Event concept and panel description

The Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum to be held in the Romanian port city of Constanta, 14-16 June 2018, has become an annual event jointly organized by the Bucharest-based New Strategy Center together with the Ovidius University and the Metropolitan Area Authorities of Constanța. The first such event was held, also in Constanta, in June 2017, providing a platform for informed debate among officials, scholars, analysts, representatives of non-governmental organizations and international experts on the topical issues of the region.

No matter how one looks at the map, the Black Sea and the Balkans stand out as a geopolitical space where many interests overlap and occasionally collide. It may be fair to say that those twin regions offer a compact image of the multitude of challenges, hopes, fears and also opportunities that are brought to the fore in the current, complicated and often confusing international environment. For those who have the intellectual curiosity and are brave enough to explore the meanders of complexity – this is the place to look at.

With so many developments, good or bad, having occurred in the past year, the Forum of 2018 seeks to examine the present security environment in the Black Sea and the Balkans, mindful of the harsh lessons of history but with an eye on, hopefully, a better future. The specific objectives of the debate are:

• To increase awareness about the importance of peace and stability in the two regions in a dynamic international context;

• To identify the actual security challenges, old and new, that the countries of the area have to face;

• To explore imaginative, rational and realistic solutions, tailored to the specific requirements of the two regions and aimed at mitigating emerging threats and indicating the way forward;

• To foster active contacts and networking among decision makers, security analysts, academics, the civil society and the media.

Societal Security: trends and risks for stability in the Black Sea area and the Balkans

What are the reasonable expectations of the yet unaffiliated states in the two regions about their integration and eventual membership in the European Union and/or NATO? How much support such prospects enjoy among their populations?  Which are the main attractions of membership among their citizens and what can EU and/or NATO do to help them make the right choices?

New Challenges of the Hybrid War

What is the impact of hostile propaganda, hybrid warfare and disinformation in the countries of the two regions and how do they deal with such threats? Is there room and demand for bilateral and sub-regional cooperation in that regard, given also the burden of historical tradition? How can mature democracies help them establish the required institutional mechanisms and to build grass-roots awareness about the importance of countering those challenges successfully?

Trends and challenges in the economic environment of the Black Sea area and the Balkans. Stability and cooperation or a new crisis?

Which are the main reasons why most of the Black Sea and Balkan countries have so far failed to realize their growth potential despite their strategic location at the crossroads of inter-regional trade? How serious are their vulnerabilities and exposure to risks? How important is for each of them the contribution of the European Union in terms of trade and investment and which are their expectations for the future? What about other economic partners such as the United States, Russia, China, the Gulf states?

The financial challenges for the Black Sea area and the Balkans

The Three Seas Initiative (3SI) and the Development of the Region

How can the Three Seas Initiative contribute to a better economic integration of the participating states? Is it likely to attract further investment for transport, energy or ICT projects? What support is expected from the EU for this Initiative? Does it affect the EU’s cohesiveness? May the US become interested in the Three Seas scheme? What about China, given its drive to secure a solid position in Eastern Europe? What is, realistically, to be expected from the Three Seas Bucharest summit in September 2018?

#WeAreNATO: Security challenges in the Black Sea area and the Balkans

Which are the specific consequences for regional security of the Russian direct military actions against Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014)? How has the invasion, illegal annexation and militarization of Crimea, intervention in southern Ukraine, interference in Western Balkans and Syrian adventure affected the balance of forces in the Black Sea basin and NATO’s southern tier of the Eastern Flank? Is further escalation of NATO-Russia standoff a realistic prospect? How should we balance the need for improved defence posture and deterrence with keeping the communication channels open?

Cyber space:  a new space for the next war?

What is cyber warfare in terms of military doctrine and technical capabilities? What are the effects of a cyber attack on the defence posture, civilian facilities and population at large? How effective can cyber defence be and what are its current limitations?

Industrial cooperation in defence field.  EU vs USA, or smart defence?

Which is the intent and scope of the EU’s PESCO initiative? How can the EU and NATO avoid overlaps and duplication of efforts? Is there a real danger of competition between Europe and the United States in the area of defence procurement?

European dreams. From rhetoric to practical cooperation in the Black Sea area and the Balkans

Is the membership of the European Union still an attractive proposition for the countries of the two regions and their citizens? How strong is the enlargement fatigue among the political establishments and the public in the core EU member states? Is there a need for a more generous EU offer and commitment to the aspiring or would-be candidate countries and how can we gauge the chances of success? How relevant is the experience of the member states that joined the EU after 2000?

What is next after Crimea? Implications of the militarisation of the Black Sea region for Eastern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean

How serious and persistent is the renewed Russian military assertiveness from the perspective of international law and accepted rules of behaviour in the relations among states? What does Russia really want in addition to ‘respect’? Is there a drastic change in the disposition and balance of power? Are the measures taken so far to discourage further Russian adventurism enough, or should we envisage a tougher response? Should we be concerned about a closer strategic relationship between Russia and China?

Energy Security: a nightmare or an opportunity for the Balkans and the Black Sea region?

How dependent are the regional actors on Russian monopolistic supplies of energy? How much progress has been made so far in the diversification of sources and regional connectivity of pipelines and power grids? Which further steps are being considered for the integration of the Black Sea and Balkan countries in the European energy networks? Is there a useful purpose in developing sub-regional cooperative schemes in the field of energy?

Security challenges in the Black Sea area and the Balkans

How Romania tackles the increasing security risks within the Black Sea and the Balkans regions? What are the most serious threats to Romania’s security? Politically and militarily speaking, how did Romania contribute to enhance the security of the region?

It is very important that the Constanta Forum focuses on the southeastern region of NATO, a region in which we have both conventional and non-conventional security threats, such as cyber attacks. We have an area of priority topics and themes that deserve to be discussed between officials, civil society, academia and business partners.
It is an excellent Security Forum for the Black Sea and the Balkans. It is a valuable initiative to invite top leaders and experts from around the world to discuss the common security challenges.
I am glad to be present here at this honourable and interesting conference, with very lively debates, with very interesting speakers. The forum helped me to see more clearly certain aspects of security about the Black Sea region.