Teodor Meleşcanu, minister of Foreign Affairs
Building Resilience in the Black Sea Region. Supporting the implementation of the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS)

Your Excellencies,
Dear Professor Missiroli,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to warmly welcome to Bucharest and to our debates (fruitful and challenging, I have no doubt) our most distinguished guests. I am grateful to those who have joined us today for an excellent opportunity to address a number of key subjects related to the overall process of implementation of the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy. Our focus today is on resilience, from a Black Sea area angle. That means looking at it regionally, but also nationally, through the lenses of our guests from the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Last year’s April outreach seminar in Bucharest, organised in the process of drafting the EU Global Strategy, was an inspiring occasion for me: that of moderating a panel. By contrast, today I meet you not during closing conclusions, but in the opening. As much as we, policy makers and analysts, try to understand the future, part of it will remain unknown to us. I find it most rewarding to see that this year we continue our partnership with the EUISS and New Strategy Centre. We now also have the Romanian Diplomatic Institute associated, further building on solid foundation. But let me tell you that even last year, I had no easy job. Therefore I have to congratulate in advance the moderators, as well as the speakers, for the efforts demanded by such a distinguished participation in their panels.

I would like to share with you some thoughts on the Global Strategy and the concept of resilience.

In today’s dynamic world (and I would be tempted to say frenzied or confused, but I would rather see the good side of it all, the need to adapt, be resilient and go forward) - it is essential for the EU as a whole and for each other actor, be they EU Member States or EU Partners, to improve their capacities for anticipation, analysis, prevention and reaction. And above all be able to act co-ordinately and support each other.

The Global Strategy has come at the appropriate moment, aiming to take the EU more clearly and actively into the future: to contribute to giving new impetus to the European project, strengthening Europe’s stance in the global context, and opening new chapters of cooperation, especially with our closest partners, most of them in our direct Neighbourhood.

The drafting of the new Strategy has proved a very complex process - inclusive as well as ambitious and far-reaching. The considerable work undertaken is now carried on during the implementation phase. This stage is crucial, because it transforms the vision and principles into reality on so many dimensions simultaneously. We appreciate the EUISS’ and EEAS’ principled support of a wide range of consultations - as we shall have here today, allowing for discussions with the experts and bringing together Member States and Partners alike.

Our intention when organizing this event has been precisely that of bringing together extensive expertise and views from different angles on the problems facing the Black Sea region, the states and actors of the region. We are eager to listen to your insights with a view to the upcoming Joint Communication on Resilience, while considering in special the medium-term perspective of advancing concrete policy proposals.                                           

We consider that EU neighbouring states should have their own contribution to reaching a common definition, a comprehensive narrative on threats and problems, as well as adequate answers in fields as diverse as possible - with the maximum possible practical applicability. The intended overall goal is therefore to facilitate informed and informal contributions to the EUGS implementation from various EU stakeholders in the region.

The Global Strategy identifies state and societal resilience as one of the five priorities of the Union's external action, describing resilience as "the ability of states and societies to reform, thus withstanding and recovering from internal and external crises" and stating that "a resilient society featuring democracy, trust in institutions and sustainable development lies at the heart of a resilient state".

Starting from here, we must acknowledge the complexity and depth of what our objectives are. Resilience as a notion is not new: apart from the fact that EU partners such as the OECD, NATO or the UN have developed their own concepts in the field, the humanitarian and development policy dimensions of resilience have been extensively explored by the EU. The 2015 Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy has come up with ways to address sources of instability across sectors and to strengthen the resilience of the EU’s partners. The concept has thus evolved over time, both at EU level and in other international settings. It has acquired new facets, encompassing larger domains, in an attempt to adapt, as a result of ever more diverse, and diversely understood, challenges.

Many descriptions are on the table, but how can we take all these forward and transform them into efficient policy-making? How can we concretely increase our resilience and help our partners increase theirs?

I shall share with you my personal opinion – resilience has to become a key concept for our actions from now on, since all above descriptions point towards it being a fundamental building block for real achievements in preserving peace, security, and sustainable growth.

In our view, the Joint Communication on Resilience needs to mark a decisive step in ensuring policy coherence at the EU level. Again, not an easy task. This mission would nevertheless become easier by providing a comprehensive definition of resilience as we see it, building on what has been created until now. We have to be careful so as to avoid the risk of limiting future EU actions to today’s assessments and themes.

We also think the EU’s approach needs to address the broad, security-infused dimension of resilience and to include references to the Neighbourhood – again, in line with the 2015 Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (the necessity of a balanced and adequate approach of Neighbourhood – South and East – by taking into account the regional specificities, as well as those of EU partners individually). On a global scale, we must not overlook aspects like risk/threat analysis, better information sharing, leading to better anticipation capacities and thus supporting crisis- or even conflict prevention.

General lines and plans for translating the concept into policies should bring value added to an initiative that otherwise runs the risk of appearing as “nothing new”. There have already been ideas related to better defining relations and interactions between different dimensions – energy, cyber, hybrid, development, stratcom – and their applicability to EU policies.

We thus see the internal-external nexus as extremely important, since we all know that no long-term sustainable internal EU resilience can be achieved without pursuing the same path in the Union’s external action. Our resilience is interdependent in many ways with that of our neighbours and more globally, with our partners’ resilience.

We specially plead for sharing experiences in transition and not overlooking the important dimension of building trust between governments and citizens. Since the EU approach to resilience might be rather people-centred, we particularly need to explore possibilities to impact everyday citizens’ lives in a positive manner.

In the energy sector, for instance, the EU4ENERGY Governance project opened its office in Tbilisi on March, 10. The regional office will coordinate the project’s activities, aimed at improving the legislative and regulatory frameworks for energy in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. A second regional office will cover Belarus, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, operating from Kyiv. For all these countries of special importance for us in Bucharest, resilience-oriented EU projects can bring important benefits at the society’s and citizens’ levels.

Therefore, let us not overlook the key fact that apparently grand political subjects – energy security, cyber resilience – easily come to impact citizens’ lives. We have plenty of examples of how over-dependence on external suppliers or unstable sources brought considerable negative consequences on local communities, leading to more vulnerable political, economic and social environments.

It would be also fruitful to explore different venues for resilience, those related to immediate, physical resistance/survival, but also those related to what I would call “identity or self-resilience”: namely the fact that there are certain defining features for states, societies, communities, even for a person (values, ways of life etc.) that might alter when faced with considerable pressure (manipulation, propaganda, living under extreme pressure, in a frozen-conflict situation or a fragile security environment). Losing one’s sense of self, as a person, a community or a whole society, will definitely lead not to more adaptable or resilient societies, but, on the contrary, to increased fragilisation and loss of core fundamentals. In this line of thinking, achieving societal resilience should play a leading role, even though it is more difficult to tackle and quantify in terms of progress registered, than physical, concrete survival.

One final point, but by no means less important: NATO has achieved progress on quite a number of resilience dimensions. This has inspired us to invite Sorin Ducaru, NATO Assistant Secretary General for emerging security challenges, to join us today and share some of his thoughts. In the spirit of the NATO-EU Warsaw Declaration, the processes of defining resilience at EU level and mainstreaming it into policies could draw inspiration from what has been realised in the Alliance, particularly for the Black Sea region – our today’s focus.

In fact, by pure, but very happy coincidence, Bucharest is the host today of another important resilience, NATO related, event, where we expect good discussions and interesting conclusions too - a situation which is but a perfect example of the importance of the internal-external nexus: the MFA is an organizer here, for dealing with resilience in our external action, the Interior Ministry deals with the NATO seminar, addressing the internal resilience of NATO members [note: the largest of this type organized by NATO on the implementation of the seven baseline requirements for national resilience].

Coming to a conclusion, let me reconfirm that Romania is ready to bring its contribution to finding the means to ensure the much-needed coherence between various policies and at multiple levels of the Global Strategy, including between the internal and external dimensions of EU policies.

One final message to our Partners from the East, to our EU colleagues and to my fellow Romanians: building resilience is not about lecturing anyone. We all have to learn and listen to each other. Today, no country is entirely resilient, so work has to start at home. A country should be resilient enough before supporting others in the same task. I think Romania has achieved a lot in the past, by building up its own resilience in various ways, while in others we still have our own homework to do.

Probably the worst enemy of resilience is complacency. Because resilience is not about preserving the status quo and preventing change, but about managing change for the better while not losing oneself’s  core features in the process.

Thank you!