European Parliament resolution on an EU Strategy for the Black Sea (1)

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European Parliament resolution of 20 January 2011
on an EU Strategy for the Black Sea

The European Parliament,

– having regard to the Commission Communication entitled ‘Black Sea Synergy – A New Regional Cooperation Initiative’(COM(2007)0160),

– having regard to the Council Conclusions on the Black Sea Synergy Initiative of 14 May 2007,

– having regard to its resolution of 17 January 2008 on a Black Sea Regional Policy Approach (1),

– having regard to the Joint Statement of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the countries of the European Union and of the wider Black Sea area, adopted in Kiev on 14 February 2008,

– having regard to the Commission's ‘Report on the first year of implementation of the Black Sea Synergy’, adopted on 19 June 2008 (COM(2008)0391) ,

– having regard to the Joint Statement launching the Black Sea Synergy Environment Partnership (Brussels, 16 March 2010),

– having regard to the Commission Communication on strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy (COM(2006)0726) and the Commission's intention to present the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2011,

– having regard to the Association Partnership with Turkey,

– having regard to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements concluded with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, and to the ongoing negotiations on new Association Agreements, as well as to the respective ENPAction Plans,

– having regard to the ENP Progress Reports on Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine adopted by the Commission on 12 May 2010,

– having regard to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement concluded with the Russian Federation, and to the ongoing negotiations on a new EU-Russia Agreement,

– having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 3 December 2008 entitled ‘Eastern Partnership’(COM(2008)0823) ,

– having regard to the Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit of 7 May 2009,

– having regard to the recent progress in the visa-facilitation dialogue with countries from the region,

– having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2007 on strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy (2),

– having regard to its previous resolutions on the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine and the South Caucasus countries, as well as on the Integrated Maritime Policy,

– having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

– having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on International Trade, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee on Regional Development (A7-0378/2010),

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A) whereas the Black Sea region is a strategic bridge connecting Europe with the Caspian Sea area, Central Asia and the Middle East and, further, with south-east Asia and China, and it is characterised by close ties and great potential, but also by diversities and rivalries;

whereas the region comprises the EU Member States Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, the candidate country Turkey and the ENP partners Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, as well as the Russian Federation as a strategic partner,

B) whereas the Black Sea region is of strategic importance for the EU; whereas the Black Sea is partially internal to the EU and geographically mostly a European sea, which results in shared challenges and opportunities for the EU and the countries of the region, as well as in a common need to ensure that there is an area of peace, democracy, security, stability, regional cooperation and sustainable prosperity around the Black Sea; whereas a more cohesive, sustainable and strategic approach is necessary in the Black Sea region,

C) whereas the Black Sea region is a socially, culturally and religiously rich environment where intercultural and inter-faith dialogue should play a central role,

D) whereas the Black Sea Synergy (BSS) has had the merit of recognising the Black Sea region as strategic for the EU, together with the need for strengthened EU involvement in the area; whereas BSS results have so far been rather limited and no clear and comprehensive picture exists of the current implementation results of the BSS, exposing the EU to criticism that it lacks a strategic vision for the region and that it is applying a fragmented approach to implementation,

E) whereas no action plan has been drawn up setting out concrete objectives and benchmarks, and reporting, monitoring, evaluation and follow-up mechanisms, as asked for in Parliament's very first resolution on the Black Sea region,

F) whereas only one progress report has been issued, in 2008, which was not followed up with any regular reporting mechanism; whereas not many projects have been carried out and only a Partnership on the Environment has been launched to date,

G) whereas no ministerial conference has been held since 2008, highlighting the lack of visibility of, and strategic vision and political guidance for, the BSS,

H) whereas the efforts so far, while commendable, have been severely hampered by poor administrative organisation, a lack of institutional and political commitment, and a lack of human and dedicated financial resources,

i) whereas many developments have taken place in the Black Sea region since 2008, and while regional cooperation seems to be advancing in some technical fields, such as environment, education, research and technology, as well as in normative approximation,

a number of challenges, such as protracted conflicts in the Caucasus and Transnistria, maritime security and search and rescue operations, militarisation, displaced populations and the deterioration of democratic rule, persist and have even gained in intensity,

J) whereas the French Presidency's mission, together with action by the Member States, demonstrated the EU's commitment to containing and resolving the conflict in Georgia,

K) whereas the Black Sea region is of geo-strategic importance for the energy security of the EU, with regard, in particular, to the diversification of energy supplies,

L) whereas other EU initiatives involving the countries of the Black Sea region should not be seen as competing with, but rather as complementary to, the BSS,

M) whereas the Commission has been asked to develop an EU Strategy for the Danube Region, which should take into account its close interconnection with the Black Sea region,

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1. Considers that, given the strategic importance of the Black Sea region for the EU and the rather limited results of the BSS, a strategy should be launched to enhance the coherence and visibility of EU action in the region and that the EU Black Sea Strategy should be an integral part of the EU's broader foreign and security policy vision;

2. Calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to draw up a strategy for the Black Sea region in parallel with the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, thus defining an integrated and comprehensive EU approach to address the challenges and opportunities of the region, with a detailed action plan, clear objectives, flagship initiatives and benchmarks; believes that the strategy will make for effective coordination of activities and division of tasks;

3. Reiterates its call on the Commission and the EEAS to carry out regular reviews of the implementation of the strategy by establishing concrete monitoring, evaluation, follow-up and reporting mechanisms; urges that the relevant European Parliament committees be consulted at key stages of this process;

4. Recommends that consistency between EU-level policy and the national strategies of the EU Member States in the Black Sea region needs to be ensured;

5. Stresses that the EU Member States must agree on clear priorities in order that a realistic and financially sound action plan can subsequently be drawn up, together with a corresponding system for assessing its effectiveness;

6. Stresses that adequate human resources must be devoted to the task of achieving the objectives of the new strategy, particularly by taking visible account of that strategy in the organisational structure and staffing of the EEAS;

7. Welcomes the launch of the Joint Operational Programme for Cross-Border Cooperation in the Black Sea Basin under ENPI and believes that the large number of applications received reflects a high degree of interest in joint cooperation projects in the Black Sea region; applauds the approval of 16 new projects by the Joint Monitoring Committee in November 2010; believes, however, that the slow pace of the programme's functioning reflects the shortcomings of the current funding mechanisms; points, in particular, to the legal difficulties relating to the need to fund participants from different financial instruments, and calls on the Commission to devise solutions to eliminate such obstacles; takes the view that investment projects could also be covered by the programme;

8. Calls for a Black Sea Basin Joint Operational Programme to be drawn up for the next programming period in order fully to address and continue the efforts to achieve all the objectives stated in the ENPI CBC Strategy Paper 2007-2013; emphasises that uniform terms governing applications should be laid down, thereby giving any legal entity in any participating state in the programme area the possibility to apply as lead participant; considers that all countries in Black Sea Basin Joint Operational Programme should be involved and encouraged actively to participate in the next programming period;

9. Is convinced, therefore, that the success of the strategy depends on the provision of appropriate and identifiable funding;

calls for the creation of a specific budget line for the Black Sea Strategy, and for the development of efficient disbursement methods, tailored to the specific characteristics of the region, and controls on the use of the funds; encourages priority financing of small-scale development projects;

calls on the Commission and regions to promote people-to-people projects in the framework of cross-border cooperation and to provide for and enhance the financing instrument of the Small Project Fund;

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10. Stresses the need for a project-based approach with a view to including local authorities, business communities, NGOs or other civil society organisations (CSOs) in designing, joint ownership and implementation of Black Sea Strategy activities; emphasises the importance of monitoring Black Sea Strategy activities through the definition of benchmarks or other appropriate indicators;

11. Encourages the development of synergies between the various Union policies that come into play in the Strategy, particularly the Structural Funds, the Research and Development Framework Programme and the Trans-European Transport Networks, in order to ensure the sustainability of the actions financed; in that way opportunities created by one economic development initiative can be taken up by another, complementary initiative;

12. Regards inclusiveness and regional ownership as important principles of the EU approach towards the region and sees Turkey and Russia as partners which should ideally be properly involved in Black Sea regional cooperation; believes that the dual role of Bulgaria, Romania and Greece as both riparian states and EU Member States is essential to the success of EU policy in the Black Sea region;

13. Considers that in order to provide visibility, strategic guidance and high-level coordination, ministerial meetings between the EU and the wider Black Sea region countries should be organised on a regular basis and include all actors and countries in the region, including the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea against Pollution, the EBRD and the EIB;

is convinced that an institutional dialogue bringing together the EU and the BSEC could constitute a step towards creating a genuine partnership in the region; notes, however, that the BSEC seems currently to be facing structural difficulties and to be in need of rejuvenation and reform in order to become an efficient regional partner;

14. Deplores the fact that the Black Sea Forum for Dialogue and Partnership has been adversely affected by regional tensions and, as a result, has not yet been established; considers that such a Forum could play a role in generating ideas and fostering dialogue among regional actors;

15. Believes that the Black Sea Strategy should be developed at all levels of regional cooperation; welcomes the parliamentary cooperation established between the EU and the Black Sea countries;

16. Recognises the importance of regional and local authorities and stakeholders for the planning and implementation of the strategy, given their close links with the territory and with local people; calls, therefore, for their needs to be identified and for them to be fully involved in the strategy;

17. Welcomes the creation of the Black Sea Civil Society Forum and encourages strengthened cooperation between local authorities, civil society and business; calls on the Commission to provide enhanced support for civil society, including CSO networks; underlines the role of the non-governmental sector in ensuring both the effective implementation of Black Sea Strategy activities and the success of confidence-building measures;

18. Stresses the complementary nature of the BSS and the Eastern Partnership, and calls on the Commission to make positive use of the differing approaches of the two initiatives and to clarify, at all levels, how this substantial degree of complementarity is to be exploited; calls on the Vice-President/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to ensure that the EEAS effectively coordinates the various initiatives and instruments deployed by the EU in the wider Black Sea region;

19. Welcomes the development of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, which is to be completed by the end of this year, and calls for it to be endorsed and for a start to be made on its implementation in the first part of 2011;

emphasises the need to extend the EU Strategy for the Danube Region towards the Black Sea region; points out that the sustainable development of the Danube region will further enhance the geostrategic importance of the Black Sea region; consequently, while acknowledging the differing nature of the regions and the distinct geographical focus of the two strategies, considers that they should be complementary and mutually reinforcing;

20. Stresses that the main objective pursued by the EU and the Member States in the EU Strategy for the Black Sea Region should be to establish an area of peace, democracy, prosperity and stability, founded on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and providing for EU energy security; considers that good governance, the rule of law, promotion of respect of human rights, migration management, energy, transport, the environment, and economic and social development should constitute priority actions;