Address of Deputy FM Kassimis at the Black Sea Conference on Regional Integration and Inclusive Growth.
Ladies and Gentleman,
On behalf of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I would like to take my turn in welcoming you to Greece and to this Forum. I am very pleased for having the opportunity to briefly talk to you about Greece, the Black Sea Region and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, or in short, the BSEC. The BSEC lies very close to my heart since for several years, I have been a member and Head of the Hellenic Delegation to its Parliamentary Assembly.
Located at the crossroads of Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East as a natural hub, the Black Sea region is an important neighbourhood. Its rich natural resources, growing market and large, dynamic population, all add up to the region’s potential. The region has much to offer, especially in key sectors such as energy and transport. Enhanced regional cooperation and coordination on these sectors would accord beneficial effects within the region, but also beyond the region itself.
As a result of the efforts of structural reforms and stabilization, the Black Sea region’s economic power is growing gradually over the recent years; it displays an improving business environment, rising trade and investment flows, as well as macroeconomic stability. The region’s path on economic growth has been promising up until the recent financial crisis. Despite its progress, more measures must be taken concerning the energy, transport, agriculture, and infrastructure sectors. In addition to economic development, affirmative steps are being taken on good governance, regional cooperation and sustainable development. The BSEC-EU interaction has contributed to the implementation of constructive projects in the region. Nevertheless, the region still faces challenges mainly concerning stability, sustainability and security.
The Black Sea region is an area of major importance in the expanding EU neighbourhood. This is why the EU felt the need to “formulate and conceptualize” its relations with the region by introducing the Black Sea Synergy, officially launched on February 14, 2008 in Kyiv. The initiative aims for cooperation in a wide range of areas, including democracy, respect for human rights, good governance, security, environment, trade, energy and transport. The Black Sea Synergy brings the EU with the region even closer by extending as well as deepening its relations outlined by the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2004.
One of the main drivers of development and cooperation in the area is the Black Sea Economic Cooperation which is the only full fledged Organisation with a mature institutional structure and broad membership. Greece as a member of the BSEC, has been an active advocate, putting to good use its links with the European Union, and we are pleased to see that the BSEC is now recognised as a key partner of the EU in implementing the Black Sea Synergy.
Traditionally, Greece has been a persistent advocate of multilateralism in its immediate neighborhood, viewing it as a means for maintaining political dialogue as well as a means for supporting regional economic development. Since 1995, Greece has been active in the Black Sea area while in two thousand and four (2004), when Greece undertook the periodic Chairmanship of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), Greece embarked upon a process of bringing the BSEC and the European Union (EU) closer. In addition to regional development and security issues, Greece’s motivation has been the existence of a population of Greek origin in almost every country in the region. Therefore, despite the fact that we are not a littoral state of the Black Sea, we have strong historical, cultural, economic and political ties with the region.
Our commitment to the Black Sea Region is depicted by the fact that two key BSEC organizations are hosted in Greece.The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank provides trade and project financing, guarantees and equity, supporting both public and private enterprises in its member countries and it is based in Thessaloniki. In addition, the International Centre for Black Sea Studies—BSEC’s think tank—is located in Athens. Furthermore, along with UNDP and Turkey, Greece finances the ‘Black Sea Trade and Investment Program’ which organizes sector-focused ‘Partnership Fora’ to generate inter-regional trade and investment, building the capacity of Black Sea business institutions on a permanent and sustainable basis.
Bringing the Black Sea region and the BSEC closer to the European Union has been the flagship of Greek foreign policy for years. For the first time, the Black Sea voice within the EU is becoming stronger thanks to new EU comers, namely Romania and Bulgaria. Our countries must join our efforts to make the Black Sea Synergy a success. Together, we can act as a single and strong force that brings even closer the EU with the Black Sea region through BSEC and other regional structures.
Thank you for your attention. I wish you all the best for a productive and successful Forum.