Opening address by Deputy FM Mr. S. Kouvelis - 3rd Business Forum of Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises.
HonourableGuests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure and indeed an honour to have the opportunity today to be present at the opening of the Third Business Forum of the Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises. It is important to stress that today’s event is proof positive of the will for countries in the wider geographical region to strengthen their economic and commercial relations through the activation of institutional entities such as the highly important UBCCE, the Chairmanship of which the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises has held since March of 2009.
The UBCCE was created for the purposes of collectively representing the business communities of seventeen Black Sea and Caspian countries, as well as for the promotion of business co-operation among their respective communities and, of course, with the European Union. I consider this a highly significant tool that will effectively contribute to the equal representation of its UBCCE members within the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, the European Commission and other International Organisations. I should also like to point out that the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises assumed the Chairmanship of the UBCCE at an extremely crucial juncture in time, with two major issues most prevalently dominating the global front, these being the current financial crisis and the more long-standing effects of climate change, both of which have brought about a far from negligible insecurity in prevalent global conditions.
The tasks, therefore, with which SEV, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises, is confronted, difficult but essential to fulfill, are the following:
·to strengthen the collective voice of the private sector of the Union’s member-states;
·to take advantage of all upcoming opportunities in a dynamically developing market of more than 400 million people; and thirdly
·to promote common actions and initiatives aimed at expanding the co-operation between and supporting the export-oriented gaze of the region’s enterprises
The objective of today’s Forum is for officials and high-ranking administrators from International Organisations and Institutions to engage in the development of and economic co-operation in the Black Sea region, along with business owners themselves, and to begin discussions on upcoming novel investment and commercial prospects through joining forces in creating opportunities by tackling the future with realism, yet also optimism and insight.
Global problems and the character of modern challenges, including climate change, food security, poverty and immigration, among others, require the implementation of co-ordinated solutions. Regional Organisations, such as the Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises (UBCCE) and the Organisation for Black Sea Economic Co-operation (BSEC) in our region is a wonderful resource tool which allows us to meet, in a comprehensive way, the regional challenges that constantly emerge.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic is motivated in assisting this effort. The will of the Greek Government is the development of our country’s bilateral and multilateral relations with respective Governments of the area in the promotion and implementation of a policy of development co-operation and humanitarian aid which builds bridges across societies. Greece is a crossroads between Europe and Asia at a point where three seas meet: the Caspian, the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greece’s presence in the Caucasus and the Northern area of the Black Sea, which dates back to ancient times, combined with the economic and commercial significance of the area, necessitates and further justifies our aspiration to solidly implement co-operation with all neighbouring countries.
Our duty is to contribute to any and all efforts which aim toward overall socio-economic development and thecreation and maintenance of prosperous conditions throughout the region. One of the main priorities is the improvement of infrastructure. At this point, I should like to say that Greece, moving ahead in this direction, completed the “Egnatia Motorway” and is contributing to the upgrade of the “Pan-European Corridor X” and to other important projects through the Hellenic Development Fund. Furthermore, Greece supports the extension of the “Motorways of the Sea at the BSEC Region”, which will connect the Black Sea ports with the Aegean and Mediterranean ports, as well as the construction of the “Black Sea Ring Highway”. These significant projects, implemented in the framework of the BSEC, will establish the city of Thessaloniki as a nodal point of Trans-European transport and trade and tourism networks, propelling the city to distinction as a strategic hub of the Balkan Peninsula for transferring goods and services. Complementary to these initiatives is the added dimension of the so-called ‘green’ development of the region, something which is greatly needed and which can be promoted furthermore in the framework of both the Joint Permanent Technical Secretariat for the Black Sea Ring Highway, based in Thessaloniki, and the ad hoc Working Group for the extension of the Motorways of the Sea.
I should like furthermore to stress that Greece is committed to the enhancement of co-operation with the European Union, through the establishment of “Black Sea Partnerships” within the “Black Sea Synergy” process that aim to solve problems requiring region-wide efforts and attention to the Black Sea area, as well as through the new “Eastern Partnership” EU initiative which will enhance the co-operation of partner countries with the EU.These initiatives were added to the matrix of regional co-operation frameworks in the EU's neighborhood. It is becoming clear that regional Organisations, in their interaction with other broader Organisations, are increasing their own significance. Greece will have the chance to advance this perspective during the Greek Chairmanship of the BSEC, which commences on the 1st of June 2010, in order to facilitate the realisation of regional initiatives.
I should like also to add that the Greek Government pays a tremendous amount of attention to environmental issues, provided that these environmental issues transcend State borders. Green entrepreneurship can be a fruitful field of co-operation between bordering countries in the region, so what is required here is a common action plan with essential sharing of know-how and the realisation of strategic infrastructures, such as the construction of large-scale wind farms and photovoltaic power plants and the promotion of the usage of biomass.
In order, however, for all this to become successfully operational on the ground, it is essential that efforts for the exploitation of investment and business opportunities which arise in the region of the Black Sea be spearheaded by the businessmen themselves. They must take advantage of business initiatives and promote business co-operation and relevant agreements of their own accord. States and other Institutions will in turn help to facilitate new business endeavors.
At this point I should like to address Greek businessmen and encourage them to extend their prospects in the markets of our broader region,
capitalising on the positive image of Greece in the countries of the Black Sea and on the appreciable presence of their respective Greek communities. They may rest assured that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its network of 62 Economic and Commercial Offices and all the Greek Embassies abroad, will be their constant and close collaborator.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am convinced that our concerted efforts with the neighboring countries will bear fruit and contribute to the development of the region. Moreover, business initiatives such as the Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises will create, with the collaboration of all business institutions, a healthy business environment and reinforce the adaptation of the markets of the Black Sea region to the new economic circumstances. This process will contribute to the prosperity of these countries on the whole by creating new opportunities, more jobs, and hence more revenue.
In closing, I should like to express my thanks to everyone and wish us all much success in fulfilling the lofty aims and goals of this Business Forum.