ANKARA: Turkey’s EU Membership’s Impact on Black Sea Rim

Turkey’s EU Membership’s Impact on Black Sea Rim

Journal of Turkish weekly
July 18 2005

Countries that abut the Black Sea are more of a difficulty for Europe
in terms of integration, liberalization, and democratization. The
Black Sea littorals are Turkey, Bulgaria, Rumania, Moldavia, Ukraine,
the Russia, and Georgia. The country with the longest Black Sea
coast, Turkey, also has the strategic straits of Istanbul and
Çanakkale, which connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. However,
only those seven countries should not solely occupy one~Rs mind when
one speaks of the Black Sea basin. The Black Sea is the gateway that
connects the Caucasus to the rest world. Almost all Northern Balkan
territories are in this basin. Many Central and Eastern European
countries, through the Danube, link to the Mediterranean via the
Black Sea. While being a transit spot on the Asia-Europe route, it is
also a critical junction in the north-south course. With Bulgarian,
Romanian and prospect Turkish accession to the EU, the entire western
and southern coasts of the Black Sea would become EU territory, and
this would warrant a renewed interest in the need and potential for
Black Sea regional cooperation.[1]

The Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) was
established in early 1990s, at Turkey~Rs initiative and bearing in
mind the fact that the Black Sea basin cannot be confined to
littorals, Albania, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Greece were invited to
join. While some groups like to think of the BSEC as an alternative
to the EU, on the contrary, it has functioned to complement the EU
enterprise by aiming integration and stability in this sub-region. As
the pioneer of the BSEC initiative, Turkey expects the organization
to improve economic relations, curtail ethnic conflict, and maintain
regional cooperation at all levels. This is precisely the reason why
Turkey worked hard to bring Armenia and Greece, both of which had
troubles with Turkey at their foundation stages, into the
organization. While its successes are limited in the commercial
domain, an investment bank has been formed within the BSEC framework.
In the realm of security, the Black Sea Peace Force (Blackseafor) has
become operational. Even though cooperation has been attained in
cultural and other matters, it has to be said that the results are
far from satisfactory. This is primarily due to the fact that the
political will and economic means have not been mustered at the
disposal of the organization. Yet, it was said that the Black Sea
basin is at the center of Europe~Rs most troublesome regions. A spring
of cooperation and healing to emanate from the Black Sea will
contribute to regions such as the Balkans, Caucasus, and Eastern
Europe that experience problems with liberalization and
democratization. The said regions also constitute a liability for the
EU. Both the EU and the US labor onerously to bring about progress in
the region, but complain about the lack of success. Every step that
Turkey takes towards EU membership will improve the Black Sea vision.
Greece is already an EU member, however, is not a Black Sea littoral
and lacks the strength to project its EU vision on the Black Sea. On
the other hand, the sea was once termed an ~SOttoman Turkish lake~T
when many ethnic and religious groups were living on the Black Sea
shores under Turkish rule. It can be said that the true power to
shape the Black Sea rests in the hands of Turkey and Russia.
Ukraine~Rs significance should also not go unnoticed. Nonetheless,
Turkey poses as the only country among the three to be able to extend
EU policies towards the region. Rumanian and Bulgarian accession to
the EU will undoubtedly contribute to that end, but true success
cannot be attained without taking the strongest countries into
consideration. Turkey, full member of the EU, will wield the dynamism
to bring the shores of the Black Sea closer. Meanwhile, with Turkey,
Bulgaria, and Rumania full members of the EU, more than half of the
Black Sea shores will become EU territories and will set a great
example to the rest of the region~Rs countries.

Concurrently, the EU will gain in different fields with the Black Sea
basin falling under EU jurisdiction. First of all, the transport
routes vital for the EU will be secured and properly regulated.
Environmental pollution on the Danube and the Black Sea will be
better controlled. Becoming an important energy route, the basin
would ensure the safety and stability of the routes as they carry
energy towards the EU. In addition to all these factors, the Black
Sea basin is a very important sector for EU-related drugs, arms, and
human trafficking. In case the Black Sea basin is not handled as a
whole, but by individual countries that work their way around
independently, no results would be obtained and the current problems
would simply remain. Turkey~Rs EU membership will hinder passage to
the Black Sea from the Middle East and the Caucasus. Along with
Rumanian and Bulgarian memberships, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, and
Moldavia would be left and can be more easily secured within the BSEC

NATO~Rs widening towards Black Sea shores and Turkish support for that
cause can be a good example for EU enlargement. It should not be too
hard to imagine the impact on European security and integration of
having three NATO and EU members bordering the Black Sea.

Sedat LACINER (MA and PhD): Director, ISRO.


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