Speech by Minister of State Gernot Erler at the BSEC-Summit in Istanbul

25.06.2007 - Speech

Mr Chairman,
Esteemed Heads of State and Government,
Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to congratulate BSEC on its 15th Anniversary that we are celebrating today and I would like to express specifically our gratitude for the engaged work of Secretary General Leonidas Chrisanthopoulos and the effective cooperation we could establish with him. BSEC is today the most inclusive and institutionalised forum in the Black Sea region and has made an important contribution to peace and stability in the region. Thanks to its inclusive approach and its focus on pragmatic cooperation the organisation has brought together all countries of the wider Black Sea area in a spirit of confidence and constructive cooperation.

The Black Sea region is an area of increasing importance to the EU. With the accession of Bulgaria and Romania the EU has become a direct neighbour to the Black Sea region and its littoral states. The EU’s interest in furthering stability and prosperity in the Black Sea area has become even greater.

Therefore, on the initiative of the German presidency, since the beginning of this year the EU has had intensive discussions about the development of a strengthened and coherent EU engagement towards the Black Sea region.

On 14 May, the EU has adopted Council Conclusions on the Black Sea Synergy Initiative. This month both the Council and the European Council have endorsed a Presidency progress report on strengthening of the ENP, which also covers cooperation with the Black Sea area and gives direction to the future development of the EU’s policy towards the region. These are important steps which signal the strategic importance the EU attaches to the Black Sea area. They firmly anchor the further concretisation and implementation of an intensified EU policy towards this important neighbouring region on the agenda of EU foreign policy.

The importance of the Black Sea region for the EU is obvious: The Black Sea region is not only an important energy and transport corridor, but also a transit area for organized crime, trafficking of human beings and drugs. As the scene of “frozen” conflicts it harbours considerable potential for political crisis. At the same time it is a region with significant and so far unexploited potential for economic cooperation and growth. Enhanced cooperation is thus in the interest of both the EU and the countries of the region.

Our objective is to strengthen cooperation among the countries of the region and to deepen the EU's relations with it at all levels. The focus should be on pragmatic, result-oriented cooperation in sectors of particular cross-border relevance - sectors where improved regional cooperation can create synergies and increase the efficiency of resources used.

Increased regional cooperation in the Black Sea region not only will generate economic benefits. It may also contribute to building confidence and to reducing persisting bilateral tensions. In that context we can use the experience of EU with different regional cooperation initiatives: Barcelona Process, Northern Dimension, Stability Pact for South East Europe. The EU is not aiming at creating a new institutional framework but rather advocates the use of existing programmes and initiatives of the EU and the countries of the region. And in order to be effective, an enhanced EU-Black Sea cooperation must be fully inclusive and involve all countries of the region.

Esteemed Colleagues: Three hours ago we have had the first informal meeting of the two Troikas (BSEC and EU) and we consented that any success will depend on the concreteness of our common projects and the active and convincing implementation of our ideas and plans.

To conclude I would like to thank the Turkish hosts for organising this celebration. Turkey has been one of the initiators of BSEC and has played an active and important role in Black Sea regional cooperation. We very much welcome that one priority of the Turkish BSEC Presidency is intensifying cooperation with the EU. We thank you also for the choice of this beautiful and symbolic venue in an environment full of history and inspiration.

Thank you.

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