Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Regional Black Sea Architecture and Consequences for the Regional Cooperation Framework

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Regional Black Sea Architecture and Consequences for the Regional Cooperation Framework

Article excerpt

Abstract**:

Sometimes considered an asset, other times a liability, the Black Sea started recently to be regarded as a region. However, the Black Sea Region (BSR) lacks a common vision, often due to the complicated and often inefficient nexus of regional cooperation initiatives. Following the logic of finding regional solutions for regional problems, this paper aims to assess existing institutional and regional initiatives, reflecting on the implications for the success of Black Sea regionalism in creating patterns of sustained and sustainable development and a high degree of actors' involvement. This paper concentrates on two complementary research questions: What is the regional order in the BSR and what does it imply for its future? What is the current contribution of the most significant cooperation initiatives and what are the consequences for regional institutionalism? For the purpose of this paper, I draw on best-practices from other two regions: the Northern Dimension and South-East Asia. Through a comparative perspective, I suggest an analysis of the most important initiatives: BSEC, CDC, Black Sea Synergy, Eastern Partnership, Baku Initiative and the BSF. This paper argues that a possible strategic solution for successful policy development lies in the creation of an integrated regional cooperation package, functioning on the principles of multi-speed and multi-dimensional cooperation in several policy fields, in a context in which the BSR seems to be caught between two paradigms: a European and a Russian-oriented one.

Keywords: Black Sea Region (BSR), regional order, regional cooperation framework, Northern Dimension, South-East Asian regionalism.

1. Introduction

At a conference, the German minister Erler (2009) commented that "before 1989, no one would have discussed power-sharing in the Black Sea. [...] The question today is: do we consider the Black Sea an asset or a liability?" Although it covers justO.3% of EU's territory (European Commission, 2009a), the Black Sea has an important influence on the wider Black Sea region (WBSR), both in environmental, security, energy and regional development terms. It is considered by scholars of international relations of increasing importance for geopolitical, military-strategic and geo-economie reasons. While being a region at the intersection of several major world arenas - Europe (EU), Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East -, it also constitutes the South-Eastern frontier of the EU and NATO and is situated between two spheres of influence: Russian and Western. Moreover, the EU recently (2007) discovered the Black Sea as a geopolitical hub of particular strategic importance in order to foster sustained development and regional cooperation, and started regarding it as an integral part of the European project; the European Parliament increasingly puts the idea of "An EU strategy for the Black Sea" on its work agenda. However, at the moment there is a complete lack of common vision whether this region should be on a middle or long-term perspective. Among many other reasons, the underlying explanation for this situation lies in the insufficient understanding and acceptance of the regional order, the resulting complex security and cooperation architecture and the nexus of more or less inefficient regional cooperation initiatives/institutions which, paradoxically, seem more to undermine than reinforce each others' activity in their current uncoordinated mechanisms.

Following the logic of finding regional solutions for regional problems, the aim of this paper is to briefly assess the various - and often competing - institutional and cooperation initiatives in the Black Sea Region (BSR) and examine their interaction and the level of their complementarities, reflecting thus on the potential implications for the success in terms of creating synergies and patterns of sustainable development. Starting from the special features of the Black Sea regionalism, I therefore suggest both a short analysis of the local players strategic interests, as well as of the current regional multilateralism initiatives (especially BSEC, Community of Democratic Choice, Baku Initiative, Black Sea Synergy (BSS), Eastern Partnership (EaP), Black Sea Forum), insisting on their role and prospects of future institutional and policy development, in a context in which they seem to be caught between two development paradigms: an European (ENP, BSS and EaP) and a Russianoriented one. …

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