The European Union (EU) is reportedly planning to lay an underwater internet cable through the Black Sea with the aim of improving the connection to Georgia, and becoming less dependent on Russia’s fixed-line infrastructure. The line is expected to cost around EUR 45 million and will link the Eastern European member states to the Caucasus via international waters in the inland sea. To support this initiative, the European Investment Bank has proposed a grant of 20 million euros, although questions about the remaining costs, the timetable, and feasibility of the project remain unanswered.
The publication cites a previously unpublished strategy paper by the EU Commission, which highlights the EU’s concern about the region’s ‘dependence’ on ‘terrestrial fibre optic connections via Russia’. The proposed cable is seen as necessary to reduce reliance on ‘unsafe or unstable connections’, particularly in the light of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.
Telecommunications firm Vodafone is also said to be considering laying a cable route through the Black Sea, known as the Kardessa initiative. This would connect Ukraine to Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia and then overland to Armenia, Kazakhstan, and on to Asia.
The EU is also planning a separate power cable under the Black Sea as part of the Global Gateway connectivity program, which aims to challenge China’s ‘New Silk Road’ strategy. The line is meant to connect Hungary and Romania with Georgia and Azerbaijan and strengthen the security of supply across the area.
Undersea cables are critical for the internet, as around 99% of all international Internet traffic is handled through around 500 undersea cables. Submarine cables are considered to be susceptible to sabotage and espionage, making them a strategic resource. The EU is reportedly reviewing the security of critical underwater infrastructure and plans to cooperate more closely with NATO to improve security.