Black Sea Synergy: Success or failure for the European Union?
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Black Sea Region has been extensively on the agenda of the European Union (EU) since Romania and Bulgaria’s membership in 2007. In 2008 the EU created “Black Sea Synergy” as a regional initiative in order to develop cooperation in the region in certain areas such as energy, transport and environment. Countries that take part in the Black Sea Synergy, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine are also part of “Eastern Partnership” which is another initiative simultaneously established with “Black Sea Synergy” as a part of the wider policy “European Neighbourhood Policy” (ENP). Besides some EU member states, Turkey, an official candidate country to the EU since 1999, and Russia, a so-called strategic partner of the EU are significant actors in the “Black Sea Synergy” initiative although they are not included in ENP. The initiative comprises various common practices with similar initiatives of the EU, such as providing financial assistance, supporting economic development and stability as well as encouraging economic and democratic reforms. Although the EU attempts to take initiative in solving the conflicts and increase security in the region, it has significant deficiencies in conducting these policies as the literature indicates. This article aims to analyse the “Black Sea Synergy” in light of the recent developments regarding Turkey’s deteriorating relations with the EU and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Eastern Ukraine. The article attempts to answer “to what extent do these developments affect “Black Sea Synergy”? and argues that, although the “Black Sea Synergy” is an initiative mainly comprising technical projects in some key sectors, the crisis in Ukraine and the relations between Turkey and the EU have exacerbated the “challenge” confronted by the EU in terms of implementing the objectives of the initiative. Obviously the political development of the “Black Sea Synergy” continues to be dependent on reciprocal relations between the EU, Russia and Turkey in light of the current events. However the technical character of the Black Sea Synergy has the potential to maintain the contacts between the partners despite the political disagreements among them. All in all, a cooperative environment with Turkey and Russia will provide a common ground for achieving the EU’s general objectives in the Black Sea region despite the prevalence of structural deficiencies of the EU as a foreign policy actor.