MEP Viola von Cramon: 'Black Sea region pays crucial role'
December 2, 2022
DW spoke to German Green MEP Viola von Cramon about the importance of the Black Sea region and the EU's relations with the Western Balkans at the recent Munich Leaders Meeting (MLM) in Bucharest.
The second Munich Leaders Meeting (MLM) of 2022 was organized by the Munich Security Conference (MSC) and took place in Bucharest from November 27 to 29. In cooperation with the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the MSC brought together around 75 high-ranking politicians in the run-up to the NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting. The main topics on the agenda were the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and security challenges in the region.
"The European Union must become credible again"
DW: Does the European Parliament have a plan for the Black Sea region?
Viola von Cramon: One reason why we are here is that everyone recognizes that the Black Sea region plays a crucial role, not just because of the Ukrainian war, but because it connects so many parts of Europe and Asia. And so the European Parliament, together with the other EU institutions, has approved a Strategic Compass and a strategy on connectivity. And both mean we will pay much more attention and contribute to this region, to the Black Sea as a region. So we have to make sure that people are better connected, that we have digital connections, that we have transport connections, that we have energy connections, so that everything, which is on the other side, so to speak, of the Black Sea region will be connected more easily to Europe.
The second topic, which is crucial at the moment apart from energy, is of course, security. And that is why the European Parliament is very much alert to the situation here in the Black Sea region. That's why we are very much in favor of having a robust increase of expenses in the Strategic Compass. We speak about battlegroups, we speak about civilian missions, we speak about the fight against the hybrid warfare coming from Russia and other actors. So, I think the awareness of the European Parliament about the position and the meaning, the importance of this region is very clear.
What can the European Parliament do for the Western Balkans, where Russia's influence is so strong, not only because of disinformation but also through the Orthodox Church?
Well, first of all, the European Union must become credible again. We have to regain trust with the last, let's say, movements and with these very last steps of uncertainty. Countries such as North Macedonia and Albania never knew whether they really are welcome, whether the opening of the accession talks would take place. That, of course, raised a lot of question marks in the region. But now, since we have resumed the accession talks, since we have opened the accession talks, I think it is important to say that now it is up to some of the candidate countries to deliver on reforms. On the other hand, the EU and especially the Council, must deliver, for example, on visa liberalization for Kosovo. The EU Commission already gave the green light four years ago and now there has been a revised assessment from the Commission, which was extremely positive overall, and still Kosovo citizens are being discriminated against by not getting visas. The other point is Bosnia. I think, in general, we are very much in favor of giving candidate status to Bosnia too. But of course, there are some preconditions, which need to be fulfilled and we are pushing very hard and reaching out a lot to the EU delegation on the ground, to our interlocutors, to make sure that Bosnia is not left behind on the dialogue. So we do a lot, we try to trigger a lot of EU bilateral activities to help our partners on the ground to speed up the accession process.