Security Challenges in the Balkans and the Black Sea Region:
A Ukrainian Perspective
His Excellency Borys Tarasyuk
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
I am honored to participate in yet another outstanding event in the Euro-Atlantic area, the International Workshop series on global security. This is probably the 14th workshop in a row that I have attended—outstanding activities initiated and founded by our friend Roger Weissinger-Baylon that are unique opportunities for decision makers in the Euro-Atlantic area to exchange their views. They are also a kind of catalyst as well as a very good think tank for those working in practical diplomacy or in governmental jobs that involve security-related issues. In my previous capacity as foreign minister and as a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official, participation and discussions in this workshop series were for me a very stimulating event for applying new ideas to my work.
Our chairman, Minister Mediu, brought up some of the challenges that the Balkans and the Black Sea region are facing. I am going to dwell on some of the challenges that are closely related to security issues. From my point of view, this region is the only area of instability and challenge to European security as such.
THE ROOT CAUSES OF INSTABILITY
What are the major challenges facing this region and what are the origins of these instabilities? The destruction by the imperial entities—the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia—which were based on totalitarian ideologies and aggressive, ruthless foreign policies, is one of the root causes of the current instabilities. Another cause is that the outgoing empires used the usual policy employed by all empires: divide and rule. As a result, we have the same product with two different stories: the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo on the one hand and the protracted conflicts in such areas as Trans-Dnistria in Moldova, Abkhazia and southern Ossetia in Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan on the other hand.
If one compares these two different subregions, one may easily find that the attention given to them has been different from the start—one has been treated as a first-class issue and one as a second-class situation. The first-class issue, the Balkans, has been given massive and robust attention from the very beginning from the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, the OSCE, and even the Council of Europe. Just recently, for example, there was an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the Council of Europe in which we discussed with Marti Ahtisaari the current situation and the future prospects for Kosovo—which may become an international-community success or a failure.
But the second-class area has been left on its own. From the very beginning of the conflicts there, from the beginning of the 1990s, this conflict area was referred to as a Russian responsibility or as a sphere of Russian domination. International attention has been inadequate and there have been no comparable efforts to those paid to the conflict in the Balkans.
What resulted from this inequality? Different European and Euro-Atlantic community attitudes toward the two areas. The Black Sea region has had the prospect of European and Euro-Atlantic integration but the second-class area has had no such prospect.
I think this was and still is a mistake. Why? Because we are talking about inseparable parts of Europe and the Euro-Atlantic community and because these areas make up a strategically important region, especially during this time of energy security crises. A very important alternative energy-supply route goes through Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Moldova and if you look at a map you will find that much will depend on whether this area of instability becomes an alternative route of secure energy supply from Central Asia to Europe. Much will also depend on whether we succeed in reaching a settlement there.
WORKING TO RESOLVE CONFLICTS IN BOTH SUBREGIONS OF THE BLACK SEA AREA
What should be done? What can we do together? I believe that we need to pay adequate attention to the protracted conflict in what I am calling the second-class area as we did last year in the case of Trans-Dnistria, when the European Union and the United States entered the process of peacefully settling the Trans-Dnistrian conflict. This effort added new value to the peace process in Trans-Dnistria, which I believe should be a priority of the international community.
However, the wrong solution to the Black Sea region conflicts may have negative, destructive effects not only on that area but on the Georgia-Moldova-Azerbaijan area as well. A mistake made regarding Kosovo’s status could open a Pandora’s box of issues or instigate a domino effect on other regions. So it is extremely important that the international community act cautiously and within the framework of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244.
What else can we do to bring stability to both problematic subregions of the Balkans and the Black Sea? In addition to efforts to stabilize these conflicts, we need to introduce a very positive incentive for greater stability—the prospect of Euro-Atlantic integration.
UKRAINE’S CONTRIBUTION TO BLACK SEA REGIONAL STABILITY
Ukraine remains the number one European nation in terms of contributions to the peacekeeping operations. Since the very beginning, Ukraine has participated in all peacekeeping and peacemaking efforts in this area—in Croatia, then in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and now in Kosovo. As one of the guarantors of a peaceful settlement in Trans-Dnistria, Ukraine made a special contribution at the beginning of 2005, and as a result of these efforts the new Ushenko plan emerged, which was accepted by all relevant parties and remains the only basis for settlement. In addition, because of the Ukrainian initiative, the United States and the European Union were invited to participate in the Trans-Dnistria settlement.
At the beginning of 2005, Ukraine also started to cooperate much more closely with the European Union and NATO, especially in the area of security. And with its invitation to participate in a Membership Action Plan and the perspective of NATO membership, Ukraine is increasing its contribution to European security.
Ukraine considers the Balkans-Black Sea region as an area of vital interest and will act accordingly. We are making great efforts to bring European values and standards to the area, especially democracy, and to institutionalizing GUUAM as a full-fledged regional international organization with its secretariat in Kiev. Ukraine, with Georgia, also initiated a unique regional initiative, the Community of Democratic Choice, to bring greater security, prosperity, and democracy to the area that extends from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.
However, the future of a united, stable, prosperous, and democratic Europe depends on all of us making concerted efforts to meet the security challenges of this region.