Dacic: ”Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation should affirm its leadership role as the proponent of sustainable and stable economic development in the region”

Opening Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the 35th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization held in Belgrade.

“Mr. President of the Republic of Serbia,

Fellow Ministers,

Mr. Secretary General,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the pleasure to welcome you in Belgrade which has become, in recent months, one of the centres of the activity for our Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Organization and its related bodies.

The Republic of Serbia is bringing to a conclusion its six-monthly BSEC Chairmanship-in-Office, and our today’s meeting marks an end to yet another phase of the Organization’s work. Previously, BSEC Istanbul Headquarters, Belgrade and other cities were venues for discussions on issues deemed important for the prosperity of the Black Sea region. Our experts have exchanged opinions, proposals and reached jointly agreed solutions in the regional interest, as well as in the interest of each Member State individually. The most frequently used word by working groups is consensus, for it is essential when adopting the Organization’s goals. BSEC is a regional international organization with fewer member states, but numerous enough to often cause discrepancies between positions, which the Republic of Serbia, as Chair, has endeavoured to translate into constructive discussions. The results of these efforts are documents that are submitted to us for adoption today, while Serbia had the privilege to coordinate – with a great deal of assistance from the Permanent International Secretariat, the process of finalizing texts and of drafting them. The current meeting also affords me an opportunity to express my special thanks to all members of the Secretariat for their expertise and hard work in the period behind us.

After almost twenty-five years of its establishment, BSEC remains an important regional economic factor, bringing together countries in this part of Europe. Its role is particularly reflected in the context of all current developments on the global economic and political scene, and in the light of security challenges facing the international community today. Namely, these topical developments were unlikely to bypass the BSEC and its activities, given the geographic locations of the Organization’s Member States. These are exactly the reasons for the consolidation of the BSEC structures and apparatus in the future and for their adjustment to the emerging needs – primarily in the interests of all Member States, but also to help them adapt to the newly created situations at the Organization’s close proximity.

In order to be able to respond to present challenges, cooperation, solidarity and responsible conduct are required of all actors in the international community. In this context, BSEC should affirm its leadership role as the proponent of sustainable and stable economic development, both in the region and beyond. Our Member States are to play an essential role in accomplishing and upholding this goal. The Republic of Serbia has been continuously underlining that cooperation in areas of overall interest and peaceful settlement of disputes is the only way of achieving the said goal.

I believe that the responsibility to create, through mutual cooperation, the image of BSEC as a modern, responsible international organization and a constructive partner of other international initiatives lies with the Member States. Because how we present ourselves is how we will be seen by others.

There is probably no need to underscore the strategic, infrastructural and economic importance of the Black Sea region. It goes without saying that the region, and thus also the only international organization representing it in its entirety, has a huge potential. Our discussions should therefore focus on how this potential should be used in the best interest of the countries of the region and their people, how to contribute to the accomplishment of the goals of global importance, primarily the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. In this context, it can be noted that out of a total of seventeen 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, BSEC working groups and bodies are dealing with 12, which is more than any other international organization is involved with, except for the UN. What remains to be done is “only” to achieve specific results, and I said “only”, because I believe that this is easily attainable.

At the commencement of Serbia’s Chairmanship, we singled out some priorities on which our activities have been focused:

1.      This primarily includes the enhancement of economic cooperation among BSEC Member States, as the foundation which the Organization rests upon. I firmly believe that economic cooperation is the only road to prosperity and peace in the region, having the potential of making BSEC an even more important factor in the international community.

2.      A particular segment within the economic cooperation framework was devoted to transport, as the basic prerequisite for cooperation on any aspect of infrastructural connectivity, as reaffirmed by the Meeting of Transport Ministers of the BSEC member States, held in Belgrade, on 1 November 2016. We hope that the Joint Declaration of BSEC Transport Ministers, adopted on the occasion in Belgrade, will give a special impetus to that end.

3.      To secure better international positioning of our Organization, we included among the priorities the enhancement of cooperation with other international organizations and initiatives, particularly with two – the EU and the UN, which are of major importance for our region. In this context, a meeting with representatives of the EU Working Party on Eastern Europe and Central Asia was held in Brussels, while a new Resolution on cooperation between the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization and the UN was adopted at the 71st UNGA Session in New York, on 21 November 2016.

4.      The last goal set at the beginning of Serbia’s Chairmanship, but possibly the most important one, is the Organization’s reform aimed at the achievement of sustainable, economical and functional project-orientation. Undergoing the reform process was not an easy task for any international organization. You will agree that this was a general impression based on other organizations where we belong. At our meetings over the past six months, we kept coming across notions such as restrictive measures as to funding, consolidation and streamlining of the BSEC structures. It is no secret that the Republic of Serbia has given a note of neutrality to its Chairmanship role and has not taken an active part in discussions on these issues, but has nevertheless listened with great attention to all proposals advanced, including the suggestions of the Permanent International Secretariat. From the perspective of the Chair whose mandate is coming to an end, we are strongly convinced that the Organization needs structural changes. This can be supported by statistics on working group activities and expert participation during our Chairmanship, with which I do not wish to burden this high-level meeting, but which can be confirmed by the Secretary General, Ambassador Christides. The issue of next-year’s budget, agreed only yesterday to be formally adopted today, is surely in close correlation with the structural changes of the Organization. Resolve and audacity in the period ahead of us must play an important role in our countries’ individual approaches to these issues, if we are to avoid having to deal with them in the same way next June.

I truly believe that we have successfully fulfilled our mandate defined on 1 June 2016, upon the assumption of our Chairmanship, taking into account the complexity of political circumstances in the Black Sea region; respecting all Member States, paying heed to their differences, while focusing on what we share in common – the desire for economic, cultural and social prosperity, and strengthening cooperation in areas that may be helpful along those lines.

May I recall that next year, we will be observing the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, and that the Republic of Serbia stands ready to commemorate this important jubilee in an appropriate way. I trust and believe that the themes I referred to today will be included in the BSEC agenda in the next 25 years, and that the Organization will take the place it deserves in the international community. Accordingly, I would like to underline that the Republic of Serbia will continue its readiness for cooperation with all the BSEC Member States, Observers and Sectoral Dialogue Partners.

Dear guests,

I welcome you, once again, to the capital of our country, wishing all of us productive deliberations and success in our today’s session.”