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Romania's Vision on BSEC Perspectives

 

H.E. Mr. Constantin GRIGORIE *

In Romania’s foreign policy the Black Sea region represents one of the basic priorities, having in mind the geo-strategic position of Romania to the Danube river and the Black Sea, in the vicinity of the Mediterranean area, the Middle East and the Central Asia, the radical democratic changes in various Black Sea riparian states, the economic potential of the respective region, especially oil and natural gas, the diversity of cultural, religious and social traditions- all of them are the most relevant parameters envisaged by Romania, while engaging in a comprehensive cooperation with the countries of this region.

Turning the Black Sea region into a stable, democratic and prosperous area with a clear perspective of integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures is a relevant objective, directly connected to the major strategic interests of Romania. It is obvious that the European future of the Black Sea region represents a target for a long-term involvement of Romania as a vector of stability and democratic security.

Romania welcomed the fact that the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), launched by Turkey fifteen years ago, proposed itself to be part of the integration process in Europe, by promoting a multilateral economic cooperation among its member states, with the aim to reach stability through economic prosperity.

Since then, BSEC has developed into a mature regional economic organization with a broad institutional basis and vast legal framework. With the PERMIS as a coordinating unit of the organization, PABSEC, BC, BSTDB and ICBSS, embracing all major dimensions of our cooperation, BSEC has developed its distinct regional identity as a unique, useful and only institutionalized multilateral framework of regional cooperation in the vast area of ever growing strategic importance and significance, stretching from the Adriatic to the Caspian. It could be said, without any doubt, that BSEC is now the only fully-fledged, locally owned international organization which, through its activities, promotes regional cooperation at inter-governmental, inter-parliamentary, business, banking and academic level between 12 countries of the wider Black Sea region.

As founding member of BSEC, Romania is profoundly interested in the development of relations with the countries of the Black Sea region and attaches a special importance to the participation in the BSEC activities. As testimony of its attachment to the values of this organization, Romania will increase, starting from 2008, its annual mandatory contribution to the BSEC Budget (becoming practically double).

It is Romania’s major interest to enforce the BSEC activities and to increase the effectiveness, consistency and visibility of the Organization at international level. We have acted, during our mandate as Chairman of BSEC, for reforming and restructuring of BSEC, concomitant with a large openness towards international actors (especially EU, which has become its neighbor on 1 January 2007).

Romania supports the development of partnership relations between the BSEC and the EU and values the fact that all BSEC member states have subscribed to the global demarche for a genuine rapprochement between EU and BSEC. This process could be part of a future consolidated, inclusive "Black Sea Dimension of the EU". A strategic, coherent approach of the EU towards the region should take into consideration the immense economic and geo-strategic potential of the region, in a flexible, projects-oriented, bottom-up, problem-solving manner. Next to the ENP activities and instruments, to the EU-Russia Four Common Spaces, to the pre-accession negotiations with Turkey and to the various forms of regional cooperation in the region, Romania believes that BSEC has its particularly important role in EU's orientation towards the Black Sea area.

For Romania, having a dialogue with Russian Federation and Turkey over the Wider Black Sea Area is important, while also acting for US and EU to be engaged in shaping the future of this region (and implicitly of BSEC organization), as the necessary balancing weight. In our view, the European Union, OSCE and Euro-Atlantic structures should play a growing role, together with/next to the regional actors directly involved, by promoting a security dimension of their policies towards the Eastern neighbors, and focused especially on crisis management, post-conflict rehabilitation and future democratic evolution.

Romania wishes to consolidate the security and stability dimension within BSEC. We have already promoted, in the framework of BSEC, a MoU between BSEC and SECI-Center in Bucharest, in order to help transfer the expertise achieved by the latter to the future BSEC network of liaison officers on combating crime. Similar agreements of cooperation were concluded with the International Organization for Migration and some specialized agencies from the UN system. In terms of security, Romania pays a particular attention to every possible action aimed at combating several asymmetrical risks, such as: terrorism, organized crime, illegal trafficking of weapons, drugs and human beings, money laundering and corruption. At the same time, the existence in the region of several “frozen conflicts” (e.g. Transdnestria, South Ossetia, Abhazia, Nagorno-Karabach) requires pertinent solutions as soon as possible. In our view, the European Union, OSCE and Euro-Atlantic structures should play a growing role, by promoting a security dimension of their policies towards the Eastern neighbors, and focused especially on crisis management, post-conflict rehabilitation and future democratic evolution.

As far as the democratic development, Romania together with other states is ready to provide to the interested countries of this region its own expertise regarding the economic reforms, institutional renewal and good governance, consolidation of the rule of law and a conducive environment for foreign investment.

So far, the lack of concrete transnational economic projects, with impact and visibility for the entire region, has been the major weakness of the Organization. It is a matter of satisfaction that at the recent meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Moscow, on the 1 November 2006, the member states prepared for signature two Memoranda of Understanding in the field of transports, which will pave the way for the implementation of two major projects in our region: the Black Sea ring Highway and the Motorways of the Sea. These two projects will bring economic development to the region and will make BSEC more relevant on the international scene. As it is well known, Romania has constantly expressed its interest to further cooperate with the relevant states from the Black Sea basin, as well as other European states and structures for the extension of transport corridors, bearing in mind the important existing facilities such as Constanţa Sea Port-Terminal and Danube–Black Sea Channel. More specifically, the main corridors of interest for Romania are: no IV (connecting Western Europe with Caucasian region via Constanţa, no IX (connecting the Northern and Southern parts of the European continent) and no.VII (connecting Western Europe with Central Asia and Middle East, by the Danube River and Black Sea).

Romania in its capacity as a member of OECD Development Center and SEECP, has the opportunity to act in the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in Athens, in 2002, for the implementation of certain energy projects meant to create in the Black Sea region and South-Eastern Europe of “integrated energy markets” as part of the wider European energy network. Among the projects which are waiting for implementation in the Black Sea region refer to the creation of a complex network of oil and natural gas pipe-lines and the realization of a Black Sea energy ring. As the Black Sea region becomes an essential transit area for oil and natural gas, Romania will support the consolidation of the EU dialogue with the producing countries of South Caucasus and Central Asia, in order to prepare the ground for diversifying the transit routes of the EU Member States. It is obvious that the Black Sea region will represent in the future an important pillar of energy security and stability for Europe and, in particular, for Central and South-Eastern Europe.

My country considers that, much should be done in the area of regional cooperation, especially in the environmental sector (by increasing the regional awareness), education field (by supporting the already existing initiative of the Black Sea Universities Network), tourism, customs services, health care and pharmaceutics, culture, including dialogue among cultures, visa facilitation, civil emergency planning, non-proliferation, institutional renewal and good governance. Romania welcomes and supports the extension of our cooperation in such fields of activities, which is beneficial for the peoples of this region.

Romania appreciates very much the progress achieved by BSEC in its relations with OECD, OSCE, PNUD, UNODC, OIM and other regional and international organizations, which help the implementation of some important projects in the Black Sea region, such as development of cross-border cooperation, improvement of business environment, combating illegal migration and organized crime. By promoting such kind of projects our region becomes more attractive for foreign investments.

My country is in favor of extending the cooperation of BSEC with other states and international organizations. The granting, in 2005, of the observer status to BSEC for the United Stats of America, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Belarus represents a clear testimony of BSEC openness towards extra-regional actors. In our view, the Observer states could bring valuable contributions in the following fields: soft security issues, regional energy market, trade and transport facilitation, environmental protection, good governance, education, emergency assistance.

BSEC has good perspectives for the future, taking into account also the following evolutions:

- The Black Sea region is increasingly becoming relevant for international actors, including EU and USA, due to its rich natural and human resources and enormous economic potential. The twelve countries of the Black Sea region have recorded an annual rate of GDP growth of 6% between 2000 and 2005, being the second fastest growing region globally. Moreover, all the BSEC countries have registered considerable progress in terms of macroeconomic stability, expressed in declining inflation, increased foreign direct investment and lower poverty rates, which makes the region more attractive for foreign partners.

- The recent EU enlargement and the launching of its new European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) creates unique challenges and opportunities for the development of a fruitful collaboration between BSEC and EU, based on the “Platform of cooperation” submitted to the European Commission on 24 January 2007. There are welcomed, in this context, the ongoing constructive efforts of German EU presidency, as well as of the European Commission, to focus the EU attention to the Black Sea region and the need for introducing an overall regional policy. An enhanced cooperation between BSEC and the EU will be mutually beneficial because it will extend the area of stability on the European continent and beyond.

- The BSEC countries, despite their well-known differences, have shown their determination to gradually establish a space of enhanced regional cooperation and common interests in the wider Black Sea region, including SE Europe, the littoral states of the Black Sea and the Caucasus. They are also strongly united in their approach towards enhanced relations with the EU and other international actors.

- The BSEC is more and more committed to the principle of project based approach of its all activities. It has to be noted that, for the first time in its history, the BSEC has started to produce major infrastructure projects such as the Black Sea Ring Highway and the Motorways of the Sea, while other important projects are going to be implemented in cooperation with UNDP and OECD.

- An increased number of countries and organizations have shown a clear interest for BSEC and expressed their willingness to get the observer status to BSEC or to participate in different regional projects. In this context it could be mentioned USA, Japan, Israel and even China.

- Based on the adaptation and implementation of the reform package, BSEC will start revigorating and become more attractive.

- It is expected that, based on the above-mentioned factors, BSEC will be an important regional partner in promoting and strengthening peace, security and stability on the wider European space.

On 25 June 2007, the organization will celebrate the 15-th anniversary since the Istanbul Declaration was signed and BSEC Economic Cooperation Initiative was launched. At this juncture there are good reasons to state that, in a not too long period of time, considerable progress has been achieved in many areas of common interest, including the transformation of the Initiative into a full-fledged Economic Organization and its increased capacity to formulate appropriate development strategies and programs. My country is confident that the prospects of economic cooperation in the Black Sea region will further gain in substance in the forth coming period.

Romania, as a member of both EU and BSEC, will continue to pay a special attention to the participation in the BSEC activities, being convinced that any contribution to the programs and projects of development in the Black Sea region represents an investment in the future security, stability and prosperity of the European continent.

It is my country’s firm belief that, the 15th anniversary of BSEC will be an excellent opportunity for our “family” in the Black Sea region to prove - by the power of facts – that the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation is and will remain a representative and effective instrument of mutually beneficial cooperation, in a region deeply connected to Europe and the entire world.

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