By Maria Nikolova, ADPnews
The Black Sea region has a big potential for economic development with growth prospects getting closer to the pre-crisis estimates, Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos, Secretary General of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Permanent International Secretariat, told ADPnews in an interview.
“I believe that growth prospects are again approaching the pre-crisis estimates. Economies in the region are still developing which means that the potential is big for expansion as long as the necessary policies and measures are introduced,” Chrysanthopoulos said.
The rich reserves of natural resources, skilled workforce and the good geographical position are the main factors for the region’s good growth prospects.
However, one impediment is that some local authorities are slow to respond.
“In addition, some economies in the region are heavily dependent on remittances from abroad, which is an issue influenced by conditions in the international economy,” he added.
The Black Sea countries have potential for growth in both the old and the new economic sectors.
“While agriculture is still an important contributor to many of our economies, heavy industry, services and high-end technologies have a significant presence and contribution.”
The natural resources also provide a huge economic potential for economic exploitation.
“However, conventional means and methods should be complemented with top notch technologies in areas such as clean energy production,” Chrysanthopoulos said.
The region lacks the necessary infrastructure in maritime and road transport in tourist destinations nd in cities. This is why BSEC is implementing two infrastructure projects in the area of transport, namely, the Black Sea Ring Highway project and the project on the development of the Motorways of the Sea in the BSEC region.
The Black Sea Ring Highway project envisages a four lane ring highway system, approximately 7100 km long, to connect the BSEC Member States with each other. The project on the development of the Motorways of the Sea in the BSEC region, on the other hand, is about strengthening the maritime links among the ports of the BSEC Member States.
These two flagship projects are expected to foster intra-BSEC trade, as well as tourism, infrastructure and transport investments and economic prosperity among the countries of the Black Sea. Most importantly, they will make a concrete difference in the lives of the people of the region and bring them closer together. The projects also constitute a regional contribution to the extension of Trans-European Networks and the development of the Euro-Asian transport links.
“We are currently working on the elaboration of the main route of the Black Sea Ring Highway, while the discussions on the draft documents related to the future operation of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Development of the Motorways of the Sea is still underway,” said Chrysanthopoulos.
BSEC Secretary General Chrysanthopoulos added that the actual work is conducted by the Member States themselves in relation to the parts of these projects which are situated on their respective territories. For example, Turkey has unilaterally completed the construction of the main part of the Black Sea Ring Highway that goes through its territory and Greece has constructed the Egnatia Odos which will also help Albania reach the Black Sea.
Another key priority for BSEC is to help the gradual liberalisation of transport in the Black Sea region. The Organization has already taken steps in that direction.
An important step was the launch of a project for the establishment of a BSEC Permit system for the road transit of goods in February 2010. BSEC decided to extend the implementation term of the project by one year at its latest session in November 2010.
According to Chrysanthopoulos, BSEC will continue investing efforts in boosting the free trade in the Black Sea region which is a top priority for the Organization since it has been set up. Among the main steps that the region needs to take are removing non-tariff barriers to trade, providing necessary technical assistance to customs, working to meet global standards for products and services, bolstering transport infrastructure, improving professional skills and boosting access to technologies.
Another key priority for BSEC will remain the cooperation between BSEC and governments aiming at helping the clustering and networking of small and medium sized enterprises.
BSEC has already launched an initiative that targeted SMEs as its main beneficiaries in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, namely the Black Sea Trade and Investment Promotion Programme (BSTIP). The programme included activities that help improve the relations between businesses engaged in different areas such as the packaging, cereals, eco-building construction materials and management and business consulting services sectors.
“The next goal of the BSTIP is to discover the potential in the other sectors of the BSEC countries’ economies in order to further bolster the ties among the SMEs,” Chrysanthopoulos said.
BSEC was launched as a regionally owned initiative in 1992 at a time when regional cooperation was most needed in the transformation process that the countries of the region were undergoing. The idea that stronger economic cooperation among the Black Sea countries would enhance peace and stability in the region was the underlying philosophy behind BSEC. With the entry into force of its Charter on 1 May 1999, BSEC acquired international legal identity and was officially transformed from an initiative into a regional cooperation organization.
Today, BSEC serves as a forum for cooperation in a wide range of areas and a platform for political dialogue for its 12 Member States: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. The BSEC countries encompass an area of approximately 20 million square kilometers with 330 million people. Transport, energy, trade, economic development, communications, education, culture, tourism, science, technology, healthcare, good governance, customs services, exploration and extraction of hydrocarbon resources, fight against organized crime and terrorism are among the most active fields of cooperation within the framework of the Organization. Romania has assumed the Chairmanship-in-Office of BSEC as of 1 January 2011, for a term of six months ending on 30 June 2011. During this period, the Romanian Chairmanship envisages to implement a comprehensive calendar of events which is expected to enhance BSEC cooperation in a number of areas.