Address By H.E. Ali Babacan, At The 19th Meeting Of the BSEC, Tirana, 23 October 2008

                                                  (Tirana, 23 October 2008)

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank my distinguished colleague, Mr. Lulzim Basha, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania, for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation.

I am very pleased to attend the 19th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. Today we have important decisions to adopt. One of the decisions is on the Guidelines on the Improvement of the BSEC Efficiency.

As I have stated during our informal meeting in New York on 25 September, we need to improve the functioning of our Organization. We need to reinforce BSEC’s position in the region and beyond. BSEC should further grow as a strong and influential organization.

Therefore, I believe, the adoption of the Document of Guidelines on Improvement of the BSEC Efficiency, a product of the intensive work of our senior officials, will show our political support and our commitment to our organization. I have no doubt that the implementation of the Guidelines will help to improve the working methods, efficiency and the visibility of BSEC.

I would also like to express my satisfaction with the outcome of yesterday’s meeting of the Committee of Senior Officials where several other draft decisions were prepared for our approval. Despite the difficult times our region has been going through recently, I am pleased that BSEC meetings are taking place in a friendly and constructive atmosphere, reflecting the true spirit of our cooperation. This is no doubt a strong indication of the commitment of all the member states to BSEC and to its goals of turning the BSEC Region into a region of peace, stability and prosperity through economic cooperation on a large number of areas.

As you will all agree, economic cooperation is the cornerstone of regional stability and a practical mechanism for reducing political risks and conflicts. This is why Turkey strongly supports and places Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) high on its foreign policy priorities.

Our organization is the most inclusive and the only full-fledged economic cooperation organization in our region. It has a unique potential to develop cooperation among its members in a whole range of areas from energy, environment, transport to the fight against organized crime. It is to the benefit of all our member states to strengthen our organization further with result oriented concrete projects such as the Black Sea Ring Highway and the Motorways of the Sea at the BSEC Region. We welcome the progress achieved for the entry into force of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Development of the Black Sea Ring Highway. Now we can move forward confidently with this project of which we must all be proud. As to the Motorways of the Sea Project, Turkey has offered to host the Joint Technical Secretariat of the Motorways of the Sea. Turkey, which has a coast line on both the Black and the Mediterranean Seas, is best positioned to fulfill this task and serve our common goal of developing the BSEC Motorways of the Sea.

As you will also agree with me, encouraging and engaging the private sector and businessmen in our activities would certainly help achieve concrete results. We cannot reach our goals without involving the private sector in our activities. For the private sector and business communities to interact, meet their counterparts and engage in business freely, we should remove the obstacles facing them. At this point, visa barriers come to the fore as the main obstacle for businessmen. Therefore, the Agreements on Visa Facilitation for Professional Drivers and Businessmen, that we hope to sign today, are important documents which will positively contribute to our efforts towards promoting intra-BSEC trade.

Distinguished colleagues,

The international attention that BSEC enjoys is a clear sign of the potential of our organization. As a founder member of BSEC and a negotiating candidate country to the EU, we favour regular dialogue between BSEC and the EU. We would like BSEC to be seen as the main partner of the EU in the wider Black Sea area.

We also attach importance to the cooperation between BSEC and other international and regional organizations, in particular with the United Nations. In this connection, I must also underline that Turkey, is pleased to be elected to the United Nations Security Council for a period of two years. And on this first occasion, I would like to thank BSEC member countries for their kind support to Turkey’s candidacy.

Distinguished colleagues,
As you are well aware, all over the world financial markets are facing an important crisis. Some of the major financial institutions of the world are going bankrupt or are acquired by others. In many countries we observe an important slowdown in growth rates. The real sector becomes also more fragile. As an economic cooperation organization with the underlying objective of helping to integrate the region to the world economy, BSEC should also follow these developments closely.

We are rightly proud of the economic potential of our region, and of the fact that during the past 5-6 years the BSEC region has been a region with the fastest growing GNP. The region’s total GNP, nearly 3,4 trillion dollars, amounts to almost 7.6% of the world economy. How will the present financial crisis affect the BSEC region and BSEC member countries? What measures can be taken? I believe all this is worth considering. As for Turkey, fiscal discipline and prudent monetary policies adopted in recent years, the strengthening of the financial sector, structural reforms realized, the growth of international reserve levels and floating exchange rate policies have increased the resistance of the Turkish economy to such a global crisis. In this period of important fluctuation, Turkey will continue to implement prudent economic policies with determination. My proposal is that as BSEC members we have regular consultations on such issues of global importance.

Mr. Chairman,

As a last word, I would like to thank and congratulate Albania for its successful Chairmanship-in-Office of BSEC and commend the committed work of the Secretary General of BSEC, H.E. Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopolos, his first Deputy, Ambassador Murat Sungar and the members of the BSEC Secretariat under the guidance of the Albanian Chairmanship.

I also wish all the success to our new Chairman-in-Office, Armenia during its term.

Thank you.