Bypass Russia: EU plans Internet cable through the Black Sea

The EU wants to lay an underwater internet cable through the Black Sea to improve the connection to Georgia and become less dependent on the fixed-line infrastructure that runs through Russia. This is reported by the “Financial Times”, citing unnamed sources. The EUR 45 million line is said to link the Eastern European member states to the Caucasus via international waters in the inland sea and is around 1100 kilometers long. The European Investment Bank has proposed a grant of 20 million euros for the project. However, questions about covering the remaining costs, the timetable and concrete feasibility are still open.

The newspaper quotes from a previously unpublished strategy paper by the EU Commission, according to which the EU Commission is concerned about the region’s “dependence” on “terrestrial fiber optic connections via Russia”. The EU and Georgia are said to have agreed in principle as early as 2021 that such an undersea cable is necessary. Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine has now given the project additional impetus, since both sides did not want to rely on “unsafe or unstable connections”.

According to the report, Vodafone is also examining the possibility of laying a cable route through the Black Sea. This initiative, dubbed Kardessa, would connect Ukraine to Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia, and then overland to Armenia, Kazakhstan and on to Asia. The British telecommunications group is currently looking for suppliers and partners, but has declined to comment.

The EU is also planning a separate power cable under the Black Sea as part of the Global Gateway connectivity program designed to challenge China’s “New Silk Road” strategy. According to the Commission, the line will connect Hungary and Romania with Georgia and Azerbaijan in order to strengthen the security of supply of the community. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) announced in September: “We want to invest in high-quality infrastructures worldwide – connections between goods, people and services.”

According to market observers, 99 percent of all international Internet traffic is carried over around 500 undersea cables. A global battle has broken out for the control of such strategic resources and the masses of data that are passed through. Submarine cables are considered to be susceptible to sabotage and espionage: Secret services can easily tap into them, especially in their own sovereign territory. From Europe, a large data line called Iris between Ireland and Iceland went into operation in November. In autumn, after the act of sabotage against the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea, the commission presented a five-point plan for the protection of critical underwater infrastructure. The EU also wants to cooperate more closely with NATO.


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