A Common Vision for the Black Sea Region
His Excellency Gela Bezhuashvili
Minister of Defense of Georgia
Minister Gela Bezhuashvili
"...the southeastern part of the Black Sea region can be...a kind of filter that can protect Europe from transnational threats, including the spread of terrorism, smuggling of drugs and weapons (conventional as well as nuclear), illegal human trafficking, Illegal migration."
Let me begin by congratulating our colleagues whose countries have joined the European Union and NATO. Their success will encourage other aspiring states to find their own place in the European family. Georgia believes that the wider the confines, and the closer the people within them, the more secure the world will be. Therefore along with its own efforts to achieve stability and NATO interoperability, Georgia is encouraged by the EUs and NATOs enlargement to the southeastern part of Europe. We aspire to be included in these wider confines because we are a European nation and share our history, culture, and values with other Europeans.
COMMON CHALLENGES AND A COMMON APPROACH TO MEETING THEM
The beginning of the twenty-first century is characterized by new threats and new challenges to global security. These challenges demand new solutions and full-fledged preventive measures. However, it is obvious that it is impossible to make the Euro-Atlantic area secure without incorporating into the global security system those regions that were heretofore referred to as on the periphery. Present risks such as terrorism know no borders, and antiterrorist campaigns must include those regions and states that previously received little attention. The new security landscape in Europe requires a common understanding of the joint challenges we face and joint efforts are needed to develop preventive measures to reduce the threats.
Because the Black Sea states are pieces of the same geostrategic puzzle, they must be part of a common security framework. The area must also be recognized as a region of paramount importance regarding security guarantees for the EuroAtlantic community; NATOs enlargement as well as the positive new arrangements between NATO and Russia, NATO and Ukraine, and NATO and Georgia are already providing it with a new security dimension.
BLACK SEA FUNCTIONALITY
Because of recent developments, the Black Sea is no longer a sea of confrontationpartner countries now share it. In fact, the sea has been transformed from a landlocked area, with limited international transactions, to an open sea that is a center of economic interests and an important transportation corridor at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia. The Black Sea has regained its historic function as one of the great Silk Road routes.
Through the Black Sea region, Caspian oil and gas resources now flow to Europe and other world markets, making significant contributions to the security of world energy sources. As a trans-Caucasian transportation corridor, the sea also provides access to new regional markets and promotes the development of the transcontinental communications network.
THE NEW SECURITY DIMENSION
As NATO expands eastward, it is inevitably approaching the Black Seas eastern coast. Up until now, Romania and Bulgaria have been considered Europes gateway to the east, but now the Black Sea countries are the new frontier for the Alliance and the Union. In fact, the southeastern part of the Black Sea region can be thought of as a kind of filter that can protect Europe from transnational threats, including:
- The spread of terrorism
- Smuggling of drugs and weapons (conventional as well as nuclear)
- Illegal human trafficking
- Illegal migration
By extending cooperation to the countries in our region, NATO and the European Union will gain strong and reliable partners on their eastern flanks. Those partners can help Europe solve many difficult issues as well as open up new markets and new opportunities. In other words, further integrating the Black Sea area into the European community can create a win-win situation for all concerned parties. The Alliance and the Union should move further into the southeastern Black Sea region.
Because threats of a transnational nature cannot be fought by separate countries alone, common challenges must be addressed with close cooperation as well as the full involvement of the community of nations. By standing together, and by making the Black Sea region a front-line partner, all of us can be net contributors to lasting European stability and prosperity.
Black Sea countries already know that sharing interests increases our chances for success. And despite our affiliations with different alliances and political-military organizations, Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, and the Balkans share concern for the Black Sea, making the sea a link rather than a gap between us. Currently BLACKSEAFOR and the economic initiative BSEC are working toward enhancing peace and stability in the region as well as promoting cooperation among the Black Sea states. There is also intensive cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through a number of its programs and initiatives, and we are firmly on our way to integrating with both European and Euro-Atlantic structures.
Georgia was also the first of the CIS countries to take part in an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), a new NATO initiative that brings aspiring countries closer to Alliance membership. At the same time the NATO-Russia Council and NATO-Ukraine cooperation have given us a solid base for new initiatives to promote peace and stability not only in Europe but throughout Eurasia as well. The Wider Europe Neighborhood Initiative is an opportunity for our region to help develop a secure and friendly neighborhood, and Georgia is unequivocally determined to become a member of this project.
THE NEED FOR A COMMON VISION
Establishing and developing a common strategy for the Black Sea region is one of the great challenges of a wider Europe. But it is essential that we have a common understanding and a common vision of our regions future. The states in our region should expand cooperation under the framework of existing regional organizations, or go even further and launch a new format for cooperation that will help establish a common approach to the goals we are all striving to reach. Based on the perspective of European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, a common vision will also be a powerful strategic tool for contributing to stability and prosperity in the South Caucasus as well as the entire Black Sea region. While responsibility comes with making such a contribution, Georgia is ready to take on the challenge.
I would like to close by saying again that only with common efforts and close cooperation will we be able to build a more secure, more stable Europe for the generations to come. By investing in the success of Black Sea regional cooperation we can positively affect the entire European security structure. My region has greatly matured, and it is high time not only to consider its capabilities but also time to take concrete steps toward incorporating them.