The Role of NGO´s in the Wider Black Sea Region


Murat ZÖNGÜR *

The region surrounding the Black Sea including the Balkans, Caucasus and the Caspian is becoming an emerging and vital part of the world in the changing global balances. The economic and political landscape of the wider Black Sea Region is rapidly changing, to say the least. The two giants of Asia, China and India are on one side trying to increase their influence in world politics and economics and Europe, Japan and US are struggling on the other side to preserve their power on global scale. In the meantime, Russia, also a country of the Black Sea Region, is regaining its power thanks to its significant natural resources. In this regard, the diversified geographical position and coverage of the wider Black Sea Region countries can eventually form a global power base in the changing equation of the global balances. After all, it should be kept in mind that the countries of this Region are positioned very strategically at the crossroads of East and West and they present high potentials of growth with their unsaturated and complementary markets especially in certain sectors like energy, transport, manufacturing, trade and services. It would not be wrong to say that all the global players are becoming increasingly aware of the great opportunities that the wider Black Sea Region offers to the World Markets especially in the field of energy with its rich resources in petrol and natural gas and its growing role as a hub and transport corridor.

With this respect, the Region offers tremendous opportunities for the business community, but at this stage, we, unfortunately, have to accept that although the countries of the Region have complementary economies and have the possibility to cooperate in various sectors, they do not perform very well in terms of economic relations among each other. Trade and investment between the countries of the Region account only for a small portion of their total exchanges. For instance if we exclude Russia, the total share of the Regions’s countries hardly make up %10 of Turkey’s total foreign trade which reached 220 billion Usd in 2006.

This situation inevitably brings us to ask the following question. What can be the role of the private business for increasing the trade and investment relations of the regions’ countries and what kind of institutional ties can be built to boost the relations between the private sectors of the region?

Today, globalization is a fact and there aren’t any alternatives. We all have to direct the change through a proactive approach to competitiveness and fair world – wide competition. Economic nationalism is no more a solution. Partnership, based on common values and integrated economies, international cooperation and open markets, are the key. Within this context, as one of the leading NGOs of Turkey, TÜSİAD believes that international professional organizations are the new answers to these challenges. They are the missing link between the given reality and the so needed ambitions. International business organizations are the right forums to foster, in a concrete and practical way, economic trans – regionalism, but they provide also, in a more global and less formal manner, a certain number of solutions which help States to manage their economic and social policies and contribute to an emerging new system of linkages in contemporary international relations. Parallelly, TÜSİAD is convinced that it is very important for the private sector to raise its voice for developing international cooperation and make, if necessary, pressure on the governments in this sense. Having a united voice of business for a dynamic, young and ambitious economic region like the Black Sea and the Caspian Region, can pave the way to enhance having the markets of the Region closely inter – related in terms of practice of reform, better risk –resistance ability and opening – up. TÜSİAD believes that the private sector with all its active forces should be mobilized to reach a certain level of development in the Black Sea and Caspian Region.

TÜSİAD is strongly convinced that the NGOs of the Region need more openness in a self – conscious way and it is without hesitation that international business organizations are, undoubtedly, a precious tool to give full play to the comparative advantages of every economic region which will actively conduct international cooperation and competition.

With this perspective, in early 2006, basing on its positive experiences acquired due to its membership to BusinessEurope (The Confederation of European Business, Ex-UNICE) since 1986 and to UMCE (Union of Mediterranean Confederation of Enterprises) as a founding member since 2002, TÜSİAD decided to pioneer an initiative to congregate the private business organizations of the Black Sea and the Caspian Region around a regional confederation of Enterprises. Following almost a year of hard work and effort, representatives of 16 non-governmental, nationally representative, central, voluntary, horizontal and apolitical private business organizations from 12 countries of the Black Sea and Caspian Region, met in Istanbul in November 2006 to take the first step for uniting the private sector under one umbrella with an international union called, UBCCE, The Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises and they agreed in principle to be the Founding Members of the Union. (1)

UBCCE, a non governmental business organization which will soon complete its legal and official foundation as per the Turkish law on the foundation of international unions, is the first and unique example of private sector organizations coming together in this part of the globe. It aims to contribute to the economic and social development of the region by favoring the adoption of policies conductive to the better functioning of a market economy under optimal conditions for member countries. Its strategic goal is to become the counterpart organization of BusinessEurope in the Black Sea and Caspian Region. When realizing its activities UBCCE will have to deal with the respective governments and other international organizations active in economic field and within this perspective it aims to maintain close contacts with other international, european, regional and sectoral organizations to pursue its objectives. It is without hesitation that such cooperations produce very useful outcomes on political, economic, social and technologic issues of common concern for their region. In this regard, The Black Sea Economic Cooperation, BSEC, a unique model for multilateral cooperation on governmental level in the Black Sea Region since 1992 is likely to be one of the main partners of UBCCE with its developed network for regional cooperation and similar geographic coverage, in the journey of this very young organization for a better economically integrated Black Sea and Caspian Region.

It is indeed true that private business organizations like UBCCE make great contributions to the economic and social development of their regions. An emerging region like the Black Sea and Caspian needs organizations like UBCCE to complete its transition for a healthier functioning market economy to integrate to the global economy.

TÜSİAD believes that an NGO platform like UBCCE can make very significant and positive contributions in the sense of developing and diversifying the trade and investment in the Region and thus creating an environment of peace and stability which would help at the same time, the private sector to increase its credibility and influence.

A platform of dialogue and cooperation for the representative business organizations of the region, facilitating the private sector communication and working complementarily with other regional partners would eventually have positive results on the social and economic development of the Region. In this respect, TÜSİAD is convinced that the path chosen to confederate voluntary, private business organizations of the Region under one institution like UBCCE is a efficient and constructive one since these kinds of gatherings are definitely very good occasions for business people to know each other and to build close and cordial institutional and personal relations. Membership to such international organizations help the business organizations to increase their bilateral and multilateral relations with the business organizations of other member countries.Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that membership to such organizations can really help the business organization of a country to get some benefits on issues of strategic importance for the country of the region. For instance in Turkey, TÜSİAD and TİSK’s membership to BusinessEurope has helped Turkey a lot for increasing its bilateral relations with the business organizations of other member countries and made significant contribution to push forward Turkey’s efforts for joining the European Union. In the same way, TÜSİAD and TİSK’s memberships to UMCE has made significant contributions to the development of turkish private sector’s relations with southern mediterranean countries.

Defining a target strategy dealing with the specific needs of the Wider Black Sea Region represents an excellent tool to help create a common language among the NGOs of the Region, thereby enhancing the extent of cooperation and collaboration. The key word for the NGOs of the region to reach this goal should definitely be Partnership and UBCCE is ready to play its role in this direction as the voice of private business organizations in the Black Sea and Caspian Region.

* Secretary General and Founding Member of Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises (UBCCE)

(1) Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey