Peace at home, peace in the world

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Remarks by Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey at the 29th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, 12 December 2013, Yerevan

Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Secretary General,
Distinguished Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to meet with you all here in Yerevan on the occasion of the 29th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization.

I would like to thank my distinguished colleague, H.E. Mr. Edvard Nalbandyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia for the gracious hospitality.

I also would like to commend the Republic of Armenia for a very successful Chairmanship-in-Office of BSEC.

Distinguished Colleagues,

Throughout its 21 years of existence, the interest of the international community towards this region has been growing. BSEC is regarded as an important contributor to peace and stability in the region and beyond by bringing together all countries of the wider Black Sea area together in a spirit of close cooperation.

We are in a rapidly changing global landscape. It is characterized by the diffusion of power, the continuing fragile world economic situation and the rise of the emerging economies.

Regional cooperation is and will remain a key factor in driving forward the necessary solutions to economic issues of our time. In this sense, regional cooperation has today gained unprecedented importance.

As a mature regional cooperation organization in one of the strategically critical geographies of the world, BSEC has a unique standing in this context. More than two decades ago, BSEC was born with the vision of making use of economic cooperation to implant a culture of partnership among participating states. That was the idea behind. That is the idea still behind it.

Today, BSEC has a key role to play in building bridges between Europe and Asia that spur economic dynamism in Eurasia. At the same time, BSEC is an invaluable tool for connecting the Balkans and Caucasus by vital transport and trade projects to transform the Black Sea region into an area of peace, stability and prosperity. BSEC has a serious potential to act as a force for good in today’s world, in our region and beyond.

In spite of these unique advantages, the full potential of BSEC remains unmet. For ensuring the sustainability and visibility of BSEC, we must improve our interaction in all its dimensions, taking on board all stakeholders; inter-governmental, inter-parliamentary, business, financial and academic circles, as well as civil society.

As a founding member of BSEC and the host country of its Secretariat, Turkey will continue to support all efforts and initiatives aimed at improving the effectiveness and visibility of the Organization.

The world is in a fragile economic situation. The weak recovery of the global economy and persistently high levels of unemployment are continuing to threaten all of our countries.

In this difficult climate, the relatively high rates of growth registered by BSEC member states are a source of encouragement. We should build on this. Economic cooperation is key to advancing our shared objectives of BSEC. The new Economic Agenda and the Action Plan which we adopted last year offer us a fresh opportunity to expand our cooperation in this area on the basis of our shared objectives.

We should promote and ensure the implementation of the new Economic Agenda and the Action Plan at the highest level possible to face the new challenges and opportunities at the global and regional level for the next decade as specified in these documents.

The role of trade as a key driver of economic growth has increased significantly in recent years. We as BSEC member states must strengthen our trade cooperation to create better opportunities for growth and job creation.

Boosting intra-BSEC trade should be seen as a matter of high priority and we should redouble our efforts in this direction. Despite the great potential of our region, with a population of more than 330 million people and with an area of nearly 20 million square kilometers, intra-BSEC trade volume amounts to only around 300 billion US Dollars. This is less than our potential. In a region representing almost 8% of the world economy, with a total GDP of 3.4 trillion US Dollars, it is clear that there is a vast scope for further steps in this area.

We have intensified our efforts to increase the intra-BSEC trade volume three-folds in order to tap our true potential. By doing so, we could mitigate the adverse effects of the global crisis.

Distinguished Colleagues,

Turkey strongly supports the further strengthening of the project-oriented approach of BSEC.

As the current Country-Coordinator of the 7 out of 19 Working Groups of BSEC, we contribute to the development of fields of cooperation such as transport, intra-regional trade and investment, sustainable energy, combating organized crime, science and technology, taxation, culture and tourism for the implementation of our economic agenda and for ensuring shared prosperity in our region.

I would like to underline the need for continued political will to realize concrete projects in priority areas. Prioritization of projects is essential.

Transport is a sector which we believe should receive priority attention in our work in BSEC in the period ahead. Turkey has invested more than 75 billion dollars in the transport, maritime and communication sectors in the last decade. Transport cooperation is well-placed to provide quick impact on the ground and in this way strengthen interdependence which would lead to better understanding between our citizens.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to make a particular reference to MARMARAY, a historic project linking Europe and Asia by rail under the Bosporus.

Inaugurated on 29 October, our National Day, this groundbreaking project is not only a success of Turkey, but also a great common asset which will take forward our cooperation within BSEC. It should be seen as a momentous achievement for the BSEC region as a whole.

Let me now highlight some specific project areas in the context of transport to which Turkey supports giving more focus:

- The continued implementation of the MoU on the Facilitation of Road Transport of Goods is highly important. We are glad that the BSEC Transit Permit, namely “Fast Track Project” continued being implemented in 2013. Thanks to the multi-party transit pass, our transport operators pass through 7 countries without the need for additional bilateral or transit documents.

- Efforts towards providing long-term, multi-entry visas and simplification and acceleration of border crossing procedures need to be intensified on a regional scale. We have a very good example like Georgia where visas and passports are not required for traveling between our countries.

- We look forward to the finalization of the Black Sea Ring Highway route as soon as possible.

- We have a joint Model Highway Initiative (MHI) Project on Baku-Tbilisi-Batumi-Trabzon with Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Working Group of the MHI has been established and its Rules of Procedure have been adopted.

- Project on the development of the Motorways of the Sea (MoS) in the region. The project will contribute to strengthening of the maritime links among our ports. Turkey started hosting the Technical Secretariat of MoS for two years starting from May 2013.

- Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan have jointly undertaken the construction of a modern railway linking the city of Kars in Turkey with Tbilisi and Baku. This railway connection, part of a planned network which will connect Beijing with London, will facilitate the movement of passengers and goods and thus constitute a strategic component of energy and transport corridors linking the Caspian basin to Black Sea and further to Europe. Thanks to that Project more than 1,5 million passengers and 6 million tons of freight per year will be carried at the first stage.

- Energy is another sector which demands our greater attention. The strategic importance of the Black Sea region derives primarily from its location at the intersection of the major energy routes of Eurasia. In this context, we value the regional cooperation projects we have realized so far as such:

*Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Oil Pipeline,
*Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) Natural Gas Pipeline,
*Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway project
*Trans Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP).

Distinguished Ministers,

If we are to take forward together the project-oriented vision of BSEC, we must give absolute priority to strengthening the Project Development Fund (PDF) of our Organization. This Fund is a useful tool for undertaking new projects which will help to strengthen the image as well as the vision of BSEC.

However, at the moment the PDF does not have sufficient resources to provide a meaningful amount of finance for major projects. Therefore, we strongly encourage all stakeholders of BSEC to lend their support to the Fund.


Enhancing coordination and interaction with the Observers and the Sectoral Dialogue Partners as well as BSEC Related Bodies is essential to improve both the content and the mechanisms of our Organization.

Strengthening the smooth functioning of the BSEC Secretariat and its Related Bodies is also an important component of the effectiveness of our Organization which we consider as the best platform for economic cooperation in the Black Sea Region.

In this framework, we welcome the interest shown by BSEC Observers and Sectoral Dialogue Partners, as well as other non-Black Sea countries and organizations to establish partnerships and cooperation with BSEC.

We are also pleased to note that the cooperation between BSEC and the UN bodies, as well as other international organizations such as the UNDP and the Danube Commission is gaining impetus.

Distinguished Colleagues,

Cooperation in maritime issues, particularly in the fields of safety of navigation, maintenance of security, protection of marine environment and fisheries can be further developed via home-grown initiatives and mechanisms to be established with the participation of the littoral countries of the Black Sea.

Turkey does not support non-littoral actors setting the priorities, policies, regulations and/or rules on maritime issues for the Black Sea. We believe that the EU’s and other organizations’ policies and efforts towards ensuring efficient and integrated maritime activities in the Black Sea should be complimentary to the already existing efforts and cooperation mechanisms among the littoral countries.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In concluding, I would like to underline that it is the continued political commitment of all BSEC Member States that will take our the Organization forward towards reaching its ultimate goal, which is to turn the Black Sea region into an area of peace and prosperity.

As the initiator and founding member of BSEC, Turkey is committed to fulfilling the goals expressed in the BSEC Charter.

I would like to reiterate my sincere congratulations and appreciation to the Republic of Armenia for their successful Chairmanship-in-Office of BSEC and for the excellent organization of this meeting.

I would also like to congratulate the Republic of Bulgaria on their assuming the Chairmanship-in-Office of BSEC and wish them every success. Turkey will spare no effort to support Bulgaria as the chair of BSEC in implementing joint efforts to achieve our shared objectives in this important platform.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.