Event concept and panel description

The fifth edition of the Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum will take place on 3-4 September, in Bucharest. Organized by New Strategy Center, with the institutional support of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence, the Forum benefits from the co-sponsorship of the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO, as it did for all its previous editions.

After four iterations, the Forum is now established as a leading debate platform in the region, a meeting point for stakeholders and ideas on the most stringent issues in security, defence and international relations. As a highly professional conference bringing together officials, scholars, analysts, representatives of non-governmental organizations and international experts with an aim to facilitate in-depth dialogue and propose multi-dimensional approaches to old and emerging challenges, the Forum is a unique event in Romania.

After the 2020 edition of the Forum, organized successfully under special safety conditions, as we acknowledge the importance of having a coherent conversation on the most pressing issues, the 2021 edition will be held under rigorous conditions related to the health and comfort of the participants.

Building together a more resilient Europe is at the center of our efforts to engage in a pragmatic, solution-oriented dialogue in Bucharest, in September this year. The pandemic highlighted the need for our societies to build resilience in all its forms, from emergency response systems, infrastructure, economy to security culture and education, and professional discussions on all these aspects are essential.

The world is already recovering to a new sense of normality, which brings pre-existing trends and challenges and the emergent ones at the forefront of our concerns. The Black Sea region and the Balkans are still facing geopolitical confrontations, internal pressure and various interests. With numerous sources of instability, from frozen conflicts threatening to heat up at any moment, such as the recent Nagorno-Karabakh confrontation, to disputed borders and extensive militarization, the region is a never-ending source of sensitive dynamics.

The Black Sea region and the Balkans represent a space of global relevance, where Great Powers either cooperate or compete. In this space, the pandemic accentuates such a competition, but also accelerates pre-existing trends so the states in the region face various challenges, starting from the Sars-CoV-2 virus itself, with effects in the economic and social domain, to hybrid challenges that affect the stability of such a fragile space from the security point of view.

The 2021 edition of the Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum seeks to address the security challenges in the region and beyond, by using the lessons learned to enable the what is set to be a long post-pandemic recovery and forward thinking so that we can ensure the resilience of our societies for future challenges and crisis. New Strategy Center aims to highlight that the Black Sea region and the Balkans represent a strategic continuum, with profound links and interdependencies, that require a unitary approach. This philosophy drives the concept behind the Forum since 2017.

With 18 panels scheduled over two days, the Forum will set ground for what we can do together for a safer and prosperous Europe in a world marked by new challenges, the perspectives on the economy of the future, opportunities in the region for development, cooperation, and supplier diversification in the energy sector, supply chains, infrastructure and food security, the potential of using unmanned systems and the new opportunities for the defence industry. In designing the event, we put a special emphasis on the military industrial cooperation and the manner in which Romanian companies in the field could develop their cooperation with renowned US companies, thus contributing to enhancing the resilience of Romania in matters of industry and security.

Moreover, as we witnessed an unprecedented increase in infodemics over the last year, we will tackle how we can develop digital literacy projects for countering fake news campaigns. With an impressive list of keynote speakers, panelists and moderators, 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, the debates will have speakers either present in-person in the conference venue, either 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 at the University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV) in Bucharest. The safety measures ensured by the organizers include rapid Covid19 testing, epidemiological triage, mandatory use of masks and social distancing, constant disinfection of all the spaces used in the venue, simultaneous translation on the private devices of each participant, etc., the organizers being committed to prioritize the safety of all participants.


Pandemics, Infodemics and Education. Supporting Digital Literacy Projects and Countering Fake News Campaigns and Disinformation

  • What is the impact of the pandemic on the educational system and how will education look like in the future?
  • As seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, hostile information and disinformation activities target the core values of NATO and EU with the objective of undermining the resilience of citizens and institutions. How can we cooperate to strengthen resilience to such challenges?
  • Recent developments in the use of modern communication technologies for the dissemination of fake news, disinformation and subversion. The expected response from state actors, tech companies, the media and social networks.
  • Development of specialized institutions, both civilian and military. Need for closer cooperation with tech companies, private sector and civil society. Ways to overcome the challenge of recruiting, training and retaining skilled human resource.

Opportunities in the Black Sea Region for the Energy Sector. Development, Cooperation, Supplier Diversification

  • Energy security in relation to the demands of circular economy and climate change mitigation. Modern development and cross-border interconnection of national and regional energy systems to overcome single source dependency.
  • Is the window of opportunity for natural gas narrowing? Can Romania still become a significant regional energy player by tapping its gas resources both onshore and offshore in the Black Sea and by further developing renewable sources of energy?
  • Threats and vulnerabilities to major energy infrastructure projects. How can we secure critical infrastructure in a turbulent geopolitical environment?

Unmanned Systems in the Black Sea Region. Smart Approach, Fast Development 

  • In view of massive militarization in the Black Sea region, can smart technology offset the military balance and provide reliable deterrence?
  • Are investments in unmanned vehicles (aerial, ground and submarine) a cost-effective and more flexible solution for both civilian and military applications?
  • Legal and regulatory issues concerning the operation of unmanned systems and countering their use by a potential adversary.

Old Frozen Conflicts and New Wars.  Lessons for the Future

  • The Black Sea Region is often described as home for a number of protracted or ’frozen’ conflicts. How can such conflicts be prevented from heating up? Are the current negotiation formats efficient enough?
  • The enduring legacy of the endless wars. How are societies and cultures affected, and is healing realistically possible? How could old animosities be relegated to the past, and a sustainable rebuilding process could be initiated?
  • The use of new technologies has substantially altered the nature of conflicts. Is the advance of disruptive technologies apt to alter the existing balance of power in sensitive regions?
  • How could the US, EU and NATO help to consolidate the sovereignty of states that have been weakened and undermined by protracted conflicts?

Food Security and Resilience in the Black Sea Region and the Balkans in the context of COVID-19 and Other Shocks

  • Considering that 2020 marked the most severe increase in global food insecurity, impacting vulnerable households in almost every country, how can we become better prepared for future shocks?
  • How can the food industry develop sustainable practices and supply chains so the region can avoid further disruptions?
  • How should the post-pandemic economic recovery be designed in order to achieve food and nutrition security?

The Pandemic and the Future of the Economy. Development trends in the Region

  • While the world economy, developed countries in particular, seems to be on the road to recovery from the immediate impacts of the pandemic, the consequences of this major disruption will likely reverberate for years to come.
  • How will the post-pandemic recovery shape our economies, work environments and business strategies?
  • Considering the probable restructuring of global supply chains, how are companies and governments expected to prioritize their strategic investments?

Classic and Hybrid Challenges on NATO’s Eastern Flank. Building a Better Common Threats Understanding from the Arctic to the Eastern Mediterranean 

  • From the Arctic to the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, an extensive militarization programme has been undertaken by the Russian Federation, putting pressure on the entire Eastern Flank of NATO.
  • The ”Gherasimov Doctrine” highlights the use of a compound of hybrid instruments that aim to weaken Allied cohesion and defence capacity: political pressure, cyber attacks, information warfare, energy as a pressure tool.

Deterrence and Defence in the Euro-Atlantic Area. A Unitary and Comprehensive Response for the Safety of the Black Sea Region and the Balkans

  • The escalation of tensions and continued excessive military buildup by the Russian Federation in the Black Sea Region is a matter of concern for the entire Alliance. How can a unified posture enhance deterrence and defence in this region?
  • Since collective defence remains the Alliance’s main responsibility and deterrence is a core element of NATO’s overall strategy, what resources are needed for a comprehensive response capability in the Black Sea and the Balkans?
  • How can we cope more effectively with the increasing number and scope of conventional and hybrid threats aiming to affect the trust of our citizens in democratic institutions and cohesion at NATO level? How can we tackle the challenges in the cyber domain and information warfare?

Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-Pandemic World

  • The pandemic accelerated pre-existing trends or created new ones in the entire world. Rampant militarization, renewed great power competition, multiplication of hybrid threats, especially cyber-attacks and information warfare are all serious challenges in a world that is still recovering from the pandemic.
  • Crises always bring opportunities. The increased NATO and EU cohesion provides a chance to demonstrate the ability and determination of the democratic world to overcome all challenges.
  • The staunch adherence to the founding values and principles of the North-Atlantic Alliance and the European Union enables the established democracies to prove that illiberal or authoritarian tendencies are not a viable long-term political option.

Security and Prosperity. Future Infrastructure for a Safer Region

  • Enhancing the quality of transport infrastructure throughout the territories of EU and NATO member states permits the rapid movement, in case of a security emergency, of military troops and assets, producing also considerable economic benefits, thus contributing to the security and prosperity of all their citizens.
  • Military mobility is a very important project both at EU and NATO level, providing further proof of the strengthening transatlantic cohesion.
  • The development of transport infrastructure will have a positive impact on connectivity both West to East and especially North to South in Europe.
  • On the Eastern Flank, massive investments in military infrastructure, in air bases and logistical facilities will also have a positive impact on business development, considering in particular the need to recover the economic losses caused by the pandemic.

European Research and Development for Defence. Opportunities for the Future

  • The EU support for defence industry innovation is moving forward, aiming to advance the work done in the research sector and to encourage the emergence of collaborative projects. Which are the specific areas where the existing financial instruments are expected to give a competitive technological edge to the European defence industries?
  • Which are the expectations of the EU member states regarding the development of European defence capabilities enabled by the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)?
  • To what extent can cooperation between West European companies and Romanian defence industry be increased through the European Defence Fund (EDF)?

One Year and a Half of Coping with the Pandemic. Has Health Care Become a Strategic Component of the National and International Security Environment?

  • What are the lessons learned after eighteen months of the pandemic and how will the Black Sea states and the EU prepare to face its new challenges? Vaccination – is the current approach working?
  • As the pressure on health systems is mounting, how resilient are the networks when faced with cyber-attacks or other disruptors?

The US Defense Industry, East-Central Europe and Industrial Cooperation. Partnership for a More Resilient Economy in the Region

  • On NATO and EU Eastern Flank, the US is the most present and important strategic ally. Countries such as Romania and Poland base their security on their strategic partnerships with the US. Military industrial cooperation is a significant component of that relationship.
  • Which are the opportunities to increase interoperability through the acquisition of military hardware produced by American companies, already in use by US troops stationed in Europe?
  • How can we integrate companies in our region in the supply chains of leading American defence companies?
  • How can industrial cooperation in the military field between companies in the region and American ones become an effective tool for encouraging an enhanced US economic presence in the region?

Building Resilience in the Balkans. Old and New Challenges for the Region

  • A credible EU accession process grounded in strict and fair conditionality is essential to foster democratic progress, stability and resilience in the Western Balkans. How can the momentum of the transformative power of enlargement be renewed?
  • Consolidating democratic institutions and the rule of law, reconciling old disputes and building a climate of cooperation are abiding challenges that are now further enhanced by new threats such as the toll of the pandemic on the fragile economies in the region and by the nefarious interferences by external actors. Is the EU prepared to commit additional efforts and resources in order to fulfill its mandate for the Western Balkans?
  • How can the neighboring EU and NATO member states be instrumental in advancing that process?
  • Renewed great power competition is clearly visible in the region, putting even more pressure on the capacity of individual countries to cope with old and emerging threats. What response is to be expected from the EU, NATO and US in this geopolitically sensitive region?

Connectivity, Cyber Security and 5G Challenges

  • Following growing concern about risks to commercial and military communications, NATO leaders stressed the importance of “the security of communications, including 5G” and recognized “the need to rely on secure and resilient systems”.
  • Information plays a central role in modern economies, and telecommunications are a strategic industry with multiple security implications.
  • The pandemic prompted rapid development of digitalization in all sectors, both private and public. With increased use of digital tools, the vulnerabilities also became more numerous, as evidenced by the frequent and damaging cyber-attacks. What measures taken by EU and NATO have proved to be effective so far and how can we increase our capacity for cyber defence through closer cooperation?

Post-Pandemic World and International (In)Security

  • We are facing changes in the global configuration of power, old and emerging challenges to world peace and security in an increasingly competitive and contentious environment.
  • Growing uncertainties, imbalances, disruptive technologies, hostile actions short of outright armed confrontation, spill‑over of military competition in outer space and cyberspace, and instances of unlawful behaviour by some major international actors are all elements of the new normal.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has added a new layer of concern as a real and present security threat on a global scale.
  • How can the scientific and academic community help to make sense of those dynamic developments?

Challenges of the New Generation Warfare. Multi-Dimensional Approaches in the Post-Pandemic Strategic Environment

  • Russia’s concept of operations employing traditional methods of warfare in innovative ways and with the help of new technologies is a dynamic challenge. The increased assertiveness and geopolitical ambitions of China also pose a serious threat to the world’s democratic nations in new and complex ways. With threats resembling a moving target, how can we coherently achieve effective deterrence?
  • How do we estimate that the security environment will change after the pandemic?
  • How can we prevent this health crisis from turning into a security crisis in the Black Sea region? What multi-level approaches should NATO take to address the growing hybrid threats and counter the effects of Russia’s extensive militarization process launched after 2014?