a very big, constantly growing market. Furthermore issues like border conflicts, migration and environmental problems are very urgent and can only be tackled, if the Black Sea boarding countries have a common approach.

The majority of the participants demanded more activity of the European Union in the wider Black Sea area. A clear message to the European Union was formulated by James Sherr: The EU should answer the question, if it wishes to be seen in the Black Sea region in principle as a magnet or as a barrier. To some extent the EU must be a barrier – to illegal migration, to human trafficking, to organized crime in all its aspects. But unless the EU is plainly a magnet, it will not provide the inducements that will enable the Black Sea countries to strive for democratic standards and the rule of law.

There will be external pressures in the Black Sea region in future or even external shocks. The challenge for all actors is to ensure that, when they arise, the ties of cooperation and interest are strong enough to absorb them.

Fabrizio Tassinari expressed the idea (supported especially by Andriy Veselovskyy, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs) that the Black Sea countries could develop and move in different speed. One should not bind necessarily Black Sea Synergy and the countries of the region into one pack. If some countries are more qualified or active in some areas, they should not be forced to wait for the others, but they should be seen as “light houses” for the whole region.

Finally it was stated that there is already a lot of intellectual effort and potential in Black Sea cooperation. The performance, presentation and coordination of the Black Sea countries, their think tanks and civil societies have to be improved – then Black Sea Synergy would have not just a future, but a measurable, concrete impact in developing regional cooperation in the Black Sea Area. Especially it was underlined, that it is very important to include Russia into the dialogue, as Russia is one of the big players in the Black Sea region. But also external actors like the USA, NATO and UN should be invited to the discussions.

Résumé: André Drewelowsky

Compilation of the speakers’ statements: André Drewelowsky, Maik Matthes, Yuliya Shelkovnikova

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