Deputy Foreign Minister Kouvelis’ statement at the 21st Meeting of the BSEC Council of Ministers (Baku, 22 October 2009).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is truly an honour for me to participate, soon after having taken up my new duties, in the 21stMeeting of the Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in the hospitable city of Baku.Indeed, allow me to thank Minister Dr. Elmar Mammdyarov for his most warm welcome. I also wish to thank the Azeri BSEC Chairmanship-in-Office for organizing this Meeting, which provides us with the opportunity to assess the progress we have made over the last months since the Ministerial of Yerevan and share our views on the issues that will shape the future development of the Organisation.
I should also like to take this opportunity to express our confidence in the future of the BSEC and our steady belief that enhanced regional economic co-operation always contributes to the solution of issues with which we are confronted, as our Organisation has gradually becoming a point of reference in the region, generating stability through the promotion of economic development. Seventeen years after its inception, the BSEC plays an important role in the area. Taking into consideration the work achieved till today, we should need to build on the past in order to further enhance the effectiveness of the Organisation. Our aim must be toachieve tangible results for the sustainable development of the entire region and the well-being of its citizens.
In this respect, we actively support all efforts aiming at the improvement of the BSEC’s operational capacity, a necessary precondition for us to tackle adeptly the challenges of the future.
A motto of the past used to be: “think globally, act locally”. In our view, we also need to act regionally. Global problems and the character of modern challenges, including climate change, food security, poverty, and immigration, among others, require coordinated solutions. In this context, the role of regional Organisations, such as that of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation should prove to be of paramount importance. Over the years, this Structure has provided us with the necessary tools to consider and, often, meet regional challenges as they emerge, in a sustained and coherent way. Greece will continue to be actively involved in the work of the BSEC, support its ambitious projects and the activity of the Hellenic Development Fund, and uphold every initiative that aims towards increasing the visibility and effectiveness of the Organisation.
The Ministers of the BSEC have declared and committed themselves on many occasions to the project-oriented approach of the Organisation. Our goal should be to undertake initiatives in order to affect positively and in a concrete manner the everyday life of the ordinary citizen. In this respect, I take this opportunity to express our strong commitment to the implementation of the two major projects of the BSEC, namely the Black Sea Ring Highway and theextension of the “European Motorways of the Sea” to the Black Sea, and the need to complement these measures with additional initiatives promoting “green” development in the region. I think that we are making an important contribution to their implementation by supporting the work of the Joint Permanent Technical Secretariat for the Black Sea Ring Highway, based in Thessaloniki and by contributing actively to the ad hoc Working Group for the extension of the Motorways of the Sea.
Furthermore, Greece remains fully committed to the implementation of an enhanced co-operation with the European Union and to the establishment of sectoral “Black Sea Partnerships” within the “Black Sea Synergy” process. We believe that it presents ample opportunity for increased interaction between the BSEC and the EU. In this respect, Greece will spare no effort to achieve tangible results within this initiative, especially during the Greek Chairmanship, which will start on the 1st of June 2010 according to the new system, and after Greece has accepted to assume the Chairmanship in place of Georgia. As we all know, besides the “Black Sea Synergy” a new initiative, namely the “Eastern Partnership”, marked its first steps. In our view, it is the prerogative of the Member-States concerned to take every possible advantage of the interest which the European Union demonstrates toward the wider Black Sea area.
In our view, the two initiatives should be complementary, avoiding any overlapping and duplication. The “Black Sea Synergy” is the European policy that establishes a framework for the widest representation of the countries of the region. In many of the areas of common interest there exist possibilities for interaction whilst in some of them, such as energy, transport and theenvironment, conditions are ripe enough to proceed with the establishment of Sector Partnerships, in the context of which the BSEC will play an important role.
Last but not least, in order to further promote the project-oriented character of our Organisation, Greece is concluding the necessary preparations for the operation of the “BSEC Hellenic Development Fund”, through which an additional financial instrument is provided to support the efficiency of the BSEC and its projects, will start operating with the preparation and launching of the first call for proposals as from the 1st of November. We expect that the operation of this Fund will contribute to the sustainable economic and social development of the wider Black Sea area and we hope that this first call for proposals will generate increased interest in the activities of the BSEC.
At this point, let me also thank the Related Bodies of our Organization for their important activity. I wish to commend the excellent work done by the Parliamentary Assembly of the BSEC, the BSEC Business Council, the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank and the International Centre for Black Sea Studies. Let me also underscore that, during the current financial crisis in particular, we consider the activity of the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank as an important asset and we continue to encourage the contacts that the Bank has already established with other International Financial Institutions for the financing of big projects in the wider Black Sea area.
Concluding, allow me to stress, yet again, our confidence in the future of the BSEC as a positive factor in the development and prosperity of this area. In an era of economic hardship and of the new challenges that the global community is facing, the BSEC can contribute to the steady economic growth through the sustainable development of the area, which will continue to present considerable opportunities for economic co-operation in the future. I should like to express, once more, our thanks to the Chairmanship for the successful organization of this 21stMeeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and for the hospitality extended to us by the Azeri Chairmanship-in-Office. Let me also thank the Secretary General of the Permanent International Secretariat, Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, for the Secretariat’s excellent work and offer warm wishes for his reappointment to this important post.
We are looking forward to continuing in the same spirit of co-operation with the incoming Bulgarian Chairmanship, all the Member-States and the Secretariat, in our joint effort for increased success in the future.