Ausrine ARMONAITE (Lithuania)

20 November 2020

The Black Sea region is at once alive with economic potential and imperilled by division, rivalry and conflict ¬¬¬– all with implications for the international system as a whole. It is an area united by an important waterway that links the littoral countries and hinterlands to the global economy. As such, the Black Sea constitutes a crossroads for Europe, Asia and the Middle East and has emerged as a vital route for the movement of energy to Europe. But it has also become the object of a great game in which global and regional powers compete for influence, leverage, and access to resources and ports. Sadly, the region’s development has been seriously hampered by international and civil conflict and a welter of clashing interests that conspire to hamper trade and investment in the region. Russia’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine is the defining dispute in the region, but there are other bilateral and regional tensions that cannot be discounted.

This hardly means that the Black Sea region is bereft of success stories. Turkey is an important regional player, and its economy has evolved substantially over the past twenty years. Bulgaria and Romania have joined both NATO and the EU, and enjoy greater security and a higher level of economic growth as a result. The Black Sea is also the location for one of the most successful international environmental cooperation initiatives (the Black Sea Danube Basin Partnership) and organisations like the European Commission and Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) are working to foster deeper cooperation and dialogue across this diverse and conflicted region.

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