Transforming Black Sea region into a field of peace and stability
Today we are celebrating under the co-chairmanship of Turkey and Serbia the 20th Anniversary of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), a unique economic cooperation platform bringing together 12 countries that form the wider Black Sea region. This organization is well-placed to serve in developing important projects that connect the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Its aim is to transform the Black Sea, the Caucasus and the Caspian region into a field of peace, stability and prosperity by following an inclusive approach that is to the benefit of all stakeholders.
Profound historic links have long existed between BSEC member states. These links were all but frozen during the Cold War. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, in the last two decades, the BSEC has contributed to transforming the mutual perception between Black Sea riparian countries and beyond.
The BSEC enabled us to exchange views on all forms of global and regional issues. It first helped overcome ideological barriers, and then convinced participating states from different cultural and religious backgrounds that common undertakings would only multiply potential benefits.
Following this new mindset, key transportation projects were launched within the framework of BSEC such as the Black Sea Ring Highway Project and the Motorways of the Sea. These projects need to be completed to economically strengthen the region. The diversity of transportation routes will help rebuild an important commercial bridge between the Middle East and the Balkans as well as between Europe and Asia. This bridge will resuscitate the ancient Silk Road. We also need to develop new railway projects, like the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project. Moreover, since the Black Sea connects regions that are rich in natural resources via key energy supply corridors with Europe, we need to step up cooperation in the energy field.
The trade volume between BSEC member states still remains low compared to their trade with other partners. We need to discuss within the BSEC platform ways and means to liberalize regional trade.
Moreover, we should also allow innovation to move more quickly across borders. Cooperation in science and technology by sharing and disseminating success stories and best practices is key to enhance productivity.
Tourism is another priority area for cooperation within the framework of BSEC. The Black Sea has several attractive touristic resorts that are endangered by both land-based and maritime pollution. This situation shows how important it is to develop sustainably, taking into account the needs of the Black Sea environment. Our region can only flourish if we can maintain the attractiveness of our towns and cities in parallel with projects that contribute to economic growth. We also need to promote tourism because it helps to bring different peoples of our region together in order to promote mutual understanding and cultural diversity.
Ultimately, regionalism and the strength of the Black Sea regional identity rest upon the involvement of civil society, NGOs, business and trade chambers and the media. The more our people feel that they belong to the Black Sea region, or in a wider context, sub-region, the easier it will be to discuss regional political issues. The 20th Anniversary Summit encourages the civil society dimension with parallel sessions that are being held with the participation of civil society organizations and academics.
Turkey fully supports the strengthening of BSEC bodies. We also need to have a clear vision and adequately prepare BSEC so that it is ready to operate efficiently by the year 2020 and beyond. We should construct a more comprehensive regional framework, and envisage the creation of a high-level consultation group that discusses unresolved conflicts.
I would like to conclude by reiterating my pleasure in hosting the 20th Anniversary Summit, and wish BSEC continued success. I am convinced that progress in all of the above mentioned areas will bring huge added value for BSEC member states. Turkey believes in the BSEC vision for the future and will do its utmost to realize a zone of prosperity, a center of attraction in the heart of Eurasia.