Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Regionalization in the Black Sea Area: A Comparative Study

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of European Affairs

Regionalization in the Black Sea Area: A Comparative Study

Article excerpt

Abstract**:

The post-Cold War period in Europe was favourable for the development of new regionalization projects which surrounded the EU. The Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea became the centre of new European sub-regions. Each project stands out now through a certain image that it received mirroring its type and level of regionalization emerged at the junction of regional dynamics and external influences. While the Nordic region is addressed as a model of multi-level, locally driven cooperation, the Mediterranean region is embedded in the North-South developmental division approach with little cooperation and strong external influences. The Black Sea's position is debated between the two models mentioned above. Thus, I propose a comparative analysis of these three cases aiming to trace down the similarities and diferences between them with the focus on the Black Sea Region. The conclusion of the study places the Black Sea Region in between the cases with a genuine potential to follow the Nordic model but with its future evolution hanging on the EU's policies toward the area.

Keywords: Black Sea Region, European Union, regionalization, comparative study, Danube region.

The Black Sea lies at the crossroads between Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East but part of any of these regions 1 . Its difficult geographical position spurred debates over the idea of regionalization around it. Several short referential comparisons are made between the new Black Sea Region (BSR) and the regional cooperation around the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and political geographical axes 2 are suggested by different actors.

Mustafa Aydin compares the BSR with the Baltic and the Mediterranean regions advocating for the EU's support of regionalization in the Black Sea area similarly to the Baltic Sea initiative 3 . In a similar vein, Roberto Aliboni argues in favour of a contractual relation between the Black Sea countries and the EU similar with the Northern Dimension 4 . Nevertheless, the focus on instability problems and its geopolitical and geo-economic importance triggered by its position as a link between Europe and Caspian Sea basin rich in fossil fuels brings it more closely to the Mediterranean type of region 5 . Yet, the literature lacks a comprehensive comparison of these three cases of regionalization at the borders of the EU, while playing with short references to support one opinion or another in a wishful thinking.

A comparative study is important for a clear understanding of the regionalization process unfolding at the borders of the EU, the different roles played by the EU in each case and the regional potential for a deeper integration. Moreover, the comparative analysis is useful in revealing patterns of cooperation around the Black Sea recurrent in other cases also and existent geopolitical axis of cooperation between the cases. Plus, it can integrate the newest Romanian and Austrian initiative at the EU level, the Danube Strategy, in a broader picture connecting it to the Black Sea in a strategy that links internal and external politics.

This paper starts by setting the theoretical grounds of the regionalization process answering the question about its triggering mechanisms, its evolution and its end point. Next, a short comparison delineates the similarities and differences between the three cases. Finally the Black Sea regionalization process is redefined including the Danube Strategy initiative.

Theoretical framework:

The post-Cold War period marked the spread of regionalization across the globe. A need for an appropriate theory for the regionalization process opened a new debate across IR theories between rationalists and constructivists. While rationalist approaches take the phenomenon as an example of purposeful cooperation between actors on the international stage, the reflectivist approach sees regionalization as an ongoing process constructed and deconstructed at the junction of material elements and ideational worldviews. …

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