FRAMEWORKS AND AREAS OF CO-OPERATION IN THE BLACK SEA REGION

BERT MIDDEL (NETHERLANDS) RAPPORTEUR APNATO

I.INTRODUCTION

Judging by the number of recent studies and reports on the Black Sea region, one could infer that the region is a well-defined and established ensemble, with organised and efficient frameworks of co-operation. Yet, official documents of the Euro-Atlantic institutions, be it NATO or the EU, barely mention the Black Sea region and prefer references to individual countries or sub-regional groups, such as the South Caucasus, i.e. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

There are, however, indications that Black Sea countries are becoming more and more conscious of their common identity and their strategic relevance for Euro-Atlantic security. There are also clear signs that the interest and involvement of external players in the region is building up. De facto, the Black Sea has already become the new border of the Alliance and should become the border of the EU with the enlargement to Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Regional co-operation is a key factor in both these dynamics, i.e. in relation to the increased awareness among the countries of the region and to the growing interest of outsiders for the region. Countries of the region have recently tried to revive some of the existing cooperative frameworks, redefine or re-orient others, as well as build up new ones. However, in its newer version, regional co-operation is seen by countries of the region as not only a way of consolidating regional identity and assets, but also as a clear message to Euro-Atlantic institutions and other players in the region, and a demonstration of their capacity to respond to current security concerns and become strategic partners. Regional co-operation is therefore very closely connected with the region's aspirations towards Euro-Atlantic integration.

Nevertheless, there remain significant obstacles to the development of regional co-operation in the Black Sea, as well as a number of unresolved issues. One of them is the definition of the region itself: what is the Black Sea region? Who does this include and, just as importantly, who does this exclude? Another major issue is that of the unresolved conflicts in the region, in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniestria.

As the Alliance prepares for an important summit in Riga in November 2006, which will focus on the process of transformation of the Alliance, the redefinition of the Alliance's partnerships, as well as the issue of future enlargements, should be high on the agenda of the summit. These decisions will certainly have significant consequences for countries of the Black Sea region and for their future relations with the Alliance.

Taking into account this context and the dynamics that are currently reshaping the Black Sea region, this report analyses the present state of regional co-operation in the Black Sea, its potential contribution to further democratisation in the region, as well as its relations to and implications for Euro-Atlantic security. It will start with an overview of the main characteristics of the region and of the development of the concept of a Black Sea region. It will then look at the various frameworks for co-operation in the region and co-operation of the region with external players. Finally, it will examine a few specific areas of co-operation.

The Sub-Committee on Democratic Governance will be travelling to Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine in the summer and fall of 2006 to gather additional material for this report. Therefore, your Rapporteur would like to present the current version as a preliminary draft, based on available literature as well as discussions with competent experts, which will be completed following the planned visits to the region.

II.STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF THE BLACK SEA REGION A. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE REGION

In a recent study on "The Role of the Wider Black Sea Area in a Future European Security Space", Jean Dufourcq, Deputy Chief of Academic Research at the NATO Defence College (NDC) in Rome, sums up the history of the Black Sea with the following statement: "Historically, the Black Sea, the Latin Pontus Euxinus, has always been a crossroads and an area of transition. It was in turn a Roman lake, a Russo-Ottoman condominium, a bridge and a corridor, but also a barrier and a buffer zone."

This troubled history has consolidated what are the main characteristics of the region: a diverse group of countries with a shared history of various and often conflicting influences from dominant powers in the region. The Black Sea region can therefore be best characterised as an area of contrasts: contrast between elements of unity and diversity and contrast between the region's assets and its weaknesses. These two equations overlap to some degree.

The issue of unity and diversity starts with the problem of definition of the region itself. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union into the new independent states of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, has made this task even more difficult. Competing visions of the region have emerged. Some are based on a strict geographical understanding of the Black Sea region, i.e. the littoral states (Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine), others on a geopolitical / strategic understanding, which might include external players with a strategic interest or relevance for the region or exclude other countries from the region on strategic grounds.

Existing co-operative frameworks have been built using various definitions of the region. The main external players, including Euro-Atlantic institutions, also use a flexible approach in their relations with the region, promoting different frameworks for different purposes. Generally speaking, there is however a consensus of including in the Black Sea region the six littoral states, plus some adjacent countries, i.e. Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan. This ensemble is also sometimes referred to as the Wider Black Sea Area or the Greater Black Sea Area. However, as will be examined later in this report, some frameworks of co-operation also include other neighbouring countries from Central Asia / the Caspian Sea, the Baltic Sea or the Balkans.

A second element of unity and diversity are the various levels of political and economic transition of the countries in the region. Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, as NATO members and prospective members of the EU, are already in an advanced stage of transition. Georgia and Ukraine, since the 'coloured revolutions' have initiated a fast-paced process of democratic and economic transition. Other countries in the region have more hesitating trajectories in terms of political and economic transition.

A third consideration relates to the region's relations with its big neighbours to the West (mainly through NATO and the EU), the North-East (i.e. with Russia) and the South (i.e. with Iran and Turkey). This complex network of relations is analysed in greater detail in the section III. B. below.

Finally, despite a shared history, which has resulted in movements of populations across the region and exchanges of influences, countries of region are also diverse ethnically and culturally. The definition of a common identity for the region also needs to take into account these elements of unity and diversity.

As to the second equation, assets vs. weaknesses, countries of the region share a certain number of resources, which can be considered as unifying factors for the region. First, as stated in a 2004 report of the US Institute for Peace, "[t]he Black Sea - South Caucasus - Caspian region ... has the second largest oil and natural gas reserve in the world and has a foreign trade capacity of more than $300 billion." The location of the Black Sea as an energy and transportation corridor between Europe and the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian makes it indeed a strategically important area. The region also has a strategic position as a bridge to the Greater Middle East through Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan's common borders with the Persian and Arabic worlds.

Nevertheless, the region is also characterised by a number of common weaknesses and obstacles, of which the most important one is certainly the existence of four unresolved conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Trans-Dniestria. These conflicts remain a major source of instability and tension in the region, and therefore, represent a serious obstacle for regional co-operation, for the political and economic development of the region, as well as for its relations with Euro-Atlantic institutions. This situation also provides favourable ground for the development of organised crime and illegal trafficking in weapons, drugs and people.

B.BUILDING UP A CONCEPT OF THE BLACK SEA REGION

The end of the Cold War led to a major overhaul of the region, the breakdown of existing frameworks of co-operation and the necessity to rebuild regional co-operation on new grounds. New groupings of countries were created in the course of the 1990s, with various objectives and unequal achievements. However, several factors have converged to give a new relevance to the region at the beginning of the 21st century. States of the region have tried to capitalise on these new dynamics in order to promote a version of the Black Sea region adapted to the realities and requirements of the new security environment.

Several regional players have been instrumental in this process. Turkey has been a promoter of regional co-operation in the early 1990s, as a way to fill the gap created by the collapse of the Soviet Union. As they got closer to integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, Romania and Bulgaria have also become active supporters of the Black Sea dimension, positioning themselves as facilitators of the next phase of enlargement. Finally, since the 'Rose Revolution' in Georgia and the 'Orange Revolution' in Ukraine, both countries have been active in building support for the Black Sea.

Promoters of regional co-operation in the Black Sea have developed strong arguments to underline the region's identity and strategic relevance, based on the common characteristics and political, economic and strategic assets identified above.

They have also tried to distinguish the Black Sea region from other related groups. The South Caucasus, for example, i.e. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, tends to be considered as a more relevant concept in the West. The South Caucasus and Central Asia are also sometimes considered as a big block. Promoters of the concept of the Black Sea have therefore underlined the differences between the South Caucasus and Central Asia, and tried to "re-connect" the South Caucasus to the other littoral states. However, this objective has not yet been fully achieved and competing formats and designations still coexist in the region.

A third element towards the conceptualisation of the Black Sea has been the development of regional co-operation, based on existing frameworks of co-operation and on the creation of new frameworks. Here again, this approach has only been partly successful. Regional co-operation is limited to some areas and often lacks depth and efficiency.

A final and fundamental component of the promotion of a Black Sea dimension has consisted in building links between regional co-operation in the Black Sea and Euro-Atlantic institutions (OSCE, Council of Europe, EU, NATO). In other words, countries of the region have tried to underline the internal and external implications of the Black Sea dimension, in order to build support for Black Sea co-operation among Euro-Atlantic partners.

This approach has found some support in various circles in Europe and in the United States. For example, a policy paper published by the German Marshall Fund (GMF) before the NATO summit in Istanbul in June 2004, "A New Euro-Atlantic Strategy for the Black Sea Region", develops a very complete and elaborate case in favour of Euro-Atlantic support to a Black Sea dimension. In that study, Ron Asmus and Bruce Jackson identify both strategic and moral arguments.

Strategic arguments include first and foremost the need to consolidate peace and stability in the wider Europe. Since the process of enlargement of NATO and the EU has brought the new borders of Europe up to the shores of the Black Sea, Euro-Atlantic institutions cannot ignore the region any more. In the NDC study mentioned above, Razvan Ungureanu, Foreign Minister of Romania, argues that building "democratic security" in the Black Sea should be the new transatlantic co¬operation project and should include three pillars: building security and stability, in particular through the resolution of the so-called frozen conflicts in the region; promoting democracy; and achieving prosperity through the promotion of regional trade and economic co-operation, as well as economic integration to the Euro-Atlantic area.

A second and related strategic argument underlines the region's role as a source of energy and bridge to oil and gas resources from the Caspian Sea. This again provides a favourable ground for the development of regional economy and co-operation, but also for direct linkages with Western neighbours.

A third strategic argument sees the Black Sea region as bridge to the Greater Middle East. This argument not only relies on the actual and potential military contribution of Black Sea countries on the new fronts of the fight against terrorism, but also on the example that the Black Sea can set for the advancement of democracy and the fight against religious extremism in the Broader Middle East. As explained by Asmus and Jackson, "[i]n the wider Black Sea region, ethnic conflicts, post-conflict societies, and economic devastation confront us with the same conditions we will find in the Greater Middle East. We may look back on a successful Black Sea strategy and see a providing ground on which effective multilateralism and nation-building were first developed."

Finally, the Black Sea region can be seen as the new frontline for some of the main soft security challenges in Europe, i.e. organised crime, drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal immigration, environmental degradation, etc.

Moral arguments in favour of Black Sea co-operation and inter-connection of the region with the Euro-Atlantic space rely first on the completion of a vision of Europe as a multicultural society under the motto "unity in diversity". In this sense, the Black Sea region, through the consolidation of its own regional identity, can contribute to this mix of cultures and influences. Moreover a strong and unified Black Sea region can also assist in reaching out to Russia.

Overall, these arguments have for now received more support in the Euro-Atlantic academic community than in diplomatic circles. As the following sections will try to demonstrate, a sense of regional identity is clearly growing on the shores of the Black Sea. However, countries of the region have until now been only mildly successful in "selling" this concept to their partners in Euro-Atlantic institutions.

III.CURRENT FRAMEWORKS FOR CO-OPERATION

Co-operation in the Black Sea has developed both between countries of the region and with some external players with particular interests in the region.

A.CO-OPERATION IN THE REGION

The main and most inclusive framework for co-operation in the region is the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). This organization was founded in 1992 in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, and based on a Turkish initiative, It has 12 member states (the six littoral countries, plus Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Greece, Moldova, and Serbia) and 11 observers (Belarus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Tunisia and the United States). The organisation was initially conceived as a regional economic organisation intended to promote lower tariffs and to increase trade integration. It also sponsored co-operation on transportation, energy and environmental issues.

BSEC has undergone a significant transformation since its creation. First, the organisation has developed a comprehensive institutional framework. A permanent secretariat was established in 1994 in Istanbul. A founding Charter was adopted and came into force in May 1999. A Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC), a BSEC Business Council, a Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, as well as a think tank, the International Centre for Black Sea Studies, were established. Working groups were created under the authority of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs to cover the different activities of the organisation.

Moreover, BSEC has recently begun to involve itself in new areas of co-operation, including security-related issues, such as border control, police co-operation, crisis management, the fight against organised crime and terrorism. This reorientation of BSEC's focus seems to be driven by the organisation's desire to demonstrate its relevance in the context of co-operation with and integration to the EU. Indeed, many of these new areas of co-operation correspond to issues of growing interest for the Union as part of its "Justice and Home Affairs" pillar.

BSEC's strength rests in its inclusiveness: as the major framework of co-operation between all countries of the region, it brings together countries like Greece, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, where bilateral relations are strained, but for which BSEC provides a broad forum for dialogue, co¬operation and confidence-building. Moreover, BSEC provides a forum for dialogue with Russia, since Russia is a member state of the organisation. In this sense, BSEC has the potential to become the main interlocutor in the region and could turn into a regional equivalent of the OSCE. However, this broad membership is also BSEC's weakness, as the organisation strives to co-ordinate the diverging policies and regional strategies of all its member countries. Therefore, BSEC is not likely to become a regional security organisation, but could prove to be a useful partner on selected areas, such as democratisation and good governance, civil protection, energy, etc.

Another major regional framework is GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova). This organisation was created in 1996 by the Presidents of Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, with the support of the United States, in opposition to Russian attempts to maintain political and military control over the region. Moldova was included in October 1997. Uzbekistan joined in 1999, then suspended its membership in 2002 and finally withdrew from the organisation at the end of 2005.

In June 2001 in Yalta, the then five GUUAM presidents adopted a charter outlining the organisation's basic goals and principles, which included economic co-operation, developing transport links, strengthening regional security, and cooperating in the fight against organised crime and international terrorism. In 2002, GUUAM presidents also agreed to the creation of a free trade area in the region. However the plan was never ratified by all parties nor implemented.

Following the 'coloured revolutions' in Georgia and Ukraine, both countries strived to give regional co-operation within GUAM a new impetus and new directions. This re-orientation became particularly evident at the GUAM summit in Chisinau, in April 2005. The summit focused on three main issues: further democratisation of the region; co-operation and rapprochement with the EU and NATO; new approaches to conflict resolution, including increased international involvement in the

resolution of the so-called frozen conflicts. The Chisinau summit therefore seemed to give GUAM a new mandate, with an increased focus on security-related issue, which would distinguish the organisation from BSEC. Moreover, the summit was also the first one to include observers from Romania and Poland, which indicated the possibility of a future enlargement of the organisation.

However, these new developments within GUAM seem to have been rapidly overshadowed by the parallel creation of a new and broader framework with very close purposes, the Community of Democratic Choice (CDC). The CDC is essentially a product of the recent rapprochement between Georgia and Ukraine. The project of a CDC has been designed and formalised in several stages, through a succession of joint declarations between the Georgian and Ukrainian presidents in January 2005 ("Carpathian declaration") and in August 2005 ("Borjomi declaration"). The process culminated with the first-ever summit of the CDC in Kyiv in early December 2005. The summit brought together, besides Georgia and Ukraine, representatives from the three Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia), from Romania, Moldova, Slovenia and FYR of Macedonial. Delegations from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland also attended, as did observers from the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the EU and the United States.

The CDC therefore creates a broad framework that goes far beyond the shores of the Black Sea and that includes a majority of states that are already fully integrated in the Euro-Atlantic community. As stated in the final declaration of the Kyiv summit, the Community is designed "to unite all the countries in the [Baltic, Black Sea and Caspian] region in their common efforts to strengthen ... regional co-operation, promote democracy and protect human rights." It is also clearly geared towards gathering support for the integration of all Black Sea countries in the Euro-Atlantic institutions. In that sense, the CDC's mandate clearly overlaps with the recent re-orientation of GUAM. It seems difficult to see how both organisations will find enough space to push their common agenda. Nevertheless, the CDC is only in a very early stage of development. Further meetings within the framework of the CDC are planned in the course of 2006 including a Black Sea Forum for Dialogue and Partnership in Bucharest, a Baltic and Black Sea Region Summit in Vilnius and another forum in Tbilisi.

Other regional initiatives have been developed in the field of maritime security. The Black Sea Naval Task Force (BLACKSEAFOR) was established by the six littoral states in Istanbul in April 2001 with tasks of search and rescue operations, humanitarian assistance, mine counter measures, environmental protection and goodwill visits. Co-operation in the framework of BLACKSEAFOR was progressively stepped up and enhanced. In March 2005, the force's mandate was extended to include the fight against terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). A parallel initiative is the extension to the other littoral countries of a Turkish initiative established in 2004, Black Sea Harmony. This operation shares the same objectives as NATO's Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean. Turkey, which opposed the extension of Active Endeavour to the Black Sea, extended an invitation to other littoral states to join Black Sea Harmony as an alternative initiative. This should allow Turkey to maintain the legal status it currently enjoys in relation to the Black Sea straights as a result of the Montreux Convention of 1936.

Finally, some regional initiatives focus on non-conventional security threats, such as organised crime and the fight against trafficking in human beings, narcotics and weapons. One such initiative is the SEC1 (South East European Cooperative Initiative) Centre, which brings together 12 states from the Balkans, South-Eastern Europe and the Black Sea. The six littoral states have also established co-operation between their coast guards through the Black Sea Border Coordination and Information Centre (BBC1C) based in Burgas, Bulgaria.

This quick overview of existing frameworks for co-operation in the Black Sea provides a few valuable lessons. First, co-operation has developed at the level of the Black Sea region (BSEC), but also at a sub-regional (e.g. GUAM) and an inter-regional level (e.g. CDC). This reflects the lack of consensus on the identity and the borders of the region and the competing visions of the countries of the region, as well as the interests of other external players for the region. There is for example a strong sense of responsibility on the part of Baltic nations towards the Black Sea region and the Caucasus in particular. There is also some sense of commonality between the countries from the Western Balkans and the Black Sea countries. Finally, there are obvious links between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, which support the vision of a big Black Sea-Caspian Sea region.

Moreover, this collection of initiatives also reveals how not all of the Black Sea states are interested in regional co-operation. Azerbaijan in particular, but also Russia, tend to have divergent views in this regard. Other obstacles to co-operation can be found in the presence of weak and transitional states in the region, as well as in the persistence of ethnic conflicts. Finally, co¬operation in the region is also sometimes seen as secondary or subsidiary to co-operation with external players, particularly with the Euro-Atlantic institutions.

B.CO-OPERATION WITH EXTERNAL PLAYERS

1.Euro-Atlantic institutions

Both NATO and the EU have established relations with the countries of the Black Sea region. Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey are NATO members and prospective members to the EU. Russia enjoys a special relationship with NATO and with the EU. Ukraine and Georgia have made clear their ambitions of eventual membership in both institutions. Azerbaijan, Armenia and Moldova are also engaged in the Alliance's partnership programmes and in the Union's Neighbourhood policy, but their prospects for membership in both institutions are very uncertain.

However, NATO and the EU's current approaches to the Black Sea are dominated by their insistence on individualised and differentiated relationships. As summarised by Mustafa Aydin in the NDC study on the Black Sea, "NATO today, (..) much like the EU, deals with different parts of the region through a varied set of bilateral relationships. While a regional approach has long been discussed within NATO circles in the context of partnership programmes, there are currently no projects or co-operation programmes that have focused exclusively on the BS region." The best example of NATO's individualised approach to the Black Sea countries are the Individual Partnership Action Plans (IPAPs), which have become the main framework for the implementation of Alliance-related policies in the countries of the South Caucasus. An IPAP with Moldova is also under development.

Nevertheless, there is room for regional approaches within the Alliance. NATO has indeed supported the development of regional frameworks in South-Eastern Europe (SEEI and SEEGROUP). NATO's partnership programmes, such as the Planning and Review Process (PaRP) or the Partnership Action Plans (PAP) also provide for the development of focused regional projects. Moreover, there have been some indications of the Alliance's willingness to acknowledge the regional dimension in the Black Sea. For example, the Istanbul communique refers to the need to "further strengthen the Euro-Atlantic Partnership, in particular through a special focus on engaging with our Partners in the strategically important regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia". The same communique also notes "the importance of the Black Sea region for Euro-Atlantic security. Littoral countries, Allies and Partners are working together to contribute to further strengthening security and stability in the area. Our Alliance is prepared to explore means to

complement these efforts, building upon existing forms of regional co-operation." The United States could play an important role in the formulation of a Black Sea strategy within the Alliance. It has been strongly engaged in favour of democratisation movements in the region. It has also recently redeployed its forces from Western Europe to the shores of the Black Sea as part of a global repositioning of U.S. forces abroad and of its focus on the war against terror and the Greater Middle East.

The approach adopted by the European Union also relies principally on an individualised approach. With the exception of candidate countries Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, the Union's main framework in its relations with the region is the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The ENP is also implemented through the negotiation of Action Plans with individual countries. Moldova and Ukraine have already negotiated an Action Plan. Similar plans for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are currently being developed.

Nevertheless, the ENP strategy paper mentions the role of BSEC as a regional partner. The Union has also initiated and supports several regional co-operation programmes in the Black Sea for the transport of energy resources. The two main programmes are TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe - Caucasus - Asia) and INOGATE (Interstate Oil and Gas Transport to Europe). Finally, the Union has developed regional approaches with its Northern neighbours, in the Western Balkans and with Euromed partners.

Overall, the recognition of a regional dimension in the Black Sea is only embryonic within the Alliance and within the EU. There is for now no clear strategy regarding relations with regional organisations. There is also only a timid recognition within Euro-Atlantic institutions and within the region that regional co-operation and Euro-Atlantic integration are complementary projects.

2.Russia and Turkey

Turkey and Russia have a special position in the region; both are littoral countries and therefore part of the region, but their past role in the region gives them a particular weight. Moreover, relations between these two regional heavyweights have themselves evolved over time and recently come closer, which could have a strong impact on regional dynamics.

Russia participates in several of the existing regional frameworks for co-operation, most importantly in BSEC, of which it will hold the rotating presidency from May to October 2006. It is also one of the leading members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which brings together most of the former Soviet Republics, including the three South Caucasus states, Moldova and Ukraine.

Russia's attitude has been particularly ambiguous in the past year. On the one hand, it has taken some positive steps, such as an agreement on the withdrawal of Russian bases from Georgia by 2008. On the other hand, the reorientation of the region towards the West has provoked a strong reaction in Russia which has sought to use its two main sources of influence in the region, i.e. unresolved conflicts and energy resources. This has led to the row over gas prices in the winter of 2005. It has also prevented any major progress on the resolution of regional conflicts.

Russia's policy in the region is based on four main considerations. First, and despite an increasingly more positive and co-operative attitude to Euro-Atlantic institutions, particularly on the fight against terrorism, Russia's strategic thinking is still largely dominated by a zero-sum approach,

in which the advancement of Euro-Atlantic interests in the Black Sea region are systematically considered as an unacceptable erosion of Russian interests.

A second consideration relates to the remaining Russian military presence in the Black Sea. Russia retains military bases in Armenia and Georgia and a fleet in Ukraine. It also maintains contingents of peacekeepers in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria. More broadly, Russia is directly and indirectly involved in three of the unresolved conflicts of the region.

A third security-related concern has to do with the continued instability in the North Caucasian provinces of Russia. This situation contributes to Russian fears regarding religious extremism, and pushes Russia to seek stability on its Southern border. This could encourage co-operation, but it has for now mostly resulted in tensions, particularly with Georgia.

A final consideration, which shapes Russian policy in the region, is the issue of energy resources and transportation. Russia controls about 90% of Georgia's energy and electricity distribution system. It is also the main supplier of Ukraine's energy. The recent crisis over gas prices in the winter of 2005 has demonstrated the extent of Russia's energetic leverage over the countries of the region and beyond.

Turkey is in quite a different position. However, it has also sometimes demonstrated an ambiguous attitude towards the region. Based on its historic influence in the region and its status as a long-standing NATO member and prospective EU member, Turkey aspires to a leading role in the Black Sea region. It has initiated or played a key role in support of many of the existing regional frameworks. It has also developed a model of secular Islam which puts it in a position to act as an example and a bridge to other Muslim countries of the region and beyond. Nevertheless, Turkish attempts at consolidating its leadership in the region have not always been successful. Moreover, its strained relations with Armenia continue to provide a major source of tension in the region and thereby limit the opportunities for regional co-operation.

A recent development in Turkey's attitude towards the region has been a certain rapprochement with its former competitor in the region, Russia. As explained in a recent paper by two researchers from the Brookings Institution in Washington, the Turkish-Russian rapprochement in the Black Sea relies on four main considerations. First, tensions arising from the U.S. intervention in Iraq and a growing anti-American sentiment in Turkey, have led to a certain convergence of views with Russia. Moreover, both countries experience a certain form of frustration and an impression of stagnation in their relations with the EU. Thirdly, Turkish-Russian economic and energy co¬operation has been stepped up recently. Russia now accounts for more than 70% of Turkish gas imports. In November 2005, the Blue Stream gas pipeline was opened and connects Russia to Turkey under the Black Sea. Finally, Turkey and Russia share a common bias in favour of status quo in the Black Sea region, due in particular to their fear of separatism and religious extremism and the potential implications of these phenomena in both countries.

3.Iran

Iran also aims to play an influential role in the Black Sea region and provide an alternative to Turkey, to Western interests, and to Russia. It shares some ties with Armenia and Azerbaijan through important populations of ethnic Armenians (about 200,000) and Azeris (estimated at between 6 and 12 million) in Iran. However, this ethnic connection is also a source of tension in the relations between Iran and Azerbaijan, as the Iranian authorities fear the growing consciousness of the Azeri minority and its potential aspiration to a reunification with Azerbaijan. Iran has also developed economic ties with the countries of the Black Sea, particularly in the energy sector. However, this issue constitutes also a regular source of tension with Azerbaijan over the delimitation of maritime borders in the Caspian Sea.

IV.EXAMPLES OF AREAS OF CO-OPERATION

The following section will look at some examples of co-operation in four specific areas and examine successes and limitations of existing regional frameworks, as well as the potential for further engagement of Euro-Atlantic institutions in each area.

A.DEMOCRATISATION

The past two years have seen an important breakthrough in the democratic development of the region. The 'Rose Revolution' in Georgia and 'Orange Revolution' in Ukraine have created new impetus, as well as new models of political transition and democratisation. Although achievements have not always matched initial hopes and there are some indications of a backlash in both countries, the legacy of both revolutions has certainly created irreversible dynamics in the region.

As a result of these developments, Georgia and Ukraine have now made democratisation one of the stated objectives of regional co-operation in the Black Sea. GUAM'S summit in Chisinau sanctioned the reorientation of the organisation's priorities, including support for democratisation in the region. A new organisation, the CDC, was also created with a clear mandate in favour of democratisation in the region and beyond. The CDC's Kyiv declaration insists indeed on its role as a model for democratisation in other countries and regions. One could read in this statement a certain ambition to act as a model for Central Asia, but also the Greater Middle East.

Euro-Atlantic institutions have recently encouraged and contributed to the democratisation of the Black Sea region. NATO's IPAPs and PAPs - particularly the PAP on Defence Institution Building, include important commitments regarding democratic control of the defence and security sectors, good governance and democratisation in general. Similarly, the EU's Neighbourhood Policy encourages democratic processes in the countries of the region.

Nevertheless, these processes are still at a very early stage in some of the countries of the region. Moreover, a certain number of obstacles continue to slow down the path of political reforms. Frozen conflicts certainly represent one of the main challenges to further democratisation of the region. The monopolisation of resources by ruling elites and pervasive corruption in some countries, coupled with sometimes ambiguous policies from Western partners, based on short-term economic and strategic interests, have also limited the scope of democratic processes in the region.

B.SECURITY CO-OPERATION

Security co-operation has also been recently stepped up in the region, especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the new focus on the fight against terrorism and proliferation of WMD. Organised crime and the fight against trafficking in human beings, drugs and weapons have also received more attention in Europe. As a result, regional co-operation frameworks, such as BSEC and GUAM, have extended their mandate to include some of these issues. Maritime co-operation, through BLACKSEAFOR and the Turkish initiative Black Sea

Harmony have also gained a new relevance.

Euro-Atlantic institutions have taken advantage of this new awareness of countries of the region and have acknowledged the relevance of partnerships with those countries in the new security environment. The redeployment of US military bases towards the shores of the Black Sea is a clear indication of this recognition of the strategic position of the Black Sea for access to the new theatres of operation in the Greater Middle East.

Euro-Atlantic institutions have also put a strong emphasis on defence and security sector reform (DSSR) in the Black Sea countries. For example, DSSR is the main pillar of NATO's IPAP and PAP instruments. They have allowed major progress in these areas in Georgia, Ukraine, but also to a certain extent in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Some NATO allies - particularly the Baltic states - have also developed bilateral or interregional initiatives with the South Caucasus.

However, overall, Euro-Atlantic institutions have been wary of engaging in regional initiatives. Unlike Central and Eastern Europe or the Western Balkans, where Western institutions had fostered regional co-operation as part of the process of Euro-Atlantic integration, there has been no similar approach in the Black Sea.

C.ENERGY CO-OPERATION

Energy is another sector that has recently gained a new prominence and relevance. The Black Sea region has become more conscious of its strategic position as a transit corridor to the resources of the Caspian Sea, which represent 10% of world energy resources. The recent energy crisis with Russia has also increased awareness in the wider Europe of the need to diversify energy resources and support alternative projects. At present, Europe imports nearly 50% of its energy over complicated and often dangerous routes. One fourth of the EU's energy imports transit through the Black Sea region. By 2020, Europe will be importing 70% of its energy from sources beyond Europe. In this context, there is a strong interest in developing safer routes in a stabilised and friendly Black Sea region.

Oil and gas pipelines have recently proliferated in the region, providing an alternative to the heavy traffic of tankers across the Black Sea. Some of the main projects include the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, whose second phase was inaugurated in October 2005. A gas pipeline following a parallel route Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum is also under development. Another major pipeline runs from Odessa to Brody in Ukraine, with a planned extension to Gdansk in Poland. The Blue Stream gas pipeline inaugurated in November 2005 connects Russia and Turkey under the Black Sea.

Moreover, co-operation on energy issues has increased within regional frameworks such as BSEC and GUAM. A related issue is also the security of these new pipelines. GUAM in particular hosts an ongoing discussion about regional co-operation for the protection of the BTC pipeline. However, it has not yet led to any concrete result.

The EU has supported regional projects in the energy field through programmes such as INOGATE and TRACECA. NATO, on the contrary, has for now adopted a low profile on these issues. However, there are some indications of a recent interest of the Alliance for issues relating to energy security. This could lead to enhanced co-operation with countries of the Black Sea on energy-related issues.

D.UNRESOLVED CONFLICTS IN THE BLACK SEA

The unresolved conflicts in the Black Sea area, in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniestria still represent one of the main sources of tension in the region, if not the main source of tension and destabilisation. Unresolved conflicts delay the necessary political and economic transition in some countries of the region, as well as those countries' full integration in the Euro-Atlantic community. However, ironically, they could also provide a great opportunity for intensified co-operation in the region.

The terrain is not particularly favourable. Recent positive signs and hopes of a breakthrough in the negotiations over some of those conflicts have all proved disappointing. Following his success in resolving the crisis in Adjara, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has presented detailed plans for a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, these initiatives have not led to any major improvement of the situation on the ground. On the contrary, Georgian authorities seem to become more and more impatient with the current peacekeeping arrangements and Georgian lawmakers adopted a harsh resolution on 15 February 2006 calling for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers. Hopes of a breakthrough in the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh also received a blow at the last round of negotiations between the presidents of the two countries, held in France at the beginning of February 2006, which did not lead to any substantial agreement. Finally, negotiations over Transdniestria currently stand at an impasse. Talks in late January 2006 mediated by the OSCE proved fruitless. Moldova and Ukraine have taken the lead and tried to put pressure on the self-proclaimed authorities of the region. On March 3rd, 2006, Ukraine started imposing stricter customs regulations on goods entering its territory from Transdniestria, requiring that exporters clear their goods through Moldovan customs offices.

Apart from the OSCE, which is involved in negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniestria, Euro-Atlantic institutions have until now refrained from any direct involvement in the resolution of regional conflicts in the Black Sea. Their policy has aimed primarily at supporting current frameworks for conflict resolution, and promoting political and economic reforms in the region as an indirect way to facilitate conflict resolution. At the same time, they have maintained that the resolution of regional conflicts is a pre-condition to further integration.

This situation is slowly changing. Calls for a stronger involvement of Euro-Atlantic institutions in conflict resolution have proliferated recently. The EU has already demonstrated a willingness to get more involved in the region. The establishment, in December 2005, of the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and the Ukraine, was a first and timid step, yet a significant one. Responding to requests of assistance from Moldova and Ukraine, the Union has accepted to send a small expert mission to train Moldovan and Ukrainian border guards in the prevention of smuggling, trafficking and customs fraud. The mission will conduct surprise inspections on Moldovan and Ukrainian border facilities. However, it will not operate within Transdniestria. The Union is associated in the negotiations over Transdniestria in the 5+2 format (Moldova, Transdniestria, Ukraine, Russia, OSCE + EU + USA). Moreover, it has recently indicated a willingness to assist in the resolution of the situation in South Ossetia.

On the contrary, NATO officials have regularly repeated that the Alliance had no ambition to get involved in the negotiations over the unresolved conflicts. Taking into account the regional context, NATO's direct engagement would be very delicate. However, the Alliance has demonstrated that it can contribute to improving domestic conditions for conflict resolution through its promotion of democratisation.

V.TENTATIVE CONCLUSIONS

Regional co-operation in the Black Sea region has recently received a new impetus. A number of favourable elements have converged to consolidate the region's common identity and its strategic relevance, from the enlargement of NATO and the EU, to the wave of democratisation in the region, and the current focus on the fight against terrorism and religious extremism, as well as on energy security. Old frameworks for co-operation have been revived, new frameworks have been created and all have extended their mandate to include issues relevant both for the region and for its strategic partners.

Euro-Atlantic institutions have acknowledged the importance of supporting these emerging trends in the Black Sea region, however they have stopped short of actively promoting regional co¬operation and have preferred individualised approaches. One of the reasons for this reluctance seems to be the persistence of conflicting visions of the region. Some envision the Black Sea as a border, others as a bridge. In the current phase of Euro-Atlantic integration, the Black Sea could be seen either as a block which belongs to the Wider Europe, or as a bridge to the Caspian Sea, within a broader Great Asian ensemble.

Unresolved conflicts in the region also continue to pose a major challenge for the region. They slow down the development of a common identity and of regional cooperation, particularly on security issues. They also complicate the region's relations with its main partners.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

ASMUS (R.), DMITROV (K.), FORBRIG (J.), eds, A New Euro-Atlantic Strategy for the Black Sea Region, German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2004.

CIOBANU (C), NATO/EU Enlargement: Moldova and the "Frozen and Forgotten" Conflicts In Post-Soviet States, U.S. Institute of Peace, July 2004.

HILL (F.), TASPINAR (O.), Russia and Turkey in the Caucasus: Moving Together to Preserve the Status Quo?, IFRI, Russie.Nei.Visions n°8, January 2006. http://www.ifri.org/files/Russie/hilltaspinar_anglais.pdf

NATO Defence College, The Role of the Wider Black Sea Area in a Future European Security Space, NDC Occasional Paper 10, vol. 1 and 2.

SIMON (J.), Black Sea Regional Security Cooperation: Building Bridges and Barriers, Harvard Black Sea Security Program, January 2006, http://harvard-bssp.org/publications/?id=210

ZULEAN (M.), "Reforming the Security Sectors in South Eastern Europe: Lessons Learned anlT^ Their Relevance for a Wider Black Sea Area Policy", The Quarterly Journal, December 2004, vol. Ill, n°4.

1Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name

Bert Middel

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