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Armenia’s View of the the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation

 

Mr. Karen MIRZOYAN *

When the BSEC started 15 years ago it was not expected that the organization would survive, given the diverse nature of the countries economic conditions, as well as the existence of major political problems among certain member states. Today it is difficult to imagine our region without this mechanism and its great potential for multilateral cooperation.

The BSEC was formed because we realized that by maximizing and combining our resources we would be able to compete and benefit from a globalized society. We also recognized that even though we had some political and economic interests in common, our wide-ranging political systems, strategic orientations and country specific interests lead to serious differences and sometimes incompatibilities. Therefore, we wisely chose the path of economic cooperation, believing that our common stake in improving the quality of our citizens’ lives would override the disputes among us.

The rising importance of our region in the world policy and the global economy increases our responsibility to enhance the economic cooperation, improve good neighborly relations and maintain stability in the region. Regardless of existing differences among Member States on particular issues as well as of dissimilar economic policies, we must follow the path of true cooperation, political goodwill and commitment Underlining these principals are the common values of shared prosperity and a progressive future for our peoples, which justify the significance of the choice to create the BSEC.

The member states that make up BSEC have varied geographies, histories, governing traditions, resources and prospects for development. What we have in common are the basic elements for mutually beneficial cooperation to increase the wealth and importance of the Black Sea region and our individual countries. The BSEC experience shows us that common economic interests and the principal of true cooperation could truly become and the catalyst to create a favorable environment for addressing political problems. This successful track record is evidence that “our whole” is greater than the sum of our parts.

Still one of the major tasks for our organization is the search for a coherent policy to meet the challenges of global developments. In an interdependent world economic system, regionalism is seen as an agent of integration and globalization as well as a lever for transformation from planned economic systems to market economies. Regional cooperation is also a means of strengthening the democratization process and democratic institutions. The ancient cultures of the Black Sea area were responsible for trade and the introduction of civilization across three continents, centuries before globalization described that movement.

In this new world, groups and individuals more often interact directly across frontiers, without involving the state. This “Brave New World” also has its dangers; Terrorism, narcotics, pollution, disease, weapons, refugees and migrants all move back and forth faster and in greater numbers than in the past.

We highly appreciate the contribution of BSEC to the security and stability in the region. Soft security measures, in the framework of BSEC, will make it possible to overcome trafficking in persons, money laundering and other urgent issues facing BSEC member states. Cooperation at all these levels will diminish the threat of terrorism in all its manifestations.

Armenia possesses great potential for regional cooperation concept, including transit transportation, as well as the establishment of regional communication networks Armenia attaches special importance to cooperation in the development of regional transport networks and joint projects for the improvement and expansion of the existing infrastructure.

Armenia believes that it is in our common interest to convince all BSEC Member States resolve certain outstanding issues and proceed with infrastructure development, especially regional transportation networks and joint projects to improve and expand existing communications systems. The result of this economic development will be expanded regional cooperation. In this regard we are confident that the Black Sea regional economic development will greatly benefit from opening and restoring the Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railroad.

We believe that a coordinated plan of road construction and rehabilitation is paramount to build and extend ties among the EU, Black Sea and Asian countries. This construction plan constitutes a major opportunity for the BSEC Organization. In this regard Armenia calls upon all BSEC Member States to resolve outstanding reservations and proceed with the expansion of the existing and inactive communication and transport networks. We all will be rewarded with enhanced regional cooperation and have a serious impact on the European and regional security.

Armenia is optimistic for further increasing the cooperation between the BSEC and other international organizations, regional organizations, as well as the United Nations system. Armenia welcomes the efforts on proceeding with appropriate consultations with relevant EU bodies to achieve a mutually beneficial “Black Sea Dimension” of EU policy. This enhancement of the BSEC – EU interaction should include important spheres of cooperation such as transport, energy, informational technologies as well as a formal document defining BSEC-EU relations.

Today the EU and BSEC are more than just neighbors. We look forward to utilizing this geographic and political rapprochement to engage the scientific and technological potential of the Black Sea community. The Black Sea Economic cooperation was conceived to provide concrete opportunities for cooperation, integration and support, to provide benefits for all, from a limitless sea of potential. The need that was clear 15 years ago has only become more vital today, especially as we consider deepening our relations with the EU.

Just as we need Europe’s structural, technical and institutional expertise in our countries, Europe needs security and prosperity at its borders. The BSEC should become a vanguard in the new European architecture and anticipate that the EU will consider us as such. We hope to see the EU devise a clear BSEC oriented policy that includes the strengthening of BSEC, the institutionalization of EU-BSEC relations, the promotion of economic development and intra-regional cooperation among BSEC states, as well as between BSEC and the EU and finally, promoting democracy and political stability in the BSEC region.

The holistic approach is crucial for the future success of our Organization and that the implementation of this joint venture will promote regional peace, stability and prosperity. In this respect Armenia welcomes the outcomes of the meetings of the Ministers of Transport, Energy, Emergency Cooperation, Information Technologies and Communications.

In particular the Ministers outlined practical proposals on cooperation and, discussed vital projects of regional importance; such as coordinated development of the Black Sea Ring Highway, establishment of the common framework of energy development strategies within the BSEC Member States, initiating Black Sea Electric Energy Ring projects, launching of an international emergency assistance center.

Armenia also attaches great importance to the results of the Meetings of the Working Groups with activities in such fields as: agriculture, banking and finance, cooperation in combating crime, communications, cooperation in emergency assistance, culture, education, energy, environmental protection, institutional renewal and good governance. These results provide us with relevant plans of actions, terms of reference and clear the way for the practical implementation of the activities planned.

Today the BSEC has already proven its viability and has developed into a full-fledged regional economic organization. The BSEC has an efficient institutional basis, manifested by experience in regional cooperation and encompasses a vast potential for multilateral cooperation. This makes the BSEC a capable and principal institution for the social and economic growth of our countries, the reinforcement of mutual confidence, the promotion of good-neighborly relations, and facilitating our integration with a changing world.

The Summit being planned to be held this June in the cradle of BSEC Istanbul will attest to this organization's 15 years of activity. Anniversaries are by definition significant, since they mark the recurrence of an event of historic importance. This anniversary marks the beginning of a visionary effort - to turn neighbors into partners, and thus turn geography into history. The politicization that sometimes sidetracks us to today’s opportunities for shared prosperity and a bright future have to be set aside in favor of enlightened self-interest. We must realize that the trade off in setting aside differences is worth it, given the benefits to be gained by true cooperation.

* Permanent Representative of Armenia to the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation