Address By H.E. Mr. Ali Babacan, Minister Of Foreign Affairs Of The Republic Of Turkey, at the 20th Meeting Of The Council Of Foreign Ministers Of The Organization Of The Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), 16 April 2009, Yerevan

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to attend the 20th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC).

I would like to thank my colleague, Mr. Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Chairman-in Office of BSEC, for the hospitality extended to us.  

Distinguished Colleagues,

Throughout its existence, BSEC has shown that economic cooperation is the backbone of regional stability and the most practical mechanism for reducing political risks and conflicts. With this understanding, Turkey firmly supports the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization. This organization has a high priority on our foreign policy agenda.

We attach importance to reinforcing the BSEC Organization so that it can grow as a strong and influential organization in our region and beyond. 

Distinguished participants,

We are satisfied with the outcome of the meeting of the Committee of Senior Officials where several draft decisions were finalized for our approval. In this connection I would like to congratulate H.E. Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, for his re-election as Secretary General of BSEC, and all the other distinguished candidates who are elected to serve in several other positions in the BSEC PERMIS. On this occasion, I would like to thank and commend the outgoing First Deputy Secretary General, His Excellency Ambassador Murat Sungar for his excellent service and personal efforts for the success of the Organization during his term of office and wish him all the best in his future life.  I would like to assure you that Ambassador Mrs. Sumru Noyan, the incoming First Deputy Secretary General of BSEC enjoys the trust and confidence of my Government.

There is no doubt that ensuring a friendly working atmosphere, good coordination and efficient management of affairs within BSEC PERMIS are essential components of our cooperation within BSEC.  I am sure that Secretary General Ambassador Chrysanthopoulos with his new mandate will continue to lead his team in this spirit.

I am pleased to see that the Document of “Guidelines on the Improvement of BSEC Efficiency”, which we have adopted at our previous meeting in Tirana, is beginning to bear fruit. I have no doubt that the further implementation of the Guidelines will help to improve the working methods, efficiency and the visibility of BSEC.

In this framework, having specific themes for Council Meetings will be useful, as that will give us an opportunity to exchange views on matters of common concern. 

On this occasion, I am pleased to share with you Turkey’s views on the Global Economic Crisis which is the main theme of our meeting today.

Taking into account the dimension of the crisis, we believe that it is crucial to have regional and global cooperation and coordination.

We strongly support the efforts aiming at mitigating the negative effects of the crisis. As a member of the G-20, which has emerged as the leading forum to discuss the global response to the crisis, Turkey participated in the G-20 Summits in November 2008 and April 2009.

At that recent London Summit in April 2nd, pledges have been made on restoring global confidence, growth and employment; reforming financial systems for the future; reforming international financial institutions to overcome the crisis and prevent future ones, as well as building a resilient, sustainable and green global recovery.  We welcome all these pledges made on the occasion of the summit.

In fact, since 2002, Turkey has been implementing some serious measures in the areas of macro-economic policies and structural reforms. That, in turn, has enabled Turkey to meet the present crisis relatively more prepared.

Fiscal discipline; independence of the Central Bank, reform of the banking system; privatization, improving the investment environment and a floating exchange rate regime have provided the Turkish economy with an important degree of flexibility. We have expanded credit possibilities for small and medium size enterprises, as well as export firms; carried out provisional tax cuts, accelerated infrastructure investments and multiplied programs to fight against poverty.  Meanwhile, the Central Bank has taken steps to support financial markets.

We believe that once the global economic recovery is achieved all these measures will prove their effectiveness, even more clearly. 

Our organization is the most inclusive and best established economic cooperation organization in our region. We believe the potential it embodies is unique in terms of developing cooperation among its members in a whole range of areas from energy, environment and transport to fight against organized crime.

It is to the benefit of all our member states to strengthen our cooperation further, with result oriented concrete projects such as the Black Sea Ring Highway and the Motorways of the Sea at the BSEC Region. We are pleased that we can now move forward with these two essential projects. Taking this opportunity, I would like to reiterate that Turkey offers to host the Joint Technical Secretariat of the Motorways of the Sea. We believe that as a country which has a coast line on both the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey is best positioned to fulfill this task and serve our common goal of developing the BSEC Motorways of the Sea which will no doubt immensely contribute to further strengthening our economic cooperation.

I would be remiss if I didn’t touch upon the importance of engaging the private sector and businessmen into our activities more efficiently. It is not possible to talk about economic cooperation without the involvement of the private sector. It is thus crucial for us to remove any obstacles that the members of the private sector may face in their interaction with each other. At this point, visa barriers constitute the main obstacle for businessmen. Therefore, we hope that the Agreements on Visa Facilitation for Professional Drivers and Businessmen that we have signed at our meeting in Tirana last year will enter into force rapidly and more members will join so as to make these agreements more meaningful. I am pleased to inform that Turkey, on its part, has already ratified the two agreements and will soon be sending the ratification documents to their depository. We have no doubt that once these agreements enter into force, intra-BSEC trade will be considerably boosted. Taking this opportunity I would like to congratulate the new Secretary General of the BSEC Business Council, Ms. Bacopoulou. I would also like to express our pleasure that BSEC related body, the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary on 14th June 2009. I congratulate them on this occasion and wish for the continuation of their success. 

Distinguished colleagues,

As a BSEC member and a negotiating candidate country to the EU, we favour closer BSEC-EU Interaction. Further enhanced institutional relationship between the two Organizations will serve the interests of both sides. While BSEC offers the EU a well established institutional framework for interaction with the region, the EU may assist BSEC in carrying out major projects. 

We are also closely following EU’s new initiatives in the region, such as the Eastern Partnership. In this connection, we are pleased that the EU Presidency and the EU Commission are willing to cooperate with BSEC so as to help avoid possible duplication of activities in the region.

We also attach equal importance to the strengthening of cooperation between BSEC and other international and regional organizations, in particular with the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies interested in our region. 

Mr. Chairman,

As a last word, I would like to thank and congratulate Armenia for its successful Chairmanship-in-Office of BSEC and the organization of this meeting.

I also wish every success to our new Chairman-in-Office, Azerbaijan and express Turkey’s readiness to extend all the support we can during their Chairmanship.
Thank you