Designed by the New Strategy Center along with its partners and with co-sponsorship from the NATO-PDD, the ‘Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum’ is envisaged as an annual framework to strengthen and develop networks between security analysts, decision makers, academics and media representatives based in these regions of strategic importance to the Euro-Atlantic security.

Despite many features that render them similar, the Black Sea and the Balkans have been regarded as two distinct areas, with specific security paradigms. However, the last few years suggests that the Balkans and the Black Sea should be rather referred to by using a complementary approach, especially on security matters. The strategic importance of the Black Sea has risen hugely after the illegal annexation of Crimea, the outbreak of the war in Eastern Ukraine and the process of Black Sea militarization. At the same time, migrant flows in 2015-2016 have put more pressure on the already fragile states in the Balkans, as well as within the EU. Unfortunately, most of the problems that weaken the security in one of the regions seems to entail a degree of instability in the other.

Also, no matter the perspective, the Black Sea and the Balkans have always been key points for Romania’s security. Under such premises, the Balkans and the Black Sea area should be regarded as a large security complementary body, based on the following arguments: a need to continue the process of consolidating democracies in the area; the emergence of Euro-Atlantic “fatigue”; Russia ceased to see the two regions distinctively; energy interdependence; information war; Russian attempts to weaken the statehood of the states in the region and undermine their path to the EU and NATO.

Within the array of challenges in the Black Sea and the Balkans, the events in the last year have demonstrated that the region faces growing vulnerability when it comes to cyber security. Moreover, the information war has become almost a daily struggle that the countries in the area have to tackle. Despite many unresolved issues among each other, the countries in the area should become more inclined to cooperate in this area and increase their resilience against the foreign cyber attacks.

The “Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum” will to take place between 8-9 June in Constanța, Romania’s main port on the Black Sea and the closest city to the Balkans. The conference will have plenary sessions that will be opened to the media representatives while most of the panels will be organised under Chatham House rules in order to provide the possibility for a more open and direct dialogue between the speakers and participants. Moreover, two of the sessions will have parallel panels, thus allowing the participants to choose their subject of interest.

The forum offers the possibility to discuss both hard (militarization) and soft (non-military) topics. In recent years, the wide region is regarded as a case study in international relations academic debates, but the forum aims to highlight the practical dimension of stability in the Black Sea and the Balkans, thus changing to a certain degree the approach to the region. Moreover, as the event has a non-political character by involving mainly academics and NGO representatives, their views will probably provide bolder conclusions.

While the main aim of the “Black Sea and Balkans Security forum” is to ensure a debate platform for security challenges in the area, the specific objectives are the following:

  • improve awareness on the importance of stability in the Black Sea and the Balkans
  • identify and reflect on the security challenges in the area
  • develop current expertise in countering emerging security challenges in the Black Sea and the Balkans
  • enhance networking between decision makers, security analysts, academics and media representatives

The Black Sea and the Balkans cannot be viewed as less European or as an appendix of Europe. This region is very much European and the continent’s security depends directly on the stability and prosperity in the area. With constant attention and support to the Black Sea and the Balkans, not only the region and the ownership of the leaders in the region, the EU, NATO and especially the countries in the Black Sea and the Balkans will have a safer and prosperous future.