Guest lecture: Security Challenges in the Black Sea Region

On Thursday 5 November 2009 SPES fellow Raluca Csernatoni presented her paper on “Security Challenges in the Black Sea Region: The EU’s Geostra­tegic Role and the Potential Invol­vement of the New EU Member States” at the research collo­quium of the MA Military Studies at Potsdam University.

Csernatoni first pointed out that although several policies dealing with the EU’s Eastern neigh­bours already exist – the Black Sea Synergy, European Neigh­bourhood Policy, Eastern Partnership – the EU needs a more coherent, unified, and proactive approach to the region and when dealing with an incre­a­singly self-assertive Russia. In doing so, it cannot wholly rely on its soft power and post-modern under­standing of politics but must take balancing and power politics into account.

What can be inferred from the EU’s policy towards the Black Sea region? According to Csernatoni, the EU is constructing bordering regions as its limes. In case of the Black Sea region, the EU has an interest in preserving the status quo, i.e. a region with unresolved but relatively stable frozen conflicts. Thereby, the EU seeks to fortify its limes and at the same time avoids getting too involved in the region. Csernatoni criti­cised this approach for it would mean giving Russia ample scope to shape the region according to its own prefe­rences. On the contrary, the EU should follow a two-fold strategy: on the one hand, it should continue with the policy frame­works already in place, on the other hand, the EU should become involved in high politics via the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Whereas NATO invol­vement in the region would be met with suspicion by some countries, with its ESDP the EU would enter the stage as a more credible, neutral partner.

The subse­quent discussion touched upon several issues. While getting more involved in the region, does the EU ‘risk’ enlar­gement? Csernatoni denied that there is a realistic prospect of states such as Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia becoming members of the EU in the near future. The EU should assist the region with economic, democracy, and security issues while at the same time ruling out EU membership. How can an increased effort of the EU in the Black Sea region look like in practice? Csernatoni indicated that in Georgia the EU is already present with the border assis­tance mission EUBAM. The EU should reinforce the mission with more men on the ground. Which options does the region have for the future? The usual sequence to first become member of NATO and then of the EU is unlikely for Black Sea countries. If the EU does not propose a membership prospect, it has to increase its efforts in the region and offer an attractive alter­native. Otherwise, Russia’s influence is likely to grow and its ‘sovereign democracy’ might become a model for countries of the region. Finally, there were some open questions concerning Russia’s perception of ESDP. Does Russia have a benign attitude towards ESDP because it knows of the latter’s innovative, civilian character? Or is it due to Russia’s perception of ESDP as an ineffective paper tiger?
Von: Daniel Matteo