Event concept and panel description

The fourth edition of the Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum will be held in Bucharest, between the 4th and 5th of September, 2020. The Forum has become a regular event, this edition being organized by New Strategy Center, in partnership with the University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV), with the institutional support of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence. At the same time, it benefits from the co-sponsorship of the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO, as it did for all its previous editions. At its fourth edition, the Forum has consolidated its position in the regional security debate as a highly professional conference bringing together officials, scholars, analysts, representatives of non-governmental organizations and international experts with an aim to facilitating dialogue and responding to the need for comprehensive, multi-perspective solutions. Given the unprecedented conditions determined by the pandemic, we acknowledge the importance of asking the critical questions in times of crisis, therefore, we are going forward with organizing the fourth edition under special safety conditions.


From its very beginning, the Forum was envisaged as a meeting place for in-depth debate on the security risks, threats and vulnerabilities, pushing further the discussion to potential evolutions and imaginative scenarios, as well as the practical ways and methods to tackle those challenges. The overarching goal of the Forum is to foster professional debate and to promote stability and prosperity through cooperation in the twin regions of the Black Sea and the Balkans. The past years confirmed the rationality of such a comprehensive approach to regional affairs considering that some of the reverberations are also felt in the strategically important regions in its vicinity. The plethora of frozen conflicts and the proximity of the Middle East and the Balkans are sources of instability posing significant threats to an already long-time challenged status-quo of the region. In an ever-changing security landscape, with old animosities and unexpected friendships, naval incidents and disputed borders, the region is a tireless source of unexpected developments. Described by a sensitive dynamic where interests of global and regional powers either coincide or collide, the Black Sea region continues to present the particularities of a region with global relevance.


In this complex and troubled international environment, the 2020 Forum seeks to address the relevant security concerns in the Black Sea and the Balkans, in a wider context severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Sixteen scheduled panel discussions will cover a vast range of topics such as the consequences on the global order of the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of defending values and rebuilding trust in the transatlantic community, as well as the potential for enhancing our resilience to misinformation campaigns like the ones we are facing during this pandemic. We are asking how the world will look like after tomorrow and what long-term challenges the pandemic is posing to our economies and societies, while assessing the consequences of the pandemic in the medical field. Subsequently, we approach the strategic importance of the Black Sea and we tackle the great powers competition in the Western Balkans, as well as the classical and newly emerging security challenges in this region. In addition, more subjects will be tackled in separate sessions (some running in parallel) on energy, the implications of the newest developments in the outer space, frozen conflicts, defence industry and hybrid operations.


As per tradition, the first three editions of the Forum, the list of confirmed keynote speakers and panelists is impressive, comprising incumbent or former high government officials, both civilian and military, leading think tanks and prominent scholars and political analysts from EU and NATO member states and partner countries, including a strong representation from the United States, some of which will either be present in-person in the conference venue, either will participate via an online video connection. Some of the working sessions on sensitive subjects will be conducted in confidence under Chatham House rules while others will be open to the public and the media, according to the conference program. Media opportunities will be available to participants throughout the conference. We mention that the forum will be organized in an open space, the social distancing will be ensured, the organizers being committed to prioritize the safety of all participants.

Strengthening EU and Trans-Atlantic Solidarity / Unity of Purpose: Defending Common Values and Interests / Mastering the Challenges and Opportunities of a Fast Changing World

  • New elements in the European security landscape viewed in a wider global context. Review of developments after the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The nexus of conventional versus emerging threats (cyber, space, new faces of terrorism, disruptive technologies, sanitary crisis, climate change and other environmental challenges).
  • NATO and the European Union: ways to achieve real complementarity and unity of purpose.
  • The Romanian contribution to strenghtening the EU project. Are we going towards enhancing the EU responsabilities or a revived national approach in Europe?

The World After Tomorrow. Challenges and Opportunities in Economic and Educational Fields

  • The pandemic caused by the spread of SARS-CoV2 virus suddenly pushed the global system into a crisis that seems to be unprecedented in terms of severity and scope. Is it just an economic slowdown, or an economic recession?
  • Impacting the world at an unprecedented scale in modern times, the SARS-CoV2 pandemic reveals the vulnerabilities of our communities, unprepared to cope with large-scale crisis in a coordinated manner. What are the lessons to be learned from the first responses to the outbreak?
  • How can we prevent the effects of the economic crisis? How will the states from the Black Sea region benefit from the relocation from Asia envisaged by Western European and US companies?
  • What is the impact of the pandemic on the educational system and how will education look in the future?

Space: Cooperation, Rivalry or Confrontation? How Can We Avoid a Star War?

  • Is there still a chance to avert the ‘weaponisation’ of outer space?
  • What sort of political and legal instruments will be necessary to regulate the inevitable competition and to promote beneficial cooperation in space research?
  • Is it realistic to envisage a world-wide institutional mechanism for space affairs, possibly under the aegist of the United Nations?

The Consequences of the Pandemic on the Medical Field. Lessons Learned for the Future

  • What are the lessons learned after the first wave of the pandemic and how will the Black Sea states and the EU prepare to face its new challenges?
  • How was solidarity manifested in the medical domain in EU and NATO and what are the lessons learned by the states in the Black Sea region?
  • In working towards finding a vaccine, transparency and opennes are crucial in the medical community. How will we harness the full potential of our scientific knowledge when it comes to pandemic?

Energy Security: New Opportunities to Enhance the Independence of the Black Sea Region and the Balkans

  • Can Romania become an alternative energy source for the countries in the Black Sea region by exploiting the gas reserves in its offshore area?
  • The political importance of secure, reliable and diversified energy sources and routes of supply for virtually all the countries in the two regions. Ensuring the modern development and cross-border interconnection of national energy systems to overcome one source/one route dependency.
  • Practical steps to secure smooth transition to a low-carbon/no carbon economy in accordance with the shared commitment to the relevant EU directives and the requirements of mitigating the effects of climate change.
  • Promoting the electrification of all sectors of the economy by resorting to new and alternative resources, including renewables, and rapidly improving energy efficiency.

Why the Black Sea Matters? What Can We Do for a Safer Region?

  • What happens in the Black Sea is unlikely to remain in the Black Sea. The evolving strategic-military and political situation in the wider Black Sea is producing effects well beyond the confines of the region, what is the appropriate focus that Black Sea can receive as NATO undergoes its “reflection process” to determine its future role?
  • The geopolitical dimension of the protracted conflicts in the wider Black Sea region after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and military interventions in eastern Ukraine and the Azov Sea. Consequences for the legal status quo and the regional balance of military forces.
  • The role of regional versus global actors in the rational management and eventual resolution of conflicts. Possible contribution of punctual regional approaches such as the Three Seas Iniative, EU Black Sea Synergy or Bucharest 9 format.

Emerging Security Challenges for the Eastern Flank of NATO: Predicting the Unpredictable 

  • Lessons learned by NATO following the first wave of the pandemic. What measures are being taken by NATO in order to avoid the medical crisis become a security crisis?
  • What are the measures taken by the NATO members in order to ensure a unitary approach on its entire Eastern Flank, from the Kola Peninsula to the Eastern Mediterranean?
  • Planning and coordination at NATO level and in individual member states to enhance the effectiveness of flexible and commensurate response.
  • Potential synergies with EU security and defence initiatives.

Fake News Campaigns and Cyber Space. Misinformation During the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Resilience of the Democratic World

  • Recent developments in the use of modern communication technologies for the dissemination of fake news, disinformation and subversion. The involvement of state actors, the media and social networks.
  • How to overcome the relative ineffectiveness of countermeasures due to the difficulties in identifying the sources of such actions and accurately attributing responsibility. Combining increased awareness and legal instruments with more sophisticated technological tools in defence of democratic institutions and practices.
  • After recognizing cyberspace as an operational domain back in July 2016, the Allies have been upgrading their defence and response capabilities. A review of progress to date is in order both at NATO level and in member states.
  • Development of specialised institutions, both civilian and military. Need for closer cooperation with tech companies, private sector and civil society. Ways to overcome the challenge of recruting, training and keeping skilled human resource.

EU Defense Industry and PESCO Projects in the Crisis Period. Opportunities for Eastern Europe 

  • The Permanent Structured Cooperation: current state of play and medium-term projections.
  • How to reconcile industrial interests at a national level with the principles of solidarity and cohesion? Strategic design versus tactical considerations.
  • Ways to avoid a deepening technological East/West and North/South divide within the European Union. Rational use of existing R&D and industrial assets in combination with building new ones in a comprehensive and territorially balanced system with an aim to achieving full-spectrum defence capability.

 Coronavirus and the Reshaping of the Global Order 

  • The rapid proliferation of the coronavirus pandemic triggered a wide range of public policy measures to contain and mitigate the crisis. Geopolitical shifts revealing the downside of globalization bring now the future into question. How relevant will international organizations remain in contrast to the national approaches to the crisis?
  • Disrupted global supply chains highlighted vulnerabilities when it comes to essential goods and services, how will the global market look if essential industries will be relocated?

The US Defense Industry and Eastern Europe. Smart Defense and Smart Cooperation

  • The significant and growing role of the US defence industry in supplying modern military equipment and security know how to the countries of the region at a time when they are honouring their commitment to increase defence spending in accordance with agreed NATO targets.
  • The need to consider, in addition to straightforward purchases of hardware, the possibility of engaging in industrial cooperation or other commercialy viable methods in order to support the upgrading and development of domestic production capacity in partner countries.
  • Improving national capabilities for rational need assessment and streamlining procurement procedures for timely and transparent decision making in a competitive environment.

Hybrid Warfare from the Arctic Region to the Black Sea 

  • Various definitions and manifestations of ’hybrid’ warfare. Origins of the concept and recent illustrations in the field. Perceived need for conceptual clarification.
  • Flexible and commensurate response to match every sort of challenge. Implicaton for the choice of adequate tactcs and equipment. Symmetrical versus asymmetrical reaction.
  • New challenges for refining doctrine, contingency planning and training requirements.

Western Balkans: Old Problems, New Challenges. The Great Powers’ Competition 

  • Will the crisis caused by the pandemic further fragilize the states in the Western Balkans?
  • Coping with unfinished business in the region while contemplating new steps forward. An analytical survey of progress so far.
  • The promise of eventual membership in the EuroAtlantic community as a potent instrument for encouraging the policies of reform and democratic advancement in all the region’s countries. The responsibility of  the new European Parliament and Commission to maintain the credibility of the European Union in this respect.
  • The impact of European and global developments on the political and economic prospects of the Western Balkans.

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears. The battle for Ukraine, Republic of Moldova and Belarus 

  • The increased Russian aggresion in the Black Sea should not go unchecked and a more assertive strategy of the West should keep the Kremlin accountable to respect international law and the sovereignty of Ukraine, Republic of Moldova and Belarus.
  • The Union State project with Belarus, the referendum over Transnistria and the continued aggression in Eastern Ukraine and illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula show that the Russian Federation believes it can act with some impunity without concern for international law. How will these states resist the Russian pressure, maintaining their independence? How will the EU support these countries that are part of the Eastern Partnership?

Unmanned Vehicles – a Solution for the Black Sea Naval Challenges

  • The illegal annexation and the accelerated process of weaponization transformed the Black Sea in a huge Russian A2/AD bubble.
  • How can the NATO countries and their partners in the region face this situation? Are the investements in unmanned vehicles a cheaper and more flexible solution to these challenges?

Working together with EU Neighbors to Enhance Our Interdependent Resilience

  • Progress report eleven years after the signing of the Eastern Partnership from the perspective of the partner countries. Actual requirements and realistic expectations.
  • Is the existing conceptual framework for EP adequate in its present form, or does it require an update or rethink to bring it in line with the realities of the day?
  • Building resilience along the partners in the Eastern Neighbourhood. Balanced correlation of challenges and responses and pragmatic approaches towards economy, governance, connectivity and societies.