THE BLACK SEA, A BORDER FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION?

Communication a the LMU Symposium in Munich the 9/10 June 2011

Since 1997, the European Commission has a special policy toward theBlack Seaand its surrounding under consideration. With the launch of the Black Sea Synergy in April 2007, the European Union seems to demonstrate the will to implement a regional strategy in this region. European security, energy supply, migration and the attractiveness of the EU for its neighbours represent the background of the EU action in theBlack Seacountries.

The first objective of this presentation will be to attempt to review why the EU waited so long before proposing a regional action toward theBlack Sea.

In fact, after the first communication on theBlack Seain 1997, the Commission waited more than 10 years before publishing the so called Synergy.

For the second objective, we will investigate some of the reasons that may have driven the European Commission to propose such an initiative.

Within the EU, Romania and Greece are the main advocates of a Black Sea “Region”.

Greece has always had diplomatic interests towards the Balkans and beyond toward theBlack Seaarea. Most importantly, through the creation of a Black Sea dimension in the ENP,Turkeywould be involved in the ENP whetherAnkaralikes it or not, and the connections betweenAnkaraandBrusselswould necessarily proliferate. In fact, from the perspective ofAthens,Turkeyshould join the EU, even if the relationship betweenGreeceandTurkeyhas not always been friendly. Promoting a Black Sea policy which involves bothTurkeyand Balkans is part of the traditional diplomacy ofGreece: insuring its security.

For Romania the need is even more obvious. This country since the very beginning of its history has always considered the Black Sea as a Region and its access to the sea vital for its own survival. We can find traces of this diplomacy in the dispute withBulgariaabout the Dobrudja or find a special paragraph about Black Sea region in the Treaty between Bucharest and Moscow of 1970.

Nowadays, Bucharest and Athens support all EU initiatives toward the region, from the European Neighbourhood Policy to the Eastern Partnership and of course, the Black Sea Synergy.

Finally, we will offer an analysis of the consequences for the EU of the promotion of a Black searegional policy.

We can consider the Black Sea Synergy as a part of the chain of the regional cooperation around the EU (Barcelona Process, Baltic Council) but this is not precise.

Indeed, the EU has never shaped the Black Sea Synergy as a new regional cooperation. In fact, the only regional organisation to which the countries of the Black Sea area – exceptRussia- want to adhere is the European Union. Following the Great Enlargement the shores ofRomaniaandBulgariabecome the new borders of the EU, in front of them Asia and theMiddle East. Nevertheless the countries of South Caucasus andTurkeyare willing to join the EU.

Thereby, the Black Sea Region questions the EU about its ultimate borders. The questions risen by theBlack Sea“region” do not only concern economy, security or energy, but also the EU identity. And the question of identity leads to the main Black Sea issue: is the concept of “Neighbourhood” appropriate for this region?

1. The evolution of the perception of a Black sea area for the EU actors since the end of the Cold War.

The opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the German reunification, the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the end of the Warsaw Pact seemed to give the definitive victory to the liberal system and marked the beginning of the total domination of the free market economy and liberal democracy in the world. Some spokes about the “End of History”.

In fact, we actually face a “restarting” of history on European soil after nearly half a century of freezing, forcing European governments to redefine the goals and resources allocated to the European construction. Europe still faces threats and challenges of common security for all its members. The outbreak of conflict in the Balkans demonstrated that the war has not disappeared from our continent.

However, while history and geographical proximity link the Black Sea to Eastern Europe, the European Union has begun to perceive it as a full-fledged region with the prospect of Enlargement. In examining the reasons that led the EU to develop a regional vision : by regional vision, we mean the recognition by the EU through its policies or statements of its leaders to the existence of a geographical and defined policy and actions aimed at strengthening cooperation between the states of this area.

With the Enlargement, which has kept the Union busy from 1993 to 2000 – the stability problems of Eastern Europe and Black Sea countries seem to have been relegated to the background of EU concerns.

Though, these countries form a set area of major importance for the Union to the extent they are- from the Caspian Sea to Ukraine, or producer of oil or energy transit zone, or state candidate or state where the EU plays a role in the so-called civilian missions, either all at once. This is this set of countries we would call “The Black Sea area”.

The fall of communism and the end of the Cold War marked the end of the bipolar era and defined a new array of « geopolitical unity » of the Black Sea[1]

The changing perception of the Black Sea area for the European Union has gradually refined as its borders were advancing eastward and its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) became more and more concrete. The Black Sea area is not mentioned as such in the early 1990s. For the Union, it has never been a proper « region ». While there is still certain vagueness on the definition by the Union of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, Brussels has never put Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus in the same regional category, but rather regarded the “ex-Soviet Union” as the reference. Thus, with the Community Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS), the Union determined its aid targets for the whole region – including twelve states with geography, political cultures and therefore very different perspectives. Thus, the Eastern neighbors were, lost, in category CIS or former Soviet Union.[2]

The first attempt to create a regional approach to the Black Sea was a Communication from the Commission to the Council the 14 November 1997, following a demand from the Dublin European Council of December 1996 asking for “regular report about a large range of regional activities from the Arctic to the Black Sea.”

The name of this communication was “Regional Cooperation in the Black Sea region: state of the situation, framework for a future action of the EU.”

This communication proposed to work closely with the Organization of Economic Cooperation of the Black Sea.

Indeed, Turkey first realized that a regional organization could be relevant for building stability and peace. At the end of the Cold War has been created under the leadership of Turkey, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. Meeting in Istanbul on 25 June 1992, Representatives of eleven States neighbouring coastal zone committed to promote their economic relations – bilateral and multilateral – and to make their territories a space of peace, security and prosperity. Areas of cooperation included in particular transport and communication, energy and raw materials, tourism and environment.[3] The EC Communication stated explicitly that the EU supports and is keen to work with all kind of Regional cooperations to reinforce “the stability and prosperity” in Europe.[4]

But still, there is some « restraint » of the Union to commit in the Black Sea area and thus to define it. The geopolitical reality of this region, a gray area between « empire » that is expanding (the Union) and a former empire (Russia), makes it difficult for the EU.

If we also add to the uneasy relationship with Russia that the Black Sea area for the Union has at least four kinds of countries:

1. “Countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, whose territories are situated wholly in Europe, under the Treaty of Rome, the right to apply and, perhaps, to become an EU member.”[5]

2. States of theSouth Caucasuswhose the geographical definition is still confused yet remain too « far » to join one day the EU, even if the door is still open.

3. Turkey which is a candidate.

4. Russia has a separate status in the Union’s foreign policy throughout the1990s and 2000s. This multiplicity of actors has prevented, until 2007, from acting in the Black Sea area.

We can understand why it takes so long for the EU to “start” promoting a regional vision for the Black Sea.

Yet the strategic importance of this region vis-à-vis the West and in particular Europe, has increased only in recent years.

It is with the Enlargement to Bulgaria and Romania that the Black Sea is finally seen as a regional entity by the European Union.

« Since the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, the EU is part of the Black Sea region. Today, we kept the promise made last December to add a regional dimension to the ENP. The time is ripe to focus political attention at the regional level and invigorate ongoing cooperation process by opening an additional space for cooperation with Russia, Turkey and our eastern ENP partners. I am also hopeful that Black Sea Synergy helps create a better climate for resolving « frozen conflicts » in the region. « [6]

But, barely launched, the new Black Sea Synergy is already in danger. In fact, some EU Members states –Poland,Romania-are keen to see the whole region to join European Union. In this perspective, the so called Synergy is far from sufficient.

2. The Eastern countries of European Union and a Black Sea Region

From 1998 and the enlargement to ten new member States, the European policy vis-à-vis the East has changed. Poland in particular mentioned the need for « Eastern dimension » of the EU in spring 1998. Some of Polish research institute have had an influence on the Polish proposal, including the Center for Eastern Studies and the Stefan Batory Foundation in Warsaw.[7] The Polish government has participated to the development of the Communication on « Wider Europe » with a « non-paper » circulated to the Council of the EU and the Commission in late 2002. The other Member States and future members also participated to this process. Poland and the Visegrad Group have asked the EU to adopt a strategy towards its new Eastern neighbours. Until 2001, the Poles have stressed the need to give a clear signal to Ukraine for an association and eventual membership.[8]

In 2002[9] two years before the Great Enlargement, the EU focuses on the management of all its border regions and the management of the Black Sea area. With the enlargement on the horizon, Brussels and EU member states began to consider a new EU strategy vis-à-vis Eastern neighbours. Romano Prodi put this strategy as a priority on his political agenda during his leadership of the European Commission. The kickoff of the process was given by a letter dated March 2002 in which Jack Straw, British Foreign Minister, demanded a new approach to Eastern neighbours. This letter was followed by a decision taken in Luxembourg on April 15 approving the intension of Javier Solana and Chris Patten to deepen the concept of wider Europe.[10] In September, Solana and Patten made a joint presentation to the Council in which they demanded a new regional and national framework for relations with Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus to simulate implementation of the CFP. This process also included a new financial instrument, and possibly new institutions. The General Affairs Council on November 18 2002 stated « the need for the EU to formulate an ambitious, long-term and integrated with respect to each of these countries. » At the European Council meeting in Copenhagen, what is now called the initiative « Wider Europe – Neighbourhood » saw his scope expanded to include the countries of the southern Mediterranean. With this new mandate, the Commission leads the process, with the support of the future members, before finally presenting the Communication on March 11, 2003.[11]

What began as an exercise to strengthen EU relations with its immediate neighbours and its new Eastern neighbours has become a strategic document on the whole neighbourhood, both the old and new, enlarged Union. In the first proposal of the EC, the Caucasus was not taken into account. But meeting in Luxembourg, the Commission stated – in accordance with Parliament’s opinion and recommendation of the Council – have to include Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the European Neighbourhood Policy from they were initially rejected. In this way the new EU policy included the Black Sea as a whole. However, this new policy covers a geographical area from the Pillars of Hercules to the Caucasus Mountains, without any specific mention of a « Black Sea area » or « Black Sea Region. » The Black Sea Countries, concerned by this new policy feel that the Union made a decision « politically incorrect », putting them in the same category as, for i.e. the Maghreb.[12]

Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine have the eyes on the Union. It is underlined by their desire to be differentiated in the European Neighbourhood Policy from the southern countries of the Mediterranean which are not supposed to join one day the Union.[13]

Moreover, within the EU, some Member States try to promote a more holistic approach to the Black Sea. This is particularly the case of Greece which was advocating for a regional approach of the European Union vis-à-vis the Black Sea. As Acting President of BSEC, Greece assumed the patronage of a first meeting between senior representatives of both EU and BSEC in Brussels, in April 11, 2005. The Communication from EC of December 2006 entitled « Strengthening the European Neighborhood Policy » presents the Black Sea Synergy as an attempt to give a regional dimension to the ENP as a result of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU in January 2007. The Commission recognizes the need to establish special relations with Eastern neighbors participating in the ENP, which are concentrated in the Black Sea region.

In addition, Turkey will be involved in this new dimension of the ENP even if it is not part of the ENP. The point for Greece is to add a new link between Europe and Ankara and to anchor the BSEC and the whole region to Europe. If the input from Athens for a regional approach seems to be opportunist, taking the profit from the end of UdSSR to increase its own security being surrounded by friendly European allies, this is not the case for Romania.

For Bucharest, a “Black Sea Region” does exist. Thus, we can find the first expression of this in a course given during the academic year of 1942 -1943 by George Bratianu. At the same time Russians and Germans was in the middle of the Kursk battle for the control of the North coast of the Black Sea. The Historian, in this course about the Black Sea history, expressed his own concerns about the survival of his country. For him, Romania with no access to the Black Sea, cannot survive.[14] These concerns are resumed by the Romanian government in1970 in the Treaty with Moscow, reassuring the sovereignty on the Dobrudja and a special mention the Black Sea Region. The Romanian-Soviet Treaty and the Romanian-Bulgarian Treaty, refer directly to the Balkan Peninsula and to the Black Sea area.

The end of the Cold War did not change anything and the new Romania follows the same diplomacy.

Indeed, it is not a hazard if it is a Romanian MEP who was the Reporter of the Report on a new European Union strategy in the Black Sea.[15]

Romania also supports the enlargement to Turkey or to Moldova. Bucharest follows the Polish position on Ukraine which advocate for the integration of this country[16], arguing that it is a European country.

3. The Black Sea, a part of the Neighbourhood?

So, is the Black Sea a European Sea?

Jaucourt in the first edition of the Encyclopedie classified the Black Sea as “une grande mer d’Asie”[17]

We saw that, for some European countries, within the EU, Nations like Ukraine, Moldova or Turkey has their place in Europe.

And for the countries surrounding the Black Sea at the exception of Russia, the future is in Europe. For example the only one Regional cooperation which has given some result, the BSEC is nothing else, for its members, than a waiting room to the European Union.

BSEC is intended, ever since its foundation, to be one of the elements of a « wider Europe », part of the pan-European cooperation. Indeed, for the Turkish government, the BSEC is neither more nor less than an « extension of the European dimension »[18], a bridge between Western Europe and the former countries of the Soviet Union. Turkey is willing to avoid any destabilization of its environment that might hinder their path towards European Union integration. In a sense, the integration of the BSEC in the context of a « Wider Europe » must legitimize the candidacy of some of its members to the European Union. By proclaiming themselves Europeans and part of Europe, the States bordering the Black Sea become eligible for integration into the EU under Article 49 of the European Union Treaty.

The expressions « wider Europe » and « wider Black Sea region » or « extended neighbourhood » were already mentioned in the speeches of Ukrainian Georgian and Turkish officials in the 1990s. The European Commission, in its 2003 Communication on the « enlarged » neighbourhood merely reiterated those concepts developed from 15 years earlier by actors that are outside the EU but who want nothing else than being “Part of Europe”. For States that are BSEC members- with the notable exception of Russia, which talk more about pan-European cooperation- BSEC is one of the tools justifying their subsequent integration to the European Union.[19]

Thus, in its Communication on the Black Sea Synergy in April 2007, the Commission recognized the role of the BSEC, proposing the EU as an observer. The European Parliament, in its report of January 2011 for an EU strategy on the Black Sea, demands better integration of the BSEC in EU policies for the region. For coastal States, it remains clear that the ultimate goal is to stabilize the region in order to join in the short or medium term the European Union.

Thus,Turkey, while considering itself more and more a Regional power, has not yet given up its dreams ofEurope. By establishing the BSEC and trying to boost economic ties with its neighbours, it transposes the European model of stabilization in the Black Sea region, garnering an experience that would enable it to better defend its candidacy in Brussels.

Moreover the creation of structures of cooperation in Europe after the Cold War appears as a response to questions about the future of the construction of a European order. These cooperations have gradually helped to shape and consolidate the overall architecture of the European continent. As for the BSEC affirming in the Istanbul Declaration, its commitment to « contribute to strengthening the process initiated with the CSCE”[20]and work more closely with the future European Union. However, we can wonder if, by proclaiming their willingness to cooperate with the structures resulting from the integration of Western Europe, countries of Eastern Europe do not forget to create their own real structure integration and thereby make the EU free to embody « Europe » in its broadest sense, geographical and civilisationnel.

In addition, the EU enlargements in 2004 and 2007 have weakened or marginalized these structures born fifteen years ago (Visegrad Group, the Free Trade Agreement for Central Europe, BSEC). All these cooperation projects, once « digested » in the EU, have ultimately proved to being simple waiting structures until joining the European Union.

If the actors themselves around the Black Sea are not trying to input a new integration project and are still keen to join the European stage, it is because they consider themselves as European and not Asian or Middle Eastern actors.

For now, if we refer to the Copenhagen criteria, which fixed the condition to be a part of the European Union (plus the Article 49 of the European Union Treaty) it can be argued that the Union’s identity is reduced to an « assembly of deserving democratic nations.[21]

If Turkey joins the EU, it would endorse the policy of indefinite enlargement to all its neighbourhood democratic states. This « expansion » would likely take years, even decades, but it would be one of the key elements of the identity of the Union.

Having said that, is putting Black Sea area in the “Neighbourhood” pertinent?

Indeed, if we say “yes” to Turkey how can we say “no” to Azerbaijan and then Georgia or Armenia?

This way, the Black Sea would be quickly surrounded by European Union Member States. We can find in the Eastern Partnership – launch in May 2008 – a way for the European actors to answer to the questions of the countries of this region. In fact, this new policy aims at increasing the links between the Eastern Europe countries which –except Belarus- are all situated on the Black Sea coast. Officially, the Eastern Partnership is linked to the pre-existent program such as TACIS- INOGATE and is a part of the ENP.[22]

The EU’s Eastern Partnership was initially a Polish-Swedish initiative but was taken over by the European Commission in December 2008 and endorsed by the European Council in March 2009, under the Czech EU Presidency.

Significantly, the initiative is called ‘Eastern Partnership’ or EaP, and not the ‘East European Partnership’ as the countries of the region would have liked. This is because the Commission wanted to distance itself from European Association Agreements with Central and East European countries, which contained the prospect of EU membership.

But, nevertheless, these countries are now differentiated from the South Mediterranean Neighbourhood. Doing so, the EU recognizes their possibility to have a different path.

Conclusion

The EaP is a first step to answer the question lying down around the Black sea about the future of this region as a part of the integrated Europe.

The Black Sea is a mirror where the EU can see its own reflection. What the mirror shows is that in the new organization of the European continent, the EU seems to play the leading role. The image of the Union – incarnation of Europe – remains extremely positive and no regional organization can come to compete with this model. However, the absence of clear answers to questions from states bordering the Black Sea-Turkey’s application, security in the Caucasus, and membership of the Ukraine- could hamper the EU action in the medium term. If nothing seems to prevent the Union to embody the term “Europe”, member states of the BSEC not yet integrated into the EU could be cut off from the new European order by the return of a powerful Russia and a Turkey weary to wait integration. We should wonder if ENP – even ENP + -, in this region is sufficient?

If we don’t answer to this simple question, the possibility to see a Black Sea being a European lake and gateway for Europe toCentral Asiawould then be totally compromised and the Pontus Euxinus will remain a border, an Asian sea, and part of a “Wider/Distant Neighbourhood”.


[1] Annie Jafalian, « La mer Noire : Un Centre de gravité stratégique », Questions internationales, juillet-août 2005, n°14, pp. 62-63

[2] Dov LYNCH, « Partenaires et voisins : Une PESC pour une Europe élargie », Cahier de Chaillot, n°64, Sept. 2003

[3] Annie Jafalian, Ibid.

[4] Commission des communautés européennes, Communication de la Commission au Conseil : Coopération régionale dans la région de la Mer Noire : état de la situation, cadre pour une action de l’UE visant à favoriser son développement ultérieur, Bruxelles, le 14.11.1997

[5] Courrier international ; Ministre des Affaires Etrangère Polonais dans, « Varsovie et Stockholm mettent cap à l’Est », Mai-juin 2008

[6] Benita Ferrero-Waldner, communiqué de presse de la Commission européenne, IP/07/486, 11 Avril 2007

[7] Katarzyna Pelczynska-Natecz, Alexander Duleba, Laszlo Poti et Vladimir Votapek, The Eastern policy of the EU: The Visegrad Countries’ Perspective, Centre for Eastern Studies, Varsovie, Fevrier 2003

[8] DovLYNCH, « Partenaires et voisins : Une PESC pour une Europe élargie », Cahier de Chaillot, n°64, Sept. 2003

[9] Romano Prodi, « A Wider Europe- A proximity policy as a way to stability”, SPEECH/02/619, Bruxelles, 5-6 December 2002

[10] Conseil de l’Union européenne, PV/CONS 18, 7978/02, 3 Juillet 2002, Bruxelles

[11] European Commission , Wider Europe — Neighbourhood: A New Framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbour, 104 final, 11/03/2003

[12] Informal talk with Ukrainian officials at the Ukrainian Permanent Representation , 26 mars 2009

[13] Jacques Blanc, La politique européenne de voisinage (rapport d’étape), Rapport d’information n°451, Sénat, 2007-2008.

[14] Georges I. Bratianu, La mer Noire, Des origines à la conquête ottomane, première édition posthume 1967, Paris

[15] European Parliament, Report on a new European strategy in the Black Sea, 12 january 2011,

[16] Joanna Konieczna, Poles and Ukrainians, Poland and Ukraine, The Paradoxes of Neighbourly Relations, Batory Foundation Edition, Warsaw, 2003

[17] Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, La mer Noire ou mer Majeur, page 366, 10ième Tome, 1770, Paris

[18] Déclaration du ministre turc des Affaires étrangères, Hikmet Çetin dans Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 26 juin 1992.

[19] Ludwig Roger, « Coopération économique de la mer Noire. Vers une «Grande Europe»? », Regard sur l’Est, Dossier #57: «Regards de l’Est sur l’Union européenne», Avril 2011 and V. Shemiatenkov, ““The Wider Europe”: Can the idea be “sold” in the East, European Policy Centre, issue 9, Repairing the damage: European disunity and global crisis, 2003.

[20] Istanbul Declaration, 25 June 1992

[21] L. Bourlange: La question turque, clé du débat constitutionnel, Le Figaro, 03/12/2002, dans

Mouna MEJRI, La candidature turque à l’Union Européenne à travers la presse française, L’Harmattan, 2004, page 36

[22] “EU launches Eastern plan in Russia’s backyard”, Euractiv, 08 May 2009

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