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Greece’s View of the Organization of The Black Sea Economic Cooperation

 

H.E. Mr. George YENNIMATAS *

The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation is commemorating, this year, an important landmark. The fifteenth anniversary of BSEC marks a kind of coming age of this, in many ways unique, effort of multilateral cooperation.

Indeed, despite the heterogeneity of its members-states , BSEC has managed to develop a spirit of cooperation, providing a forum for constant dialogue and constructive exchange of fertile ideas and concrete proposals, among countries that do not always share similar points of view.

It is indicative of this spirit that the BSEC International Secretariat (PERMIS) is based in (Istanbul) Turkey and is currently led by a Greek Secretary-General. This development would seem be quite improbable at the moment of BSEC’s creation in 1992.

As a full – fledged international organization since 1999, BSEC addresses the need to promote regional cooperation throughout the “wider Black Sea area” which means all the territories of the Black Sea littoral states, the Balkans and the Caucasus, which, throughout History, used the Black Sea as an important link for commercial and cultural exchanges.

At the same time, BSEC as an international organization, contributed significantly over the last fifteen years to developing and strengthening good neighbourly relations, integration, peace, stability and security in this Black Sea geo-strategic corridor.

The four BSEC Related Bodies, meaning the Parliamentary Assembly (PABSEC in Istanbul), the BSEC Business Council (In Istanbul), the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB in Thessaloniki) and the International Center for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS in Athens) as well as the BSEC Sectoral Dialog partners (BSEC-URTA, BINSA, BASPA etc) also fulfill an important role in this respect by making the work of BSEC even more relevant to the businessmen, the academics and the civil society of our countries.

Because of its successes, BSEC faces even more stimulating challenges to continue to fulfill the expectation of the peoples of the region.

A region which dynamically evolves both as producer of energy but also as an energy hub; a region whose needs for more efficient transport networks, both land and maritime, are growing every day; a region which grows more and more aware of environmental concerns and the need for sustainable development.

With the admission of Bulgaria and Romania in the EU, BSEC now includes three EU States among its members while the EU now literally borders the Black Sea.

An enhanced relation between the EU and BSEC is therefore even more important, in order to better coordinate EU actions and programmes towards the region in a multilateral approach (not bilateral as it has been). I sincerely hope that our European as well as other partners will rapidly focus on BSEC as their main regional partner for institutional cooperation and economic development initiatives in this important region.

In addition to the EU, other international institutions have already expressed their intention to collaborate with BSEC. This is already a reality with the UNDP and the OECD. It is worth mentioning the BSEC-UNDP 1,2m euros project in the field of cross border cooperation- financed by Greece (0,5m), Turkey (0,5m) and UNDP (0,2) as well as the BSEC Organization – which has already began its implementation. Furthermore, BSEC is receiving applications, at an impressive rate, by foreign countries to become Observers to the Organization.

Implementation of regional projects mainly in transport, energy and communication infrastructure, is also vital. In this respect, Greece proposed a re-launching of an old idea of the ‘90s, namely the construction of the Black Sea Ring Highway, a ring road encircling Black Sea and connecting it to the Caspian and Mediterranean Seas. Recognising the importance of such a project, we proposed this ring to be nominated “Argonauts Road”, since the Argonauts legend is a part of our common heritage.

In addition, another important MoU, on the “development of the Motorways of the Sea”, was also approved last year by the BSEC Ministers on Transport and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (the BSEC Council). We are now eagerly waiting to see both MoUs to be officially signed by the BSEC member states in what will be the first step to significant progress for economic transactions and development in the region.

Preserving the environment for future generations is nowadays a growing concern for of the Black Sea region as well. We believe that BSEC has the both the responsibility and the capability to evolve a more active role in this respect.

Of course, in order to ensure continuing success, BSEC is currently examining even more ways to further reform its operations and improve its efficiency as it is required by a globalized economy that knows no frontiers. The reforming of BSEC is under discussion and major operational improvements will guarantee its strategic role and performance in the years to come.

At the forthcoming Istanbul Summit, I believe that our Heads of State and Government can be proud of what BSEC has achieved since its inception, and I am sure that they will formulate the political guidelines and instill the vision needed so that BSEC continues to successfully face the challenges at hand .

*Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Greece to the Republic of Turkey