On Wednesday, May 29, 2013 the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a roundtable discussion on the security realities and their implications for the Black Sea region. Managing Director for Grantmaking Mark Cunningham moderated the conversation with Cristian Diaconescu, Presidential Advisor and Head of the Presidential Chancellery of Romania and Temuri Yakobashvili, GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow. The luncheon event attended was by about 40 people, including a mix of embassy, military and civilian officials, academics, and a few corporate representatives.
The luncheon began with brief opening remarks from GMF President Craig Kennedy, who welcomed guests and highlighted the success of GMF’s Bucharest office and prosperous longstanding relationship with Romania. Cunningham then provided the background and context for the event, touching on the interplay between regional tensions, natural resources and geopolitical rivalries throughout Europe’s East. He then turned it over to Diaconescu for his opening remarks. Quick to point out the vast web of complexities that is security in Eastern Europe, Diaconescu touched on nearly every aspect of his state’s agenda. He delved into interstate relations, examining the issues of border integrity and law uniformity, energy diversification and the proposed Nordic Strategy, EU accession, ethnic tensions, frozen conflicts, human and drug trafficking, and the harmonization of international standards. Diaconescu unfolded the layers of tension between NATO and non-NATO member countries, with special regard to training missions that require all involved nations to inform their neighbors, who may or may not approve of such activities. Acting as a respondent, Yakobashvili painted a very broad picture of the region as a peninsula, with the southern block experiencing immigration and trafficking issues, the eastern countries facing conventional conflicts and challenges, and lastly the Black Sea countries looking to solve naval and sovereignty issues. He agreed with Diaconescu’s assertion that the region’s security realities are a conglomeration of diverse factors, agendas, and actors, and he uniquely highlighted the numerous political and institutional challenges that often run the risk of regional destabilization. Following these remarks, the event launched into a question and answer period that covered the topics of Moldovan territory negotiation in Transnistria, the idea of inclusive vs. exclusive institutions, the changing roles of Romania and Ukraine, the Eastern Partnership, political will and the ‘coalition of the willing’, EU accession failures and successes, and the opportunities and challenges of Western economic and political involvement in the region. Diaconescu concluded the luncheon with a call for the U.S. to support the Romanian Strategic Partnership and seek to harmonize international standards, as he saw the solution to these and other obstacles possible through global cooperation.