The participants in the Varna Forum 2.0 (13 – 14 May 2017) shared the view that it provided a timely and useful platform for “thinking together” on the prospects for development of the Black Sea Region (BSR) as an area of cooperation at times of changing regional and global realities. Discussions covered a broad range of subjects concerning the accumulated experience in the on‑going Black Sea cooperation, the relevance of the region in the context of EU–Eurasia interrelationships, and in light of the evolving international security landscape.
Particular attention was accorded to the idea of initiating work towards establishing the feasibility of an EU macro-regional strategy for the Black Sea Region in view of the successive Presidencies of the EU Council by Bulgaria and Romania in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Participants considered as favorable to this idea the EU Council’s conclusion of 25 April 2017 that the Council “remains open to examine any commonly agreed and mature initiative of EU Member States facing the same challenges in a defined geographic area aimed at setting up a new macro‑regional strategy”.
Participants expressed the view that the experience accumulated over the years by BSR countries, particularly in implementing the EU Synergy Initiative and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) projects, constitutes a useful foundation for upgrading the existing formats of regional cooperation. The concept of an EU macro-region under a strategy specifically developed for the BSR could be regarded as a creative contribution to that end. They also felt that the time has come to proceed from repeated discussions to coordinated and purposeful action for such upgrading, provided it can secure acceptance and support from all relevant regional stakeholders.
As regards the specific proposal for EU action on this matter, the 2018 Bulgarian Presidency may wish to find a suitable way to encourage the European Council to agree on a mandate for an EU macro‑region in the BSR, inviting the Commission to present a macro‑regional strategy for the Black Sea Region by June 2020 at the latest, comprehensively addressing cooperation related to infrastructure development; tourism and cultural exchange; maritime transportation; fishery management; energy supplies; controlling migration; environmental protection and climate change; regional confidence- and security‑building, and suitable European ‑ Eurasian economic interaction.
In conclusion, participants shared the view that the second edition of the Varna Forum “Thinking Together” format had again provided a timely platform for action-oriented examination of challenges and opportunities, and should therefore continue to evolve as a welcome venue for successive discussions on the broad range of Black Sea cooperation matters.