ROMANIA’S NATIONAL INTERESTS IN THE BLACK SEA, THE DANUBE AND THE PLANETARY OCEAN-Autor: PhD. Constantin CIOROBEA 
Article published in MSF Study: Romania’s maritime resilience in the era of hybrid threats and the importance of a Maritime Security Strategy
The Romanian people has evolved, over time, in the perimeter that includes the Carpathians, the Danube and the Black Sea, and our history is indispensably linked to the geographical settlement in this perimeter. The location of the Black Sea and the Danube River between the Balkan Peninsula, Eastern Europe and the Near East is a source of food, an important economic area, a transport route and a region that can facilitate the projection of power.
Geographically, the Black Sea is a semi-enclosed sea that communicates with the Mediterranean Sea only through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, but the rivers that flow into this sea and the trade links provided by its ports, make the region a real hub for the transport of goods, gas, oil and energy products, and international trade. The Danube River and the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal also connect the Black Sea, running through the middle of Europe from east to west, with the North Sea. And through the Sea of Azov and the Volga-Don Canal, the Black Sea is connected to the Volga River, i.e. to the Caspian Sea and to the largest waterway network in the Russian Federation, even to the city of Moscow via the Moscow-Volga Canal.
The Black Sea region is of particular importance to Europe because it lies at the intersection of the main east-west and north-south corridors, being geographically at the crossroads, but also at the edge, of European, Eurasian and Middle Eastern spaces. The geographical position of the region allows the projection of power elements along these corridors towards the European continent, through the Balkan region and Central Europe, but also towards the Eastern Mediterranean, the Southern Caucasus and the Northern Middle East. But, in practice, the Wider Black Sea Area (WNSA) is not assimilated by the majority of any of these spaces, which has led to the region being ignored by the security experts of each space. The states in the region do not have common identity and cultural roots, and cooperation in various fields (economic, political and security) is at best bilateral. The only thing that creates some common perception is the fear of unpredictable Russian actions.
Romania’s location in the Balkan area “where more history is produced than can be consumed” as W.Churchill said, makes it vital for our country to promote national interests in the maritime and river environment, the spirit of nationhood with an outlet to the sea and the Danube (seafaring consciousness) and the control of the mouths of the Danube.
The Danube River and the Black Sea coast offer Romania free access to the Planetary Ocean via the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits, the Mediterranean Sea and then via the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean, respectively via the Strait of Gibraltar to the Atlantic Ocean. The opening to 71% of the Earth’s surface is of inestimable value for Romania, given that one of the important characteristics of human development in the modern era is the increasing human presence in the Planetary Ocean, a presence marked by the expansion of scientific and economic activity for the use of the resources of the seas and oceans. In the long term, the importance of the planetary ocean will increase for all countries because of the gradual depletion of natural resources on land and the need for continued economic development. Perhaps an example of the importance attached by some countries to this area is Switzerland, which has 37 ships, totalling one million tonnes, operated by six shipping companies.
Our country needs to consider how the development of maritime and inland waterway activities, increasing maritime potential, can support sustainable economic and social development, the material well-being of the population and the state of national security. This is determined by the nature of Romania’s national interests in the Black Sea, the Danube and the Planetary Ocean and the need to contribute to their security and protection. This aspect underlines the fact that the maritime and fluvial domain in which Romania projects its interests is part of the international geopolitical system because:
- we see an involvement in the region of NATO, the EU and other organisations in ensuring stability, security, economic development and social prosperity, together with the countries bordering the Black Sea;
- We identify effective cooperation between the US and the EU in supporting Ukraine and countering the Russian Federation’s imperialist tendencies;
The North Atlantic Alliance and the EU have demonstrated a strengthened capacity to engage in supporting partner countries against Russia’s aggressive actions in the case of Ukraine and Moldova;
The Russian Federation has maintained its influence in the region by initiating military conflicts and supporting frozen conflicts. As a result, Russia has become a major player in the region and is using the Black Sea to project power into the Mediterranean and the Middle East;
we see a promotion of the development and assumption of a regional identity for the countries bordering the Black Sea as a partner of the West, which is really possible through the coagulation of the interests of the countries in the region.
The fact that through the Danube River and the exit to the Black Sea Romania has access to the Planetary Ocean is an important factor that can facilitate the development of the country, but at the same time it calls for responsibilities regarding the involvement in ensuring their security, stability and unimpeded exploitation. Also, after Russia’s aggressive and unprovoked actions on Ukraine, we are seeing geopolitical and geostrategic changes accompanied by an increasingly active involvement of major international players and international bodies. This has a decisive influence on the way Romania promotes and defends its interests in the Black Sea region, and the defence and promotion of its maritime and river interests are directly dependent on its maritime power.
This is because Romania’s maritime and fluvial interests should be understood as part of the national interests, alongside the other components: economic, political, social, cultural, demographic, etc. The national maritime and fluvial interests are primarily defended by the Romanian Naval Forces, whose mission is to project the power of the state in these environments, in support of national objectives, whenever and wherever needed, but also to support the interests of the Alliance and the EU equally.
It is extremely important that the maritime and inland waterway sectors, with their infrastructure and supply systems, are secure. The issues of promoting and defending national interests in these areas must remain with the structures that ensure Romania’s naval power and we must ensure that the impact is not felt by people in their daily lives.
Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated the intensification of rivalry between states over competing areas. In the maritime and river domain, this is underlined by the disruption of freedom of navigation on the sea and river, disputes over the delimitation of maritime borders or the use of military and soft power by states to promote their own national interests.
The national security interest , according to the country’s National Defence Strategy for 2020-2024, “is the desirable state of existence of a nation, an organic and inclusive community, aimed at defending and promoting fundamental national values, ensuring prosperity, guaranteeing respect for democratic rights and freedoms, protection and security of its members.” Based on the national security interests contained in this strategy, we can identify the following national interests of Romania in the Black Sea, the Danube and the Planetary Ocean:
Guaranteeing sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity – this involves ensuring the security of citizens and their property, as well as the security of state or private property and economic objectives in the maritime and river environment. Maritime and river interests can therefore be seen as an extension of national territory. This includes maritime and river assets and involves the physical and digital protection of our vessels, port facilities and key maritime infrastructure, by:
- to ensure Romania’s territorial independence and integrity, as well as the inviolability of its sovereignty over the territorial sea, inland maritime waters, the segments of the Danube River belonging to our country, their bottom and subsoil and the related airspace;
- promoting Romania’s maritime and river interests by contributing to maintaining stability and security in the Black Sea and the Danube River, strengthening national influence and developing mutually beneficial partnerships in maritime and river activities;
- developing maritime and river potential by strengthening defence capabilities in these areas;
Defending and strengthening the rule of law by ensuring an adequate response to threats of all kinds, i.e. by analysing and identifying appropriate measures to respond to maritime and river threats of all kinds. Threats from the water, situations where the water surface is used to provoke an incident, include and are not limited to illegal fishing, port blockades or theft. Threats from the water, situations where the sea or river is used as a means to achieve objectives on land, include and are not limited to smuggling of drugs, weapons or people. Underwater threats are situations where the underwater environment is used for illicit, illegal or threatening purposes, including intelligence gathering, threatening underwater infrastructure or hostile intent. This category of interests can be achieved by:
- supervision and control of the crossing of the state border, preventing and combating illegal migration and specific acts of economic and cross-border crime, respect of the legal regime of the state border;
- to conduct maritime and riverine activities, to secure and protect national interests and to contribute to maintaining regional stability, including through participation in the naval military activities of allies or partners.
Ensuring prosperity, sustainable economic development, with judicious management of resources to ensure the well-being of citizens, by ensuring freedom of navigation on maritime and inland waterways as an essential element of ensuring favourable conditions for international trade. The protection and defence of the infrastructure ensuring the unimpeded flow of information, energy production and transport are important aspects of the national economy. How to achieve it:
maintaining control of access from the Danube to the Black Sea, through the arms of the river, but also on the Danube-Black Sea Canal;
- to secure sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf and the maritime and inland waterway areas of interest for the purpose of economic exploitation and unhindered development of activities therein;
- diversifying access to resources in the riverine area, the Black Sea and the Planetary Ocean;
- promoting and ensuring freedom of navigation on sea and inland waterways and on the high seas, including freedom of flight, fishing, scientific research, the right to lay submarine cables and pipelines, and the right to explore and exploit mineral resources in the international seabed area;
- the unrestricted development, protection and defence of the national maritime and river transport infrastructure, necessary to ensure the supply of raw materials and to facilitate exports;
- safe installation and operation of offshore platforms and pipeline systems for the exploitation and transport of raw materials, hydrocarbons of strategic importance for domestic consumption;
- installation and safe operation of offshore renewable energy systems and electricity transmission systems for domestic consumption;
- the safe installation and operation of digital and telecommunications infrastructure;
- the preparation of integrated studies and the rational use of Black Sea resources and spaces to ensure the sustainable economic and social development of Romania;
Promoting national values, protecting, defending and guaranteeing the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens. Even if our country no longer has many ships under its own flag, national interests require Romania to make its contribution, together with international partners, to ensuring maritime security and freedom of navigation on a global scale, for the ships of others. We must also promote national values through the exercise of naval diplomacy and the promotion of the national image through military vessels, thus:
- exercise maritime diplomacy and promote the national image through the national flag;
- promotion of national values and unrestricted exploitation of the tourism potential of the maritime and river area;
- ensuring the protection of human life at sea and on the river in the area of responsibility;
- protecting underwater cultural heritage and preventing illegal activity in this field.
Preventing the effects of climate change. It is important that environmental crime on the sea and river is seen as equal to safety or security threats and action must be taken to promote environmental safety while working on the sea and river, prevent pollution, ensure disposal of production and consumption waste, preserve the biodiversity of the aquatic environment, including the Danube Delta.
In conclusion we can say that Romania’s national interests in the Black Sea, Danube and Planetary Ocean are as follows:
- Ensure the territorial independence and integrity, as well as the inviolability of Romania’s sovereignty over the territorial sea, inland maritime waters, the segments of the Danube River belonging to our country, their bottom and subsoil and the related airspace;
- Maintain control of access from the Danube to the Black Sea, through the arms of the river, but also on the Danube-Black Sea Canal;
- Securing sovereign rights and self-jurisdiction in the exclusive economic zone, the continental shelf and the maritime and riverine areas of interest for the purpose of economic exploitation and unhindered development of activities therein;
- Promoting Romania’s maritime and river interests by contributing to maintaining stability and security in the Black Sea and the Danube River, strengthening national influence and developing mutually beneficial partnerships in maritime and river activities;
- Developing maritime and river potential by strengthening defence capabilities in these areas;
- Promote and ensure freedom of navigation on sea and inland waterways and on the high seas, including freedom of flight, fishing, scientific research, the right to lay submarine cables and pipelines, and the right to explore and exploit mineral resources in the international seabed area;
- Unimpeded development, protection and defence of infrastructure in the national maritime and river space;
- Safe installation and operation of offshore platforms and pipeline systems for the transport of strategically important raw materials and hydrocarbons for domestic consumption;
- Safe installation and operation of offshore renewable energy systems and electricity transmission systems for domestic consumption;
- Unrestricted exploitation of the tourism potential of the maritime and river area;
- Conduct maritime and riverine activities to secure and protect national interests and contribute to maintaining regional stability, including through participation in the naval military activities of allies or partners;
- Ensuring the protection of human life at sea and on the river in the area of responsibility;
- Ensuring environmental safety during work on the sea and river, preventing pollution, ensuring the disposal of production and consumption waste, preserving the biodiversity of the aquatic environment, including the Danube Delta;
- To prepare integrated studies and rational use of Black Sea resources and spaces to ensure sustainable economic and social development of Romania.
The importance, complexity, scope and diversity of these interests of Romania determine the need for our country to be able, alone, together with partners or in an allied framework, to defend and promote its interests in the Black Sea, Danube and Planetary Ocean. This goal cannot be achieved without Romania starting to act to promote its interests in the region.
The countries with a coastline have a duty to promote their interests in the Planetary Ocean and to develop their defence capabilities in the maritime field, and in the case of Romania also in the fluvial field, as the economic development of the country may depend on this space. From this perspective, Romania is obliged to exercise its role as a regional maritime power. This obligation must be supported doctrinally by the “National Defence Strategy”. In the current circumstances, Romania cannot shirk its regional responsibilities to promote and ensure a climate of stability and security in the Black Sea region.
In this geopolitical context, Romania can be a centre of regional interests, a vector of stability, democracy and promotion of Euro-Atlantic values in the region. For these reasons, our country, by openly and clearly defining and promoting its own interests in the maritime and river environment, can become a vector of Euro-Atlantic interests in the region, at a time when it is increasingly clear that the interests of the Alliance and Europe are also Romania’s.
 Author: Rear Admiral PhD. Constantin CIOROBEA, Editor-in-Chief, Maritime Security Forum, www.forumulsecuritatiimaritime.ro .
 National Defence Strategy of the country for the period 2020-2024/ https://www.presidency.ro/files/userfiles/Documente/Strategia_Nationala_de_Aparare_a_Tarii_2020_2024.pdf .