Why the EU wants to build an underwater cable in the Black Sea

According to reports, this effort will reduce reliance on communications infrastructure that runs through Russia.
Illustration of a submarine communications cable.

Illustration of a submarine communications cable. DEPOSIT PHOTOS

Since 2021, the EU and the nation of Georgia have highlighted a need to install an underwater internet cable through the Black Sea to improve the connectivity between Georgia and other European countries. 

After the start of war in Ukraine, the project has garnered increased attention as countries in the South Caucasus region have been working to decrease their reliance on Russian resources—a trend that goes for energy as well as communications infrastructure. Internet cables have been under scrutiny because they could be tapped into by hackers or governments for spying

“Concerns around intentional sabotage of undersea cables and other maritime infrastructure have also grown since multiple explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines last September, which media reports recently linked to Russian vessels,” the Financial Times reported. The proposed cable, which will cross international water through the Black Sea, will be 1,100 kilometers, or 684 miles long, and will link the Caucasus nations to EU member states. It’s estimated to cost €45 million (approximately $49 million). 

[Related: An undersea cable could bring speedy internet to Antarctica]

“Russia is one of multiple routes through which data packages move between Asia and Europe and is integral to connectivity in some parts of Asia and the Caucasus, which has sparked concern from some politicians about an over-reliance on the nation for connectivity,” The Financial Times reported. 

Across the dark depths of the globe’s oceans there are 552 cables that are “active and planned,” according to TeleGeography. All together, they may measure nearly 870,000 miles long, the company estimates. Take a look at a map showing existing cables, including in the Black Sea area, and here’s a bit more about how they work.

[Related: A 10-million-pound undersea cable just set an internet speed record]

The Black Sea cable is just one project in the European Commission’s infrastructure-related Global Gateway Initiative. According to the European Commission’s website, “the new cable will be essential to accelerate the digital transformation of the region and increase its resilience by reducing its dependency on terrestrial fibre-optic connectivity transiting via Russia. In 2023, the European Investment Bank is planning to submit a proposal for a €20 million investment grant to support this project.”

Currently, the project is still in the feasibility testing stage. While the general route and the locations for the converter stations have already been selected, it will have to go through geotechnical and geophysical studies before formal construction can go forward.