Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum 2023: Day 1

Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum 2023: Day 1

All panels from the first day of Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum 2023 can be accessed here.

On May 18, the seventh edition of the Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum commenced. The event brings together more than 150 speakers and features 42 panels on various topics. This large-scale international event is organised by the New Strategy Center in partnership with the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, with institutional support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Defence and support from NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division.

The Forum was opened by Ionel Nițu, New Strategy Center President, and Sorin Cîmpeanu, Rector of the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine.

At the first panel of the day, Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Honorary Chairman of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center and Director of the EU Satellite Centre, moderated the discussion, which was joined by the Prime Minister of Romania, His Excellency Mr Nicolae Ciucă and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova, His Excellency Mr Dorin Recean.

The guests highlighted the current relevance of the Black Sea and Balkan region security issues. 2022 marked a return to a long-lasting, large-scale war that is exhausting the resources not only of the nation in conflict, but also of all European countries. Russia’s abuse of vast areas of the Black Sea poses a threat to the whole of Europe. These threats affect the safety of navigation, the freedom of movement of commercial and tourist vessels, the protection of trade routes, energy and transport corridors.

This regional war has the potential to become a conflict of attrition, requiring a reassessment of security strategies for the Black Sea and the Balkans, including strengthening the resilience of the states in the region. 

Attention should also be drawn to the hybrid war waged by the Russian Federation against the Republic of Moldova, which includes propaganda, protests, and actively promoted inter-ethnic hatred.

Panel II. The Reconstruction Begins Now. Ways to Support Ukraine’s Economy and European Integration of Ukraine and Republic of Moldova – in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States

The moderator of the panel was Alina Inayeh, Advisor to the German Marshall Fund of the United States and President of Black Sea Security. The speakers on the panel were Ruslan Stefanchuk, President of the Supreme Rada of Ukraine, Mrs. Alina Gorghiu, Acting President of the Senate Chamber of the Romanian Parliament, Mr. Marcel Ciolacu, President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament and Igor Grosu, President of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova.

Europe is facing major security challenges unprecedented since the end of the Second World War. Participants stressed the importance of Ukraine benefiting from the support of international partners in its reconstruction. The need to create international mechanisms to facilitate investment in Ukraine was also highlighted. The effects of the war were also felt by the Republic of Moldova, which is facing blackmail from the Russian Federation, affecting various areas. In this context. Romania has a leading role in Moldova’s European integration, committing itself to contribute to achieving Chisinau’s accession objectives.

Panel IIIa. Standing by Ukraine.  Cohesion of the Democratic World and the Challenges of a Year of War – in partnership with Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), USA

The panel was moderated by Edward Lucas, Senior Fellow and Adviser, Centre for European Policy Analysis, UK. The speakers were Jeanne Shaheen, US Senator for New Hampshire, Titus Corlățean, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Romanian Senate, General (res.) Sir James Everard, Honorary Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the New Strategy Center.

The debate focused on how democratic states can work together to address the challenges posed by the war in Ukraine. Topics such as the enlargement of the European Union and the enlargement of the North Atlantic Organisation were also discussed. After a year of war, it is clear that democratic states need multilateralism, accountability and the establishment of an international tribunal to judge the crimes committed as part of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. The international community must strive to ensure that international law is respected in the future and that any aggression is punished. At the same time, the speakers stressed the need to continue efforts to create economic support mechanisms for Ukraine.

Panel IIIb. Can Europe Achieve Energy Independence? New Strategies for Old Problems – in partnership with Delphi Forum, Greece

The moderator was Mr. Symeon Tsomokos, founder and president of the Delphi Economic Forum, Greece, and the panelists were: H.E. Mr. Victor Parlicov, Minister of Energy of the Republic of Moldova, Mr. Yannis Maniatis, former Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Greece, H.E. Mr. Virgil Popescu, Minister of Energy of Romania and Ambassador Lazăr Comănescu, Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Romania’s support for the Republic of Moldova to ensure its energy independence was emphasized. Achieving the goal of energy independence goes hand in hand with Romania’s objectives to reduce CO2 emissions. It is no coincidence that Russia’s aggression started at the same time as Ukraine and Moldova tried to connect to the European energy system. The energy integration of these two countries also means their European integration. 

Europe’s security is also as much about consolidating and coordinating its own resources as it is about interconnecting with countries in Africa, the Middle East or Central Asia. The three pillars of Europe’s energy independence are sustainability, accessibility and security.

Panel IIIc. Weaponization of Food as a Risk to World Stability  – in partnership with University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Romania

The panel was moderated by Mrs. Gina FÎNTÎNERU, Vice-rector for Research & Innovation, University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV). The moderators were Mr. Brian LANDER, Deputy Director, Emergency Division, World Food Programme, United Nation, USA, Ms. Iuliia OSMOLOVSKA, Director of the Kyiv Office of GLOBSEC, Ukraine, Mr. Jean VALVIS, Chairman, General Director, Valvis Holding, Romania, Mr. Andrei URSULESCU, CEO Scandia Food, Romania and Mr. Nawaf SALAMEH, Chairman Alexandrion Group, Romania.

The panel discussed the relationship between humanitarian and economic effects of food crises, in Ukraine as well as internationally. The discussions then approached how food security is perceived in Romania.  The panelists then focused on a detailed economic analysis on food security, taking into account key variables such as inflation, consumption and production, concluding the great potential of Romania’s food sector should be stimulated through investment and modernization.

Ultimately, the speakers assessed the weaponization of food security by the Russian Federation and the need to properly manage the influx of Ukrainian cereal exports.

Panel IVa. Zeitenwende:  Turning Point of the German Foreign and Security Policy – in partnership with Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Germany

The next panel featured Michael Scharfschwerdt, Director of Policy Planning at the Federal Foreign Office, Ms Katja Plate, Director of KAS Romania, Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Germany, and Mr Liviu Horovitz, Researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Romania. The moderator of the debate was Cristina Cileacu, Senior Editor at Digi24, Romania.

Until recently, culture and security policy were not major topics of interest in Germany, both among society and the political class. The invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation on 24 February 2022 has triggered a continuous process of change in German foreign and security policy. Germany has acknowledged the need to re-evaluate its security policy in order to meet current challenges, including in areas such as energy, militarism and climate change. To this end, the German government is working with international partners to develop a national security strategy that will have a positive impact, including at European level. The situation in Ukraine has led to significant progress in Germany when it comes to commencing discussions on defence, resilience and security.

Panel IVb. Energy Opportunities in the Black Sea Region in the Context of Current Security Challenges – in partnership with West University of Timișoara, Romania

The moderator of the discussion was Mr Radu Tudor, Journalist Antena 3 CNN, and the speakers were: Mr Virgil Popescu, Minister of Energy of Romania, Mr Bende Sandor, Chairman of the Committee for Industries and Services, Chamber of Deputies, Romania, Mr Casian Nițulescu, Secretary of State, Ministry of Energy, Romania, Mr Cosmin Ghiță, Director General, Nuclearelectrica, Romania, Mr Ion Sterian, Director General, Transgaz, Romania and Mr Alexandru Maximescu Vice President, OMV Petrom, Romania.

In the context of the tense situation in the Black Sea caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, countries in the region are looking for new alternatives that will give them energy independence from Moscow. Terminals in Azerbaijan and Turkey will prove to be key in this endeavor. From Romania’s point of view, a very important objective is energy connectivity with the Republic of Moldova, which is also a factor in the country’s European integration. 

From 2027, when many Black Sea energy projects will be completed, Romania will be in a favorable transit position and will become a source of energy security. Neptun Deep will play a strategic role in strengthening Romania as a security hub. To achieve this goal, collaboration and consensus at political level is needed. Energy can transform the Black Sea from an unstable area into an export hub to the West.

Panel IVc.  Societal Resilience and Emergency Preparedness – How Can We Prepare Critical Infrastructures for Medical and Civil Emergencies? – in partnership with Ovidius University of Constanța, Romania

Panel IVc was moderated by Liliana Ana Tuță, Vice-Chancellor of Ovidius University of Constanta, and was attended by the following speakers: Raed Arafat, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Andrei Baciu, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Health, and Daniel Ioniță, Cyber Security Manager, Cymed/Infoworld. The panel was organised in partnership with Ovidius University of Constanta.

The panel concentrated on assessing the success of health systems in different countries and on ways apply the lessons learned from the recent experience of the last pandemic. In this process, trust in state institutions plays a crucial role.

Health system resilience can be improved. The pandemic has illustrated several challenges that Romania’s health system needs to overcome. Another problem is the over-reliance on countries other than those in the Euro-Atlantic area in terms of material preparedness for a health crisis.
In this respect, Romania needs to make significant financial efforts and opt for an early approach.

 Panel Va. Russian Political Warfare and Threats from High North to the Black Sea – in partnership with Norwegian Institute for International Affairs

This panel was moderated by Mr Ion Ioniță, senior editor at Adevărul and editor-in-chief of Historia, Romania. It The panellists were Ms Alina Bârgăoanu, Associate Expert at the New Strategy Center and Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Public Relations, SNSPA, Romania, Mr Jakub Godzimirski, Researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Poland, and Ms Olga Reznikova, Researcher at the National Institute for Strategic Studies, Ukraine.

The speakers indicated that the war in Ukraine started long before 24 February 2024, mainly involving elements of hybrid warfare. Special attention should be paid to propaganda, which now exceeds any historical precedent, taking place in a new and distinct information environment. We are confronted with a novel type of information warfare waged by the Russian Federation, characterised by its transnational nature. Its aim is to generate polarisation and provoke divergent public opinions in society. Another objective of the Russian Federation is to undermine the unity of Western states, thus affecting their ability to respond promptly to various crises. Speakers also stressed that the invasion of Ukraine highlighted the absence of international mechanisms to prevent the outbreak of war and restore peace.

Presentation of the NUPI and New Strategy Center study on Russian Disinformation Campaigns in the NATO Space in the Context of the War in Ukraine

The discussion was moderated by Mr Sergiu MITRESCU, Coordinator of the International Relations Department of the New Strategy Center, and involved the authors of the study: Ms Ileana ROTARU, Associate Expert of the New Strategy Center, Romania, and Mr Jakub GODZIMIRSKI, Researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Poland.

The study revealed that Romanian citizens have a positive perception of NATO and the European Institutions. A significant proportion of the population feels protected by NATO in the face of challenges from the Russian Federation. However, public opinion has become polarised. This polarisation has been influenced in particular by the fear of a possible economic and energy crisis and the impact of the information war in the public space.
As far as Norway is concerned, support for the North Atlantic Organisation is full because Norwegian society is one that trusts the institutions. Also, the high level of digital literacy among Norwegians contributes to identifying fake news.

Panel Vb.  Reconstruction of Ukraine. The Biggest Project of the Western World after WWII – in partnership with Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW), Poland

The moderator was Mrs Alexandra GĂTEJ, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center. The speakers were Mrs Alina INAYEH, Advisor to the President of the German Marshall Fund on Black Sea Security, Romania, Mr Cătălin PODARU, CEO, Leviatan Design, Romania, Mr Adrian FLOREA, Development, and Digital Transformation Director, Concelex, Romania and Ms Jadwiga ROGOŻA, Senior Fellow, Ukraine Department, Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW), Poland.

According to some estimates, Ukraine needs at least 1 trillion euros for reconstruction.  Since it is hard to circumvent some of the current international law impediments, there is a need for Transatlantic Unity and for time for the process to be more efficient. This will not be a typical reconstruction, since it is intended to be conducted not only in a postwar scenario, but also during the war. 

Energy is one of the sectors that not only has to be rebuilt in Ukraine, but built back better. There are towns in Ukraine that already have hundreds of reconstruction project proposals and there are Romanian companies and NGOs that are interested in being a key part of this reconstruction process. To maximize opportunities and minimize risks, companies need to establish partnerships with local and international stakeholders.

Panel VIa. The Balkans at the Crossroads: Stability or a New Crisis? – in partnership with Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, Serbia

The panel was moderated by Robert LUPIȚU, editor-in-chief of Calea Europeană magazine in Romania. This debate brought together experts with extensive experience in the region, such as Yordan BOZHILOV, President of the Sofia Security Forum in Bulgaria, Manuel SARRAZIN, Special Representative for the Western Balkan Countries of the Federal Government of Germany, Bojan ELEK, Deputy Director of the Centre for Security Policy in Belgrade, Serbia, and James GOW, from the Department of War Studies at King’s College, UK.

During the discussion, the guests highlighted the fragility of the security context in the Balkan region. A possible solution to generate a higher level of stability and security in the region would be the enlargement of the European Union through the accession of the Balkan states. The speakers considered that the war in Ukraine could act as a catalyst for the integration process and stressed the need for a strategic approach in this respect. 

On the one hand, the Balkan states need to realise that EU integration requires continuous efforts. At the same time, it is in the interest of the European Union that a state of stability prevails in the region. One important aspect is to pay greater attention to the security interests of the Western Balkan states. One solution could be to involve these states in the EU’s decision-making mechanisms, particularly in the area of regional security.

Panel VIb. Protecting Critical Infrastructure. Safeguarding  Communication Systems in Uncertain Times

This panel was chaired by Mr. Marcel FOCA, Senior Expert, New Strategy Center, Romania. The panel included the following speakers: Brigadier General Maxim DOBRINOIU, Head of Internal Security Division, Special Telecommunications Service, Romania, Mr Dan CÎMPEAN, Director, National Cyber Security Directorate, Romania, Mr Romeo MILEA, Director of Network Development, Vodafone, Romania and Brigadier General Mihai BURLACU, Head of Communications and Information Technology Directorate, Ministry of Defence, Romania.

Resilience is the new letter of the law for a state’s critical infrastructure, as opposed to mere resilience. The war in Ukraine has shown that critical infrastructure defence needs to take place within an ecosystem, based on cooperation between state and private institutions (including civil society, through cyber armies). Human resources, in particular represented by the new generation, which is much more aware of technological developments, are essential for the evolution of cyber security institutions. In this context, a proactive approach is superior to a reactive one, an approach that must take into account common limitations to cyber protection, such as lack of manpower or high implementation costs.
From a military point of view, cyber and electronic attacks are complementary in war. In Russia’s case, the use of jamming weapons is a potent tactic because of their mobility.

Panel VIIa. What Will Security Architecture Look Like After the War? How We Can Restore Stability in Europe?

The panel was chaired by His Excellency Ambassador Gheorghe MAGHERU, Member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, Romania. The panel discussion was also attended by Iulian CHIFU, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Romania, Mr Markus KAIM, Senior Fellow, Research Division, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Germany, His Excellency Ambassador Cristian DIACONESCU, Member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania, and Mr Mirko MUSSETTI, Geopolitical Analyst for Limes magazine, Italy.

The war in Ukraine has significant implications for the structure of the European security system. We see an increasing relevance of the “economic security” paradigm, in which control of exports and supply lines becomes a vital dimension of security. Although most countries abide by the rules of international law, there are still states with revisionist foreign policies that resort to aggressive actions that are difficult to anticipate and prevent. In this context, building societal resilience is an imperative. At the same time, the war in Ukraine has reconfirmed the importance of NATO and the concept of collective security for states in the Euro-Atlantic area, and Romania and Poland must serve as security pillars of the Eastern flank of the North Atlantic Alliance.

Panel VIIb. New Energy Sources for the Black Sea and Balkan Region. Opportunities for a More Secure Future

The moderator of this panel was Mr Laurențiu PACHIU, Vice-President, Energy Policy Group, Romania, and the speakers were Mr Lóránt ANTAL, Chairman of the Energy Committee, Senate, Romania, Mr George NICULESCU, President, National Energy Regulatory Authority (ANRE), Romania and Mr Piotr MARCZUK, Director, Government Relations, Central and Eastern Europe, Honeywell, Poland.

In the case of Romania, there are promising energy projects with political backing: building new reactors at Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant, developing modular nuclear reactor systems, exploiting natural gas from Neptun Deep and implementing offshore wind energy in the Black Sea (the first in the region). Romania is collaborating intensively with other countries in the region, such as Azerbaijan, with which it has signed an important natural gas deal. Also, for the first time, gas going to Moldova is coming from the West, not the East, thanks to Romania. These exceptional results were adopted under exceptional conditions, in an energy crisis. 

There is potential for collaboration between the Black Sea region and the Balkans through hydropower. For this region, the current plans to interconnect renewable energy (solar panels, wind power plants) in the Mediterranean region should be an example.

Panel VIII. How the Conflict in Ukraine Will Influence the conduct of War in the Future – in partnership with King’s College, UK

The panel looked at the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on how war will be fought in the future. The panel was moderated by Hans DAMEN, Brigadier General (res.), member of the International Advisory Board of the New Strategy Center, the Netherlands. The panel was joined by General (ret.) Philip M. BREEDLOVE, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, USA, Mr Christopher DANDECKER, Department of War Studies, King’s College, UK and Mr James W. DERLETH, Professor, College of International and Security Studies, George C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies, USA.

According to the speakers, the war in Ukraine has highlighted several issues that require special attention in future discussions on wars. First, the discussion focused on the Russian Federation’s inability to properly plan and manage logistical components. Thus, in a future war, it is of crucial importance to pay more attention to the logistical dimension, which is an essential element for the successful conduct of military operations. The war in Ukraine also highlighted the inefficiency of forces caused by air defence systems. A more rigorous approach and a reassessment of air force capabilities is therefore needed in view of future conflicts. 

In addition to these issues, speakers highlighted the importance of paying adequate attention to the intelligence component, as various international actors try to provide a distorted picture of reality to legitimise their aggressive actions. Moreover, in achieving the goals of information destabilisation, artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in future wars.


Presentation of the New Strategy Center study: A Synchronous Approach to the Reconstruction of Ukraine

The discussion was moderated by Ms Antonia Colibășanu, Senior Associate Expert, New Strategy Center & Director of Operations and Senior Geopolitical Analyst, Geopolitical Futures, Romania, in dialogue with the author of the study, Mr Horia Ciurtin, Expert, New Strategy Center.

The study highlighted the imperative of investing in Ukraine’s reconstruction process. The author made an in-depth analysis of Ukraine’s needs, also taking into account the willingness of international actors to cooperate. Investment must focus primarily on restoring and modernising the infrastructure of the Ukrainian state, with the aim of ensuring financial and military mobility. The author also argues that it is crucial to pay more attention to the energy sector, which is considered a vital element in the resilience of the Ukrainian state. At the same time, there is a need to rebuild the logistical capacity needed to revitalise agricultural trade, which has suffered as a result of the war.


Night Owl Session (Panel IX). How Can We Define the Victory of Ukraine? Objectives and Strategic Impact – in partnership with Defense 24, Poland

The final panel of the first day of the seventh edition of the Black Sea and Balkan Security Forum was moderated by Mr Jacek Raubo, International Relations Expert, Defense 24, Poland, and featured Olga Reznikova, Researcher at the National Institute for Strategic Studies in Ukraine, Yulia Osmolovska, Director of the GLOBSEC Office in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Mykhailo Samus, Director of the New Geopolitics Research Network in Ukraine.

The panel explored the objectives and strategic impact of a possible Ukrainian victory over the Russian Federation. The speakers stressed that the Russian Federation will not be reluctant to admit defeat, as this would be a major blow to the Kremlin regime. Thus, regardless of the outcome on the ground, Moscow will strive to perpetuate the illusion of victory among its population. There can be no talk of a real victory for Ukraine unless the military occupation by the Russian Federation of various Ukrainian territories is eliminated. Speakers noted the support of Ukrainian society for victory in this war. If the West continues to support Ukrainian society and government, we must prepare for a long war.