The Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) was initiated in 1992 as an informal intergovernmental cooperation, namely the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and was transformed into a full-fledged regional economic organisation on May 1, 1999, with the entry into force of its Charter, signed in June 1998 in Yalta. The BSEC headquarters are located in Istanbul. The BSEC Organisation is composed of twelve Member States (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine). Eleven of the current 12 Member States are founding Members. The enlargement of the Organisation was decided upon at the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the BSEC Member States (BSEC Summit, Yerevan, 18 April 2003), with the inclusion of Serbia and Montenegro as well as FYROM. The State Union of Serbia-Montenegro acceded to the Organisation on 14 April 2004. Today, only Serbia takes part in the BSEC as the successor to the abovementioned state union. With regard to FYROM, the Organisation sent an invitation for accession to FYROM, in implementation of what was agreed upon at the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs(Summit, Yerevan, 18.4.2003), under its UN-recognised name, but this invitation has not been met with a response to date.
The following countries and international organisations have been granted observer status: Austria, Belarus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Tunisia, the US, as well as the following international orgnanisations or institutions: the European Commission, the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution, the Energy Charter Secretariat and the (non-governmental) International Black Sea Club.
The BSEC Organisation functions according to its Rules of Procedure that provide for decision-making with specific types of majority, depending on the subject, although in general, efforts are made for BSEC decisions to be taken unanimously. The Organisation’ s operational structure is rather flexible and includes:
a) The Intergovernmental cooperation coordinated under a rotating six-month Chairmanship (undertaken by the Member States in alphabetical order) and includes both ordinary and extraordinary Councils of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the BSEC Member States, meetings of the Committee of Senior Officials, as well as meetings of Working Groups. The Permanent International Secretariat (PERMIS) is seated in Istanbul.
b) The Interparliamentary cooperation, coordinated under a rotating six-month Chairmanship (undertaken by the Member States in alphabetical order) with the following bodies as its basic organs: the BSEC Parliamentary Assembly (PABSEC), the Standing Committee, the Bureau, and individual parliamentary committees. The International Secretariat of the PABSEC is seated in Istanbul.
c) The Business cooperation, coordinated through the BSEC Business Council reflects the importance attributed by the Organisation to the improvement of the business environment and the enhancement of economic cooperation across the Black Sea region. The BSEC Business Council Secretariat is seated in Istanbul.
d) The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB), which is an international financial Organisation, is seated in Thessaloniki and the authorized capital amounts to 3 billion SDR (Special Drawing Rights).
e) The International Center for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS), headquartered in Athens, whose creation was spearheaded by our country. It is acknowledged as the Organisation’ s de facto think-tank and covers cooperation between scientific and academic communities of the BSEC Member States, and its promotion through other similar foundations and organisations.
The Project Development Fund, whose resources accrue from voluntary contributions of the BSEC Member- States, is another tool for the development of regional economic cooperation, providing funding opportunities to public and private agencies of Μember States, in order to carry out preliminary feasibility studies for development projects. This Fund is operating within the framework of the BSEC PERMIS.
Intergovernmental cooperation within the BSEC focuses principally on the fields of energy, transport, communications, trade and economic development, banking and finance, institutional renewal and good governance, combating organised crime, environmental protection, agriculture, cooperation in healthcare issues, emergency assistance, research and development, education, tourism, culture, facilitating the transport of goods and customs procedures, exchange of statistical data and the promotion of SMEs.
Following decades of efforts, spearheaded by our country, the European Commission published on11.4.2008, its Communication, entitled “Black Sea Synergy: A New Regional Cooperation Initiative” [COM(2007)160 final], which constitutes the basis for future cooperation between EU - BSEC. The granting of observer status to the European Commission is also very important, as a step forward to the cooperation between the two organisations. The strengthening in the institutional relations of the two Organisations was promoted substantially during the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU and of the countries of the wider Black Sea Area(Kyiv, 14/2/2008) for the launching of the abovementioned regional cooperation initiative of the EU for the Black Sea. During this meeting, the Foreign Ministers adopted a joint communiqué, which expresses the will for more close cooperation between the countries in a number of priority areas, such as the development of transport and energy infrastructure and the environmental protection, through the creation of sectoral partnerships, recognizing also the important role of the BSEC Organisation. Furthermore, during the previous special meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the BSEC Organisation (Kyiv, 14/2/2008) a Declaration was adopted on a BSEC-EU Enhanced Relationship.
Relations between the BSEC and other organisations
The Organisation develops contractual relations with the UN, the OECD (for the implementation of the Black Sea and Central Asia Outlook, which is funded jointly by Greece, Romania, and Turkey), as well as with other regional organisations and initiatives such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Organisation for Migration, the Intergovernmental Commission TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe, Caucasus, Asia), and others. It should be noted that our country as the only country to be a Member state of both the BSEC and the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) – achieved on 11.6.2007, the recognition of the Organisation as an eligible recipient of Official Development Assistance (ODA) from DAC, with a rate of 78% of total contributions. Thus, the way is paved for the Organisation to receive funding from international donors-DAC Members.
Projects of the BSEC Organisation: Black Sea Ring Highway (BSRH) and Motorways of the Sea in the BSEC Region
The transformation of the Organisation into a “project-oriented Organisation” has constituted for a series of years a declared objective. The signature, in Belgrade, on the 19.4.2007, of two Memoranda of Understanding for the development of the BSRH and the Motorways of the Sea, signaled the entry of the Organisation into a new creative period of implementation of the above-mentioned objective. The development of these two ambitious and interdependent projects, throughout the following decades, offers a vision in the Organisation and provides the possibility to deepen the cooperation with the EU and the International Financial Organisations. Our country is a focal point of these developments, having contributed decisively in the formulation and adoption of the above-mentioned Memoranda, hosting the Joint Permanent Technical Secretariat of the BSRH in Thessaloniki (assigned to “Egnatia Odos S.A.”) and claiming the co-ordination of the Working Group on Motorways of the Sea at the BSEC Region.