Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC)
Comment by the Information and Press Department on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the BSEC Council of Foreign Ministers
On July 1, Mr Lavrov will chair a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) in Sochi, which will sum up the results of the Russian BSEC Chairmanship.
BSEC is called upon to promote economic cooperation in the Black Sea region in several areas, including trade, finance, transport, energy, agriculture, communications and tourism. Russia was among the founders of this international organisation in 1992, which unites 12 states today. A number of institutions operate under the BSEC aegis – the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB), the International Centre for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC). BSEC has about 20 working groups on main areas of cooperation, such as transport, energy, science and technology, ecology, communications, agriculture, education, emergency relief and combatting organised crime. Over its 24 year history, BSEC has acquired tangible experience and the potential to boost cooperation between its members and bring it to a new level.
Disturbing trends affecting BSEC cooperation have become manifest in the economy of the region in the past few years. According to BSTDB, interregional trade has been steadily going down – from 18 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2014. Crises in our economies, varying rates of economic progress and often excessive financial restrictions within BSEC are taking their toll. Under the circumstances, BSEC is looking for ways to overcome these negative trends, promote economic ties between its members and encourage the implementation of multilateral infrastructure and investment projects in the region.
These were the goals set by Russia’s BSEC Chairmanship in the first half of 2016 and we have made some progress on this road. We held dozens of forums in Moscow, Rostov-on-Don and Sochi as part of the busy schedule of our Chairmanship, involving 14 Russian ministries and departments in the latter’s work. We held meetings of ministers on transport, healthcare, culture, tourism, statistical services and emergency relief agencies; four sessions of the Committee of Senior Officials and a meeting of BSEC’s three chairmen-in-office. The sides coordinated a memorandum of understanding on the exchange of information and cooperation to ensure the quality of medicines, and continued working on a cooperation agreement on sanitary protection of the BSEC member states.
They discussed the project for the Black Sea Ring Road and development of ferry and multi-modal transport, as well as the green energy development project. Interesting initiatives were made on online trade, the introduction of single window service and the use of a website for declaring cargoes in ports. The parties enthusiastically discussed tourism in the Black Sea area, including cruises. Specialists of the Emergencies Ministry’s search-and-rescue centre in Sochi demonstrated the capabilities of modern technology in responding to natural disasters.
One of BSEC’s major tasks is to consolidate its financial basis with a view to implementing various projects. We put forward a relevant initiative during our Chairmanship and actively worked on it with our partners. We hope that next December we will reach agreement on a BSEC budget that would correspond to the tasks we are setting forth.
To enhance BSEC’s capacity to implement projects – this shortage is obvious to everyone – Russia initiated the formation of the BSEC-BSTDB financial mechanism. According to the plan, it will be established under an agreement between the BSEC Secretariat and BSTDB and aimed at implementing projects on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green technology, developing small and medium companies, upgrading the regional and municipal infrastructure and building up the export potential of the region’s countries. The BSEC Secretary-General had his first contacts with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and China’s Silk Road Fund to discuss potential investment in projects on transport facilities in the region at our initiative and with our participation.
In 2017 BSEC will celebrate its 25th anniversary. This is a good occasion to reflect on the results of its work, draw lessons and make it more productive. Russia considers it important to start without delay preparations for next year’s events to make them as efficient as possible. We hope that the proposed mechanism of the Troika which includes the former, present and future chairmen-in-office will be helpful in this respect.