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EU plans to promote the Black Sea region

The EU needs to give a new boost to its strategy for the Black Sea region, aiming to bring peace and stability to its neighbouring countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Turkey Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) and to ensure energy security in the area. A new budget line and more EU human resources are needed for this, said Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs on Thursday.

The Black Sea Strategy needs a specific EU budget line, which should prioritise the funding of small-scale development projects and cross-border cooperation, say MEPs. Other top priorities should be the stabilising the region, ensuring respect for human rights, managing migration, improving energy security and promoting environmental and social development.

The newly-created EU diplomatic body (External Action Service) must also ensure that its structure and staffing takes into account the fact that the Black Sea region is a real priority for the EU, MEPs add.

MEPs also suggest enhancing the visibility of the future action plan, by holding regular ministerial meetings between the EU and Black Sea countries. Turkey and Russia would be very welcome partners in this regional cooperation, they add.

Current challenges

The Black Sea Region strategy, as defined in the resolution adopted by the Foreign Affairs committee on Thursday, encompasses three EU countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Bulgaria), a candidate country (Turkey) and five east European neighbours (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine), as well as Russia, as a strategic partner. This area today faces key challenges that the EU cannot ignore, such as protracted conflicts, displaced populations, bilateral disputes, closed borders and strategic rivalries leading to militarisation and proliferation of arms, weak institutions, cross-border crime and deteriorating maritime safety.

On conflict prevention, the committee suggests that the EU should develop “a conflict early warning system” which would serve to build confidence in the region and prevent the escalation of violence. Such a system would focus on concrete cases, such as public disclosure of arms sales and naval military activities. Here MEPs voice particular concern about the extension of the lease for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.

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