Although overshadowed by the “3+1” Summit of Greece-Cyprus-Israel (with US Secretary of State/Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo in attendance) in Jerusalem, the 7th meeting of Greece-Romania-Bulgaria-Serbia, last week in Bucharest, is of potentially equal regional importance. The “ring of multiple connectivity” that is being built in SouthEastern Europe is the template of a new reality in the region.
Energy routes are becoming apparent, and here the Jerusalem event is meeting the Bucharest discussions. Interlinking the Black Sea with the Eastern Mediterranean – true enough, the Aegean is in the middle! – may become a major part of the ongoing discussion, since for instance ExxonMobil is active in the most recent Black Sea Neptun Deep natural gas perimeter (along with OMV Petrom), as well as in the Cyprus EEZ and (potentially) in the South of Crete. But for the time being the IGB gas interconnector, connecting into TAP which carries Azeri natural gas but also able to carry re-gasified LNG from the Alexandroupolis FSRU, is already changing the energy security map of the region. (Along with the IBS connecting Bulgaria with Serbia).
Of an equal importance may prove the interconnection of electricity grids within the region, although this part of the equation has always being kept at a lower key.
Transport networks in a triple web consisting of links of Northern Greece towards Romania through Bulgaria, of NorthWestern Greece towards Serbia through the Republic of North Macedonia, as well as the “Northern route” between Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia are aiming to integrate both train and road traffic. Trade flows but also tourist traffic are in the cross-hairs of regional planners.
Last but by no means least, telecoms and internet connections are expected to be radically ameliorated – with roaming charges for voice and data transmission being a priority.
All of which, of course, need two major ingredients. Vast sums of infrastructure financing and long enough a stability horizon in the region. Will the talk of connectivity be enough of a catalyst for both to emerge? Summitry is at least here to stay.