1. The Rationale

Geographically and historically, the countries of the Black Sea Region have always been linked to Europe. Nowadays, due to the new international and regional context, the Black Sea region is struggling to escape from Europe’s backyard and is no longer captive to the Cold War logic. Its strategic value stems from its unexplored potential as a non-controversial hub between East and West, and a secure crossroads of strategic routes from Europe to Central Asia and the broader Middle East. The fact that in the region one could find solutions to some of the essential questions posed to the Euro-Atlantic community, like the fight against terrorism, energy supply, institutional consolidation and the enlargement of the democratic community, prompts the area even more on the European and Euro-Atlantic agenda. Additional contributing factors are:

-The fight against terrorism and the role countries in this region play in preventing, disrupting, diverting and dissuading terrorist threats targeting Europe;

-The enlargement of NATO and the EU with Black Sea littoral countries;

-The refocusing of the Partnership for Peace towards Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as the inclusion of the Southern Caucasus in the European Neighbourhood Policy, along with R. Moldova and Ukraine;

-A new qualitative stage in the EU-Russia relationship through the establishment of four spaces of cooperation;

-The democratic transformations in Georgia and Ukraine, as well as the pro-Western orientation of R. Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaidjan which put European and Euro-Atlantic integration at the core of these countries’ internal agendas;

-Persisting security challenges with direct impact on European and Euro-Atlantic security that require a multifaceted approach;

-The important economic potential of the region, especially but not only its energy supply /transit dimension, as certified by numerous energy transportation projects.

These developments create both opportunities and challenges for strengthening regional identity and cooperation. The greatest challenge is to approach this region not as the periphery of Europe anymore, but as a part of the European and Euro-Atlantic mainstream at the beginning of the 21st century. Consolidating a Black Sea area of predictable, democratic and developed countries, that enjoy self-sustainable security and economic growth, would make the region and Europe safer. The key to stability in the region is broader regional dialogue, which in turn would favour economic development and enable the region to move from marginality to the very centre of the new European space.

Promoting European values and encouraging European aspirations would be strong incentives for democratic transformations across the Black Sea region. They could become the basis for and a stimulus of regional cooperation. Anchoring the Black Sea region to the European and Euro-Atlantic community, through revived regional interdependencies and successful internal reforms, would be part of the same process of reunification and reconciliation that changed Central and Southeast Europe irreversibly after the demise of communism.

The complexity of regional developments points out to the need of a steady, multifaceted process to strengthen democracy, stability, comprehensive security and market-based prosperity in the Black Sea region. Individual countries in the region cannot effectively deal with emerging security challenges in isolation from their neighbours. The experience of South-eastern Europe proves that regional ownership and cooperation, coupled with direct support from and efficient involvement of the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions is beneficial.

Various international and regional organizations deal with security, democracy and economic issues pertaining to the region. However, there is no comprehensive framework of dialogue and interaction among all actors involved in the region, with a view to achieving synergy of efforts. The Black Sea region would benefit from a less institutionalized, result-oriented and more flexible “rapprochement” among participating countries, forging a sense of common purpose.

2. The Concept

A Black Sea Forum could offer the framework for launching an inclusive and transparent process of reflection about the region, its identity and its future, bringing together all contributing actors with a view to fostering synergy, enhance confidence building and facilitate achievable regional projects that address genuine regional needs. Such a process should be based upon an active and open-ended dialogue among state bureaucracies and civil societies of regional countries, as well as with institutions, governments and academia of the Euro-Atlantic community. The Black Sea Forum would not be just another seminar about the Black Sea region, but rather a process of refined interaction at various levels, led and owned by the countries in the region with the support and contribution of the European and Euro-Atlantic community.

The aim of the Forum is to create an overarching structure of engagement within and with the region, in order to forge a regional vision and a common mind-set and to shape coordinating structures based on that common vision. The ultimate aim is to transform the entire region into a zone of secure sovereign countries, sharing viable market economies, enjoying open and responsive systems of government, and to maintain strong links and interdependencies with the Euro-Atlantic community, with the prospect of further extending and consolidating the area of freedom, security and stability on the whole shore of the Black Sea and beyond.

Fully connecting the region with the European project is, first of all, determined by the individual merits of regional countries, by the level and intensity of their ambition and by the reflection of shared common values in the every-day life. Regional cooperation is instrumental in this respect and the international community can not stand aside. The Black Sea region needs pro-active policies, channels of influence and persuasion, and new opportunities for dialogue that are able to change the mind-set and to identify the best-suited interlocutors for our common aim. The Forum is intended also, to respond to these challenges.

The Forum’s objectives would be:

-to underline the importance of Black Sea region stability and highlight the value of democratic transformations and European aspirations of Black Sea countries;

-to offer a new platform and new opportunities for countries in the region to present their views about the region’s future, thus promoting regional interests in a cooperative manner, based upon solidarity and transparency;

to enhance regional identity through defining common challenges, interests, and needs of regional countries, as well as common solutions to common problems;

-to enable the re-emergence of the Black Sea regional market, interconnected with the European economic area;

-to facilitate a broad regional dialogue between governmental and non-governmental organizations and help them channel resources to agreed targets;

-to generate new ideas on conflict prevention and crisis management, providing new opportunities to develop a multilateral context within which regional countries can cooperate;

-to highlight the unexplored potential and areas of regional cooperation and the value of collaboration with international institutions already involved in the region;

-to enhance co-operation and educational exchanges among academic institutions as a long-term investment in regional security;

-to increase synergy of efforts among all actors engaged in the region (regional and international organizations, individual countries), based upon agreed priorities and to facilitate the emergence of an external critical mass to act as "unofficial" guarantors of democratic stability in the region.

The spirit of the Black Sea Forum is based on flexibility, partnership and dialogue, allowing all interested countries to propose and participate in the different events, initiatives and projects under the umbrella of the Forum. However, there are projects, like the development of regional trade or the enhancement of regional identity, in which the participations of all countries from the region is an essential requirement. Therefore, the "menu" of the Forum will include "a la carte" projects and flexible ones, looking to promote both inclusiveness and consolidated cooperation.

3. Implementation

A Black Sea Forum Summit will be organized on the 5th of June 2006 to increase visibility of the process. It would get together presidents/foreign ministers of countries in the region, foreign ministers and senior officials from EU and NATO countries, representatives of EU, NATO, OSCE, Council of Europe, BSEC, as well as think tankers from the region, Western Europe and North America.

To ensure better connectivity and cross-fertilization between academic circles and political decision – making entities, the Forum would aim at identifying points of convergence between scientific research and implementation of political initiatives and processes, through a set of annual activities, in various formats. The Forum would help Black Sea countries anticipate potential problems quickly and effectively so that they can be managed before they develop into sources of instability and security concerns.

The Black Sea Forum would encourage and help organize activities in different countries of the region, on various dimensions related to the challenges and opportunities the region is facing (soft security, including disaster relief, environmental management and post-conflict rehabilitation, democratic development, energy, cultural dialogue, people-to-people ties, education and training etc.). At each edition, participants from the region should decide upon the location, the scope and envisaged outcome of future events and/or projects under the aegis of the Black Sea Forum.

4. The Agenda of the Black Sea Forum Summit

Date and place: June 2006, Bucharest

Participants:

-Heads of states and governments, foreign ministers/high Officials from the region: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, R. Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

-Foreign ministers of EU and NATO member countries (or senior representatives), representatives of UN, NATO, EU, OSCE, Council of Europe, OSCE CiO, BSEC.

-Representatives of American, European and regional NGOs and think-tanks.

Representatives of international media and of multinational corporations that are active in the region

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