BSEC BECOMES TWENTY

Opening Speech

Ambassador Leonidas CHRYSANTHOPOULOS, Secretary General of the (BSEC), Black Sea Economic Cooperation Permanent International Secretariat (Permis)...

Ambassador Leonidas CHRYSANTHOPOULOS,
Secretary General of the (BSEC), Black Sea Economic Cooperation
Permanent International Secretariat (Permis)
  
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here at the Sixth International Turkish-Asian Congress under the title of “Asian Union? Parameters of Politics, Security, Economy and Culture”, on behalf of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. I would like to thank our esteemed host, the Turkish-Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM) for organizing this event.
 
Today, I wish to share with you some views on the value of Black Sea economic cooperation and its role in the Eurasian region.
 
BSEC will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary on June 26, this year with the hosting of a Summit in Istanbul co-chaired by Serbia and Turkey. A Summit Declaration will be adopted at that Meeting.
 
The Organization was launched in 1992 on the idea that stronger economic cooperation among the Black Sea countries would enhance peace and stability in the region. The main pillars of this initiative have been inclusiveness, transparency and regional ownership. These principles are important as they are the very principles that have ensured the prevention of creating new dividing lines in the Black Sea region as we had in the past. BSEC is the most inclusive and institutionalized forum in the Black Sea area today.
 
The success of BSEC depends on the concreteness and effective implementation of common projects. There are two BSEC projects of major significance. These are the Black Sea Ring Highway project and the project on the development the Motorways of the Sea in the BSEC region. They are related to the development of transport links in the region. They are expected to do much to foster intra-BSEC trade, as well as tourism, infrastructure and transport investments and economic prosperity among the countries of the Black Sea. Most importantly, they will make a concrete difference in the lives of the people of the region and bring them closer together.
 
The Black Sea Ring Highway project envisages a four lane ring highway system, approximately 7700 km long, to connect the BSEC Member States with each other, with Europe and with Asia. The project on the development of the Motorways of the Sea in the BSEC region, on the other hand, is about strengthening the maritime links among the ports of the BSEC Member States.
 
Besides transport, one of the areas where the potential of Black Sea economic cooperation is most visible is in the area of trade. Currently, intra-BSEC trade and investment are not at the desired level. Therefore, various initiatives have been launched within BSEC to contribute to the improvement of the trade situation.
 
For example, BSEC has been cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on this matter. Within this framework, the Black Sea Trade and Investment Promotion Programme (BSTIP) - the first joint project between the two organizations – has been launched. The project, which is co-financed by Greece, Turkey, the UNDP and BSEC, aims to develop trade and investment linkages among the BSEC Member States, with the direct participation of the business communities.
 
The Memorandum of Understanding on the Facilitation of Road Transport of Goods in the BSEC Region (signed in 2002 and went into force in 2006) is another concrete step taken by the BSEC countries to facilitate regional trade.
 
I am pleased to note that recently, an important additional step has been taken in the sphere of road transport facilitation. Within this framework, a pilot project on the establishment of a BSEC Permit system for the road transit of goods has been launched on in 2010, with the participation of seven BSEC Member States. This pilot Permit system is facilitating the work of the road transporters and contributing to trade relations among the participating countries. With this project, BSEC has become the first regional organization to issue such transit documents. Encouraged by the positive results which have been achieved, the participating states have decided not only to extend the duration of the pilot project for an additional year, but to make the project permanent.
 
BSEC is also active in the area of environmental protection. The gradual degradation of the environment in the Black Sea region in the last decades is a source of grave concern. This degradation has brought about the need to undertake measures to rehabilitate, protect and preserve the environment for future generations. The reasons of degradation show that regional and international cooperation is indispensable for this.
 
Learning to live with climate change is an absolute priority for humanity. The BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, in its meeting in Thessaloniki in November 2010, adopted a Joint Declaration on Combating Climate Change in the wider Black Sea Area. This was the contribution of BSEC to the Cancun Conference in December 2010. This Joint Declaration, if implemented, will be a small step towards saving the planet and its passengers, the human race and all other living species. Also, a project on introducing climate change in the environmental strategy for the protection of the Black Sea will be soon launched, jointly with the UNDP.
 
We need to ensure that not only future generations will survive on this planet, but the earth itself will survive to offer a place for living to these generations. The planet can survive without humanity but not vice versa. By imposing pollution taxes, pollution will not disappear. The planet does not function according to our economic strategies. Earth does not accept money to clean itself. It is us the passengers who must do it, without taking into account economic considerations.
 
Green energy is interrelated with planetary environmental protection. Supporting projects that promote sustainable energy development is a priority for BSEC. BSEC’s capabilities to finance projects in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency through the BSEC Project Development Fund and the newly established BSEC-Hellenic Development Fund ─ the two financial instruments of the Organization ─ has been enhanced.
 
Human greed has exhausted in a split second of astronomical history, the energy savings of billions of years of energy conservation made by the planet. Consequently, we must immediately start reducing this exploitation in a significant way if we are to survive. Operating on our vast daily energy income from the sun, wind, tide and water is considered to be the best solution. Since we are currently not in the position to produce solar cells and high-tech turbines without oil, it is imperative to give emphasis on research for new technologies. After the catastrophe in Japan, it is necessary that we reassess our nuclear energy policy urgently, since we cannot provide effective safety measures to protect us when disaster strikes.
 
In energy cooperation, another main priority for BSEC is to ensure the stability and security of energy supplies by developing a BSEC regional energy strategy and a 2020 strategy.
 
BSEC is also committed to efforts towards ensuring the integration of the energy markets of BSEC and the EU by developing a joint BSEC-EU Plan of Action in energy and encouraging cooperation with the Energy Community.
 
BSEC has agreements among its Member States on cooperation in combating organized crime. BSEC, IOM, UNODC and many other relevant bodies in the region are cooperating to fight human trafficking which is one of the most prevalent forms of organized crime in the Black Sea area.
 
BSEC, together with the UNODC, launched a regional project on strengthening the criminal justice response to human trafficking in the Black Sea region.  Within this framework, a Regional Action Plan was jointly devised. 
 
Fighting corruption is another goal for BSEC. In this context, the Ministers of Interior of the BSEC Member States met on 14 April 2011 in Bucharest and adopted a Joint Declaration on Regional Efforts on Preventing and Combating Corruption. This document aims to deepen dialogue on preventing and combating corruption, which is a serious threat, closely linked to issues in the fight against organized crime.
 
The Declaration envisages the establishment of a Task Force within the BSEC Working Group on Combating Crime. The aim is to elaborate a BSEC Action Plan to prevent and combat corruption. The Action Plan will establish a regional mechanism for sharing information and best practices among governments and between them and non-governmental organizations.
 
Esteemed Participants, It is quite probable that BSEC economic cooperation will be affected by the inability of Europe to find practical solutions to its worse economic crisis since WWII. This should be a matter of utmost concern to all of us. Summits have followed Summits and protests have followed protests. The world economy cannot get out of a vicious circle that it has been in since the outset of the crisis. In the mean time we are witnessing global demonstrations against austerity measures that enhance poverty instead of growth, and against greedy and uncontrollable financial systems that lead to extreme social inequality. This should tell us something and it should force us to review economic policies and actions. Until now nobody has been listening to the people. It is due time that decisions be taken on priorities beneficial to the interests of the people. Maybe we should not ask the question: What are the markets saying? - but: What are our people saying? And maybe it is time to start rethinking our values and why not examine the possibility of simultaneously eliminating the global debt so that humanity can restart again on a healthy basis. It was partially done in the past when the West eliminated the debt of the non-aligned countries, it was done at the beginning of this decade when the IMF and the World Bank eliminated the debt of the heavily indebted poor countries, so consequently it can be done on a global basis. All is needed is political will and vision.
 
I have only summarized some of the most vivid examples of the added value of BSEC to our regional cooperation.
 
BSEC is viewed by the international community as an anchor of cooperation in the Black Sea area today. Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus and Croatia, as well as non-European countries such as the United States, Egypt, Tunisia and Israel have Observer status in BSEC. The UK, Hungary, Montenegro, Iran, Jordan, Japan, Slovenia and the Republic of Korea, on the other hand, as well as various regional organizations, have Sectoral Dialogue Partnership status.
 
The European Union is also an Observer in BSEC. A partnership in the area of environment has been launched in 2010, while partnerships in transport and energy are being considered.
 
BSEC, which has Observer status in the UN General Assembly, has close working relations with the UN system and specialized agencies.
 
BSEC attaches importance to the improvement of respect, understanding and cooperation among nations and peoples of different cultures and religions and to counter the forces that fuel polarization. We believe that any effort in this direction is valuable in promoting sustained peace, security and stability. It is within this framework that BSEC has become a member of the Group of Friends of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in 2009. We wish to more actively support this highly important initiative, co-chaired by Turkey and Spain, through promoting projects aimed at building bridges among diverse cultures and communities.
 
Distinguished Participants, In conclusion, an important responsibility rests with BSEC, which, as I mentioned, is the only full-fledged and the most inclusive cooperation organization in the Black Sea area today. Increased cooperation in the Black Sea region through BSEC mechanisms not only generates economic benefits, but also contributes to building confidence and reducing persisting bilateral tensions. This, in turn, consolidates stability and security in the region, which is the common interest of the Black Sea area, the Eurasian region and the international community. Thank you.
 
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