Brussels, 15 March 2010
Black Sea Synergy
The Black Sea Synergy initiative was proposed by the European Commission in a communication to the Parliament and the Council in 20071. The proposed approach was subsequently endorsed by the Council of Ministers, and supported at several occasions by the European Council. The Black Sea Synergy initiative was formally launched in Kiev in February 2008 by the Foreign Ministers of the Black Sea partners and of the EU.
Implementation is now well on track. Partner countries have been closely involved from the beginning in the designing of the implementation. We want this initiative to be recognised and owned jointly by the Black Sea countries and the EU.
The Black Sea Synergy complements the Eastern Partnership. Whilst the Eastern Partnership promotes the partner countries’ rapprochement to the EU, the Black Sea Synergy aims at developing regional cooperation around the Black Sea.
The Black Sea Synergy is part of the European Neighbourhood Policy
The EU has specific policies and commitments in all sea regions bordering Europe, and the Black Sea is no exception. Seas and their basins are part of our immediate neighbourhood, where the EU and its member States have strong interests. The Black Sea Synergy is therefore part of the ENP, just like the Euro-Mediterranean policy is.
The EU is a strong proponent of regional, cooperative approaches: It is not just what we do, it is what we are. Our programmes put therefore a strong emphasis on the regional and multilateral dimensions of the EU’s external policies. The regional component of the ENP is implemented through several initiatives, notably the multilateral elements of the Eastern Partnership and the Black Sea Synergy.
The Eastern Partnership established between the EU and the six Eastern European and South Caucasus ENP partner countries in 2009 is a specific Eastern dimension to the ENP designed to foster the political association and economic integration of the partner countries with the EU. In exchange for undertaking political and economic reform, the EaP offers new contractual relations, deep and comprehensive free trade agreements, steps towards visa liberalisation and a multilateral framework in which to discuss these issues. In essence, the overall objective of the Eastern Partnership is to bring the partner countries closer to the EU. Its centre of gravity is Brussels.
The Black Sea Synergy is different. It is essentially a regional initiative, open to all Black Sea States. It has the very specific objective of identifying and supporting what the partners in the region want to do together. It is about projects and activities and its centre of gravity is in the Black Sea region. It is based as much as possible on initiatives taken in the region, and will support objectives that the Black Sea countries have already subscribed to. We want to connect and inter-act with existing schemes and organisations, like BSEC and the Black Sea Commission for the protection of the Black Sea.
Most importantly, the Black Sea Synergy also covers partners that are linked to the European Union through an accession policy (Turkey) or a Strategic Partnership (Russia), in addition to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The Black Sea Synergy is the expression of the EU’s commitment to the Black Sea region, and to the shared objective of bringing concrete improvements that can benefit the peoples in the region through cooperative approaches. The EU wants to give reality to this initiative by establishing sector partnerships in three crucial sectors: environment, transport and energy. These sectors have been chosen because it is hard to question their importance to the region. Improvements in these sectors will have direct effect in the whole wider Black Sea region.
Each sector partnership will be organised in a way that maximises its chances of leading to concrete projects. The EU cannot fund big investments directly; we don’t have adequate resources for that. But we can use our grants as seed-money, to help preparing the projects, and present them in the best possible way to those institutions that are ready to invest in infrastructure in the Black Sea region. This formula has been successful in other contexts; it will be successful in the Black Sea as well.
As far as the EC is concerned, resources will come from the ENPI regional envelope and from the Neighbourhood Investment Fund (NIF), subject to the adoption of the specific decisions that will be needed. But we will not be the only financiers of these schemes. Contributions will have to come from other partners as well, as this initiative must be jointly owned by the Black Sea Partners. This is why, if partners show interest and the partnership can produce credible pipe-lines of projects, it is envisaged to establish dedicated funds for those partnerships where support to investments will be the key objective.
The sector partnerships reflect the inclusive character of the Black Sea Synergy initiative. They will be open to all partner countries who want to participate. But it will also include institutions that are active in the region, like the BSEC Organisation and the Black Sea Commission, as well as the EIB and the EBRD. Three member States in the Black Sea region are helping in the organisation of the partnerships. Romania will help the Environment Partnership, Greece the Transport Partnership, and Bulgaria the Energy Partnership.
The Environment Partnership will be the first to be formally launched, in Brussels on March 16th. This will be done in a one-day conference opened by Commissioner Potocnik. Participating partners will use the conference to express their commitment to the goals of the partnership and to agree on its basic rules.
COM (2007) 160