18 June / 2019

On participation of Russia in High-Level Conference on cooperation between the BSEC and the EU

On 18 June 2019 the Russian Delegation led by Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the EU and the Euratom, took part in the High-Level Conference on the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and the European Union Cooperation held in Brussels.

The speakers included Head of the BSEC Permanent International Secretariat Ambassador Mr. Michael Christides, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania Mr. Teodor-Viorel Meleşcanu, representing the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria Emilia Kraleva, holding the BSEC Chairmanship, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Ivica Dačić, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Giorgos Katrougalos and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade development of Malta Carmelo Abela. The European Union was represented by Managing Director of the European External Action Service for Europe and Central Asia Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, Head of Cabinet of Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Juergen Mueller and others.

In his speech The Russian Ambassador stressed the importance of the Black Sea region within the context of Pan-European cooperation, the potential of BSEC for ensuring sustainable development and increased production capacity and noted the useful experience of transborder cooperation with EU countries within the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.

Established in 1992 the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation is a unique format for multilateral cooperation in such fields as Agriculture, Banking and Finance, Combating Crime, Culture, Customs Matters, Education. BSEC members include Azerbaijan, Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Serbia and Ukraine.

The European Union has been a BSEC permanent observer since 2007.

Statement by Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the EU and the Euratom, at High-Level Conference on BSEC – EU Cooperation

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our conference stresses major importance of the Black Sea region within the context of Pan-European cooperation. The BSEC is part of wide-scale integration processes on our Eurasian continent as a whole. Its establishment in 1992 was fuelled by an aspiration to turn the Black Sea into an area of joint economic activity, peace and prosperity.

We are strongly convinced that countries of the Black Sea region should be in a position to independently determine its economic targets and goals. At the same time we are open to mutually beneficial relations of BSEC with other actors on an equal and non-discriminatory footing. It is in line with Russia’s concept of “integrating integrations”, ultimately establishing a Greater Eurasian Partnership or, in other words, an economic space within the scope of the entire continent that would be free of any barriers.

Following years of efforts within BSEC a comprehensive set of tools for sustainable development and bolstering production capacity of the Black Sea region has been elaborated and is currently being finalised. It covers an economic agenda, the concept of a Black Sea Ring Highway and Energy Ring, various sectoral agreements within the whole basic spectrum, including culture, tourism, combating organised crime, emergency assistance, environment protection, transport, energy, and trade. In particular, we count on an early adoption of Russian and Turkish mutually complementary initiatives regarding the “Single Window” and in the field of trade facilitation, as well as on progress in elaborating a draft agreement on multimodal ferry lines proposed by Russia.

We note the useful experience of regional and cross-border cooperation with EU countries within the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC). We are looking forward to obtaining practical results from the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda for the Black Sea as well as Common Maritime Agenda (CMA) for the Black Sea agreed upon in 2018–2019 by all littoral states and the Republic of Moldova with support of the European Commission. Taking note of yesterday’s conclusions of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on cooperation in the Black Sea region, we expect that these issues will remain a highlight on the agenda of the European Commission and the EU in general, and will be implemented in close interaction with BSEC.

BSEC and the EU have established and currently maintain close dialogue. We proceed from the assumption that today we will succeed in enhancing it by specific practical steps. However you look at it, both as integration entities and countries, we are neighbours and should be interested in addressing together the huge challenges we are facing. Russia is ready to do its utmost to facilitate further cooperation between BSEC and the EU, supporting its depoliticised nature and common focus on achieving practical results rather than scoring points on the geopolitical chessboard. In this respect, we attach particular importance to the project component, transformation of inter-state agreements into specific business contacts and cooperation platforms. In 2016 Russia together with BSEC and BSTDB established an extra-budgetary fund to finance projects in the Black Sea region, based on a Russian voluntary contribution. The fund welcomes contributions from alternative donors and other resource-based support to project proposals. We believe that this area of work is most promising and in highest demand within the scope of BSEC - EU cooperation.

The mechanism described already provides for implementation and launching of more than a dozen projects related to innovation technologies, development of the hospitality industry, energy efficiency, environment protection, supporting regional trade and SMEs. In our view, the contents and aims of these projects are much similar to EU approaches in the Black Sea region as well as the substance of CMA. This creates a basis for Russia-EU cooperation as donors, co-financing projects in the Black Sea region. We would welcome international financial institutions also joining this cooperation as a third party.

The EU represented by the European Commission enjoys an observer status in BSEC. The Eurasian Economic Union also expresses its interest to develop contacts with BSEC. For the last two years BSEC and the EAEU have been preparing to sign a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding. It is an agreement of intent providing for consultations, exchange of experience, joint conference activities. Two BSEC countries, Russia and Armenia, are EAEU members, in 2018 Moldova got observer status in the organisation. The text of Memorandum has already been agreed upon. We believe it will be signed soon and thereby strengthen BSEC’s international ties and opportunities giving them increased sustainability and geographic diversification.

In conclusion, let me thank the organisers of this High-Level Conference for providing a possibility for a substantive and timely discussion which will hopefully serve as an important input into the exchange of views at the BSEC Ministerial later this month in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.