Starting off the second day of the Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum, the first panel dealt with the specific strategic challenges that affect the region. Spanning from discussions about the initial Georgian conflict in 2008, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the (hybrid) intervention in Donbas or the Syrian crisis, terrorism and migrant flows and up to the continuous influence asserted in the Western Balkans, this panel concentrated upon NATO’s prospect for understanding all these challenges in a coherent manner and offering an adequate set of solutions. Moreover, the panelists debated about enlarging the perspective and seeing such security challenges in the wider context of global transformations that are taking place all across Eurasia.

In the second part of the day, the members of the Panel VIa have tackled the current dilemmas of preparing for war in the cyberspace and how military doctrine and technical capabilities need to be adapted to the changing cyber environment. Commencing with a discussion about the dependence upon new technologies for whole arrays of social life (including governance and military), the participants explained that such a relation with the digital field also poses serious challenges, with attacks that are strategically and geopolitically motivated, causing more than $1.5 trillion in damages annually.

Further on, the presentations moved on to the steps that NATO already took and is presently taking to respond adequately to such cyber threats, especially in relation to high-level ones that put the members of the Alliance under constant attack, irrespective if they stem from state or non-state actors. In this sense, there is a real necessity to boost NATO’s capabilities in order to ensure the proper protection of its members, done in symbiosis with the other conventional military means that the organisation possesses.

Looking at cyber issues from another perspective, it was shown that education for cyber security is crucial as a process for empowering public and private sector actors, as well as the general population to deploy a wide-ranging set of defenses. At the end of the panel, the discussions centered around the unexpected nature of cyber threats upon critical infrastructure assets and their vulnerability to ever-evolving sophistication of attacks.

At the middle of the second day of the Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum, the members of Panel VIb discussed about the present prospects for the European Union’s PESCO initiative, about its motivations and objectives, but also about the challenges it may face. Further on, the dynamic between NATO and the EU in this particular field was addressed, analysing whether there is any actual possibility of a competition between the European Union member-states and the United States in matters of defence procurement.

The last panel of the day kicked off with a theme-setting discussion about the EU perspective in the Black Sea and Balkan countries and the present state of enlargement during the Juncker presidency. Moldova’s European aspirations have been analysed in light of the progresses it has made on the EU accession path, as well as the challenges and problems it still faces. In this latter sense, it was shown how economic problems, unsolved territorial issues in Transnistria, workforce migration and other factors influence its relationship with the Union. On the other hand, the Association Agreement and the establishment of the free trade regime is helping Moldova to be kept on its itinerary.

The situation of the Western Balkan countries has been dealt with, showing that there is a strong commitment of the European Commission for their accession, provided that they also commit themselves to the conditionalities which have no ‘shortcut’ or exemption. Stressing the Union’s enduring interest for the Western Balkans, it has been asserted that the EU itself cannot truly become a global power without integrating this area into its structure.

The discussion also touched upon the present issues surrounding Ukraine’s relation with the European Union and its desire to get closer, while also explaining the lack of leadership, consensus and vision that the Union itself faces at the present moment in regard to its neighbors and to reforming its own institutional construction. This insightful panel ended with stressing the necessity of understanding and solving problems that pertain to nationalism and adversarial inter-ethnic relations which often manifest in the Black Sea and Balkan area.

* Open session recordings are available in the Photo / Video section.