European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood
Black Sea Synergy Ministerial Meeting
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First let me express my thanks to our Host and Co-chair of this launch meeting of the Black Sea Synergy. [President Yushchenko], I am grateful to you and your compatriots for your warm welcome and hospitality. Combined with the hard work of your officials over the last few months you have set the scene for what I am sure will be a productive meeting.
I have looked forward to this moment since the EU first adopted the proposal for Black Sea Synergy. We envisaged then a high level meeting of all of the political actors involved in shaping this region’s future. So I am delighted that so many of its prominent politicians are gathered here, with your colleagues from the European Union, to set the Black Sea Synergy on its voyage.
With Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU just over one year ago, the EU is no longer an external actor in this region. Now we are irrevocably part of the region, with our future security and prosperity intimately bound up in its fortunes. It was a consciousness of our new presence on the shores of the Black Sea and our dual sense of responsibility and reliance which prompted us to propose the new co-operation we together launch today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The countries around the Black Sea's shores are all immensely rich in culture, history and artistic endeavour; as I have witnessed for myself on my travels. Only last week I was in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and last year I visited Socchi, Istanbul and Sofia. I am certainly no stranger either to the beauty and cultural wealth of the region, or to its fractures and diversity.
That diversity can be a source of great strength – as the European Union has found. But only by cooperating together.
The EU will continue to develop its bilateral relations with countries through the European Neighbourhood Policy and other strategies. But nowadays countries face challenges which cannot be effectively tackled alone.
That is why the Black Sea Synergy sets out an agenda on issues of mutual concern: with the EU now fully engaged, we can work together to define joint projects and approaches for the future benefit of all.
That does not mean re-inventing the wheel: we do not want to duplicate what others are already doing, nor is there any desire to compete with ongoing initiatives. That is why we have turned to the Black Sea’s regional organisations; particularly BSEC with its extensive membership and unique role in the region. Our objective is not to create new institutions but rather to build closer contacts with those already working in this area and see where our added value lies.
For that reason we have focused Black Sea Synergy on a number of areas, including:
Transport – with better coordination between Trans-European Networks and those across the Black Sea region;
Fisheries – looking at the sustainable use of Black Sea fishery resources;
The environment – with projects on climate change and water quality;
Cross-border cooperation – launching a programme with local authorities around the region;
And other areas like migration, law enforcement and the fight against organised crime.
I would like this meeting to highlight the priority fields where our work enjoys wide support and where coordinated action will bring tangible benefits to the citizens of every country in the region.
But we can be even more ambitious and I would like us also to consider medium and long term targets for future cooperation.
Black Sea Synergy would act as a flexible framework bringing together interested stakeholders to develop and implement activities linked to those targets. And there could be lead countries and /or regional organisations responsible for specific targets, guided, if necessary, by further Ministerial meetings on particular sectors.
We also look forward to other proposals like Black Sea Partnerships in specific sectors.
Today’s event will raise the profile of this region and focus political attention on the common challenges it shares. It will spur us to work together for the common good of all those living and working around the shores of the Black Sea. And it will, rightly, raise expectations among our citizens; which we must meet.
Let me thank you once again for your participation in this common endeavour and I look forward to working with you as we build this partnership together.