The New Strategy Center publishes the January edition of its monthly newsletter, where we assess the most relevant information and events in or impacting the Black Sea and Balkan region.
The European Commission is considering concessions for Hungary to remove Prime Minister Orban’s opposition to the €50 billion support package for Ukraine. Ongoing negotiations between Hungary and the commission may not guarantee a deal, leaving room for the other 26 EU members to seek a solution independently. The European Parliament has also adopted a resolution calling for Hungary’s voting rights to be suspended over concerns about obstacles to reaching an EU-wide consensus.
Regarding the war in Ukraine, the crash of the Russian military transport plane, the Ilyushin Il-76, in the Belgorod region of Russia has led to conflicting reports about its cargo, with the Russians claiming it was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war.
Various European countries have pledged substantial support for Ukraine’s war efforts, such as Britain, France, Norway, the Baltic states, through memoranda on security cooperation as well as providing military assistance packages.
At the same time, NATO, as part of Steadfast Defender, is launching the largest exercise since the end of the Cold War.
Despite President Joe Biden urging Congress to provide additional funding for Ukraine, the $61.4 billion package continues to stall, while President Volodymyr Zelenski stresses that Europe is unlikely to be able to sustain financial and military support for Ukraine if the US significantly reduces its aid.
On the other hand, Russia has faced social problems as heating system failures have affected tens of thousands of Russians across the country, in addition to continuing war losses. The Republic of Bashkortostan has seen some of the largest protests since the start of the large-scale invasion of Ukraine, sparked by the arrest of a local activist.
The Republic of Moldova continues to take steps towards EU membership, with Maia Sandu starting a referendum to gauge popular support for accession on the same day as the first round of presidential elections.
Important steps towards cooperation have been taken in the Black Sea region, with the establishment of a joint task force of Turkish, Bulgarian and Romanian navies to combat the problem of mines in the Black Sea. In the energy sector, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Slovakia joined the vertical gas corridor.
Turkey’s parliament approved Sweden’s application to join NATO, overcoming a significant obstacle to the expansion of the Western military alliance.