Ukraine-BSEC: Creating Increased Regional Economic Interlinkage

UA Historical Encounters V:

Ukraine-BSEC: Creating Increased Regional Economic Interlinkage

Ertuğrul Apakan

Speaking points for the address by the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN Ambassador Ertuğrul Apakan delivered during Ukraine’s Historical Encounters V: Ukraine-BSEC, New York, NY, March 24, 2010.

  • Parallel to the excellent relations that exist between our countries, we attach great importance to furthering our cooperation with Ukraine also within the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC).
  • In this connection, I wish to bring to your kind attention some of my views and observations regarding BSEC.
  • The Black Sea area is an important region at the heart of three major continents. It is on strategic transport and trade routes and energy corridors. With its significant economic and human potential as well as natural resources including energy, it is no surprise that the international focus on this region is growing.
  • With the collapse of the Soviet Union, facing a combination of economic, political, social and administrative problems, the Black Sea area started experiencing a major transition. Since then, the geo-strategic portrait of the region has changed completely. The region has been witnessing the twin expansion of NATO and the European Union eastwards. Today, the integration of the Black Sea countries into Euro-Atlantic institutions is still underway.
  • Turkey, as a strong supporter of market economy, rule of law, good governance and economic opportunity, is conscious of the fact that achieving cooperation at the international and regional level strongly depends on an environment of peace and stability. Equally, strengthening economic ties among nations enhances peace and stability by bringing countries closer and creating interdependence between them.
  • Therefore, when the Cold War came to an end, Turkey took the lead to launch a regionally owned initiative to help transform the centrally planned economies of the Soviet era and integrate them into the world economy, in order to maximize the potential of the region.
  • Within this framework, the BSEC was established on the idea that stronger economic cooperation among the Black Sea countries would enhance the peace and the stability in the region. Although it does not have the aim of economic integration in itself, its institutional framework was set up with the underlying motive of integrating the region to the world economy.
  • On 25 June 1992, the Heads of State or Government of eleven countries: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine signed in Istanbul the Summit Declaration and the Bosphorus Statement giving birth to the BSEC. The 12th member Serbia joined in 2004.
  • The Permanent International Secretariat was established in March 1994 in Istanbul. With the entry into force of its Charter on 1 May 1999, BSEC acquired international legal identity and was transformed into a full-fledged regional economic organization.
  • Over 18 years of existence, BSEC and its related bodies have gained institutional maturity and achieved some notable successes. Starting with purely economic cooperation, BSEC has broadened its scope of activities to encompass new fields including environmental protection, water management, science and technology, institutional renewal and soft security measures. Activities in the area of soft security include combating transnational organized crime, terrorism, illegal trafficking of drugs, human beings and arms, corruption and money laundering, all of them serious obstacles to investments and economic development as well as democratization and the establishment of the rule of law.
  • BSEC is now the most inclusive and institutionalized forum in the Black Sea region. It is an important contributor to peace and stability by way of economic cooperation in the region and thanks to its inclusivity and its focus on a pragmatic project-oriented approach, it has brought together all countries of the wider Black Sea region.
  • BSEC is viewed by the international community as an anchor of cooperation in the region. Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus and Croatia, as well as non-European countries such as the United States, Tunisia, Egypt and Israel are Observers. United Kingdom, Hungary Iran, Jordan and Montenegro are Sectoral Dialogue Partners.
  • On the other hand, the EU Commission was granted Observer status within BSEC at the Istanbul Summit of June 2007. This has allowed the EU to witness the activities of BSEC and the opportunities and potential it offers for a mutually beneficial and fruitful cooperation between the two organizations.
  • BSEC and the EU are bound to have a stronger dialogue. After Greece, with Bulgaria and Romania also joining the EU in 2007, there are now three BSEC Member States, which are at the same time members of the EU. This has made the European Union littoral of the Black Sea. Among the countries in the region, Turkey is negotiating for membership to the EU, Ukraine is a significant partner of the European Neighborhood Policy and the Russian Federation is a strategic partner of the EU.
  • BSEC, as the only inclusive and full-fledged organization in the region, is therefore, the natural partner for the EU in the Black Sea area. This has also been acknowledged by the EU Commission. Thus, the EU strategy toward the Black Sea region has to envisage a major role for the BSEC.
  • It is particularly interesting to note that some of the members of BSEC, which have had conflictual and rather tense relations with each other in other fora, have demonstrated a fairly sustainable working relationship within the framework of BSEC. BSEC Member States have demonstrated that they can cooperate successfully on most issues.
  • Despite the difficult times that the region has been going through recently, following the tension between Georgia and the Russian Federation, the BSEC meetings continue to take place in a constructive atmosphere, reflecting the real spirit of cooperation within BSEC. This is a clear 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 wide-ranging areas.
  • Today’s world is very different from the one when BSEC was established. The importance of the Black Sea and Eurasia is on the rise. The Black Sea basin is becoming a centre of gravity regarding oil, energy, transport and trade. We have every reason to believe that this trend will continue.
  • It is also widely acknowledged that, the Black Sea area has now assumed a more central international role. Therefore, I believe that it is important to ask and understand the reasons behind the growing international and strategic importance of the Black Sea area.
  • First of all, the region has windows opening onto very divergent regions, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East.
  • Secondly, in addition to its proximity to some of the hot spots in the world, the region itself is also tackling with some internal disputes. As is known, “frozen conflicts” in the Euro-Atlantic area are concentrated in the Black Sea region. The existence of these frozen conflicts renders the stability of the region fragile. It is advocated that the future of the Black Sea will be the future of Europe. Therefore, there is growing international interest to the resolution of these conflicts.
  • Thirdly, with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, the EU has become a littoral of the Black Sea and its interest in furthering stability and prosperity in the region has grown even greater.
  • Another factor which draws the interest of international players to the region is the vast economic potential it harbors. There is a steady increase in the share of the BSEC countries in the world economy.
  • The quest for the diversification of energy sources is another dimension of the growing profile of the region. The Black Sea and the Caspian Sea regions, rich in oil and gas, are important for energy sources alternative to the Middle East. The Black Sea has also been steadily gaining importance as a key energy supply route for Europe and the rest of the world. Just a quick gloss over a map of existing and planned oil and gas pipeline projects is enough to reflect the significance of the Black Sea region as a prime energy supply route.
  • The Black Sea region is a corridor not only for energy sources but also for trade, transportation, communication, investment.
  • Turkey has been pursuing a constructive and balanced policy in the Black Sea, main pillars of which are inclusiveness, transparency and regional ownership. These principles are important as they are the very principles that would ensure the prevention of creating new dividing lines in the Black Sea region as we had in the past.
  • Preserving security and stability in the region is of great importance. Within this framework, an important responsibility rests with BSEC, which, as I previously underlined, is the only full-fledged and the most inclusive cooperation organization in the Black Sea area.
  • Increased cooperation in the 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 both the region and the international community.

Thank you.