Georgians try to reach for loaves of bread at a bakery in the flashpoint city of Gori during the August war. AP photo
New economic and security measures are required to resolve political turmoil and out-and-out conflict in the Black Sea region, according to a group of academics and former policymakers, including three one-time foreign ministers.
In a report made public Monday at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, the Commission on the Black Sea called for the rejuvenation of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the establishment of a high-level consultant group to deal with so-called frozen conflicts in the region.
Though the increased geopolitical volatility of the Black Sea region has shown that unresolved issues can ignite into open warfare, the situation could be different if appropriate action is taken, the writers of the report said.
Establishing a high-level consultant group to tackle protracted conflicts was one of the measures suggested by Professor Mustafa Aydın, the rector of Kadir Has University, and one of the commission’s rapporteurs.
“The feasibility of an international gathering on the Black Sea, preferably at the summit level involving regional states and international stakeholders, should be the end point for the work of the high-level group,” Aydın said at Monday’s presentation of the report.
The commission is supported by the Athens-based International Center for Black Sea Studies and the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, or TEPAV.
Aydın and his colleagues also addressed the issue of whether a new group could prove successful when years of work by the Minsk group, comprised of diplomats from the member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has thus far failed to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“The existing formats have failed,” said commission member Tedo Japaridze, the former foreign minister of Georgia. “The conflicts stay the same, so why not try to engage regional actors, countries such as Russia and Turkey?”
“We need to try the regional dimension,” Japaridze said, though he added that he was not that optimistic about the results of this tactic.
New spirit for an old organization
The commission, which also includes former Romanian and Greek foreign ministers Sergiu Celac and Tassos Giannitsis, has suggested a rejuvenation of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, or BSEC. Its 20th anniversary summit in 2012, commission members said, presents an opportunity to renew the commitment of the BSEC’s members to regional cooperation and inaugurate an overhauled organization that is more relevant and has greater clout.
In addition to changing the name and logo of the BSEC, commission members proposed making the organization more political by incorporating a security dimension to its work, an idea that would contradict its initial organizing principles.
The BSEC, spearheaded by Turkey in the early 1990s, was essentially designed as an economic initiative, based on the principle that improvement in economic relations would make it easier to solve the region’s political problems. As such, the organization has largely avoided any political discussion that could overshadow economic cooperation. It seems, however, that the commission believes this principle has not paid off.
Its report does not elaborate on the issue, limiting itself to saying that “commitments undertaken by BSEC member states could include adding a specific security dimension to BSEC activities, relying mainly on confidence-building measures and increased transparency.”
“Interestingly, economic issues are being dealt with by foreign ministers,” Aydın said, noting that these officials generally participate in the BSEC’s high-level meetings. “Yet the security side of it is not being dealt with sufficiently.” According to Aydın, member states resist including security issues in BSEC discussions, but without addressing ongoing political problems, economic cooperation cannot reach its full potential.
“When we raise this issue with officials, they say, ‘If you start dealing with political conflicts, everything will go up in the air.’ There is a sort of catch-22 situation. But a way forward needs to be found,” he said.
Daniel Daianu, a former finance minister of Romania, said the report was only a beginning and cautioned that “a lot is beyond our ability to achieve in a short while.” Noting that other parts of the world have a higher global profile, he said the commission needed to be humble in its expectations.
Importance of the Black Sea region
The Black Sea region is in a “unique position” thanks to “its strategic location, between the hydrocarbon reserves of the Caspian basin and energy-hungry Europe,” according to a report made public Monday in Istanbul.
From 2000 until the onset of the global economic crisis, the region had one of the world’s fastest rates of growth and trade between countries was on the rise.
But while the opportunity to transfer Caspian oil and gas to European markets raises hopes about regional economic development, the report said, competition to control pipelines, shipping lanes and transport routes in order to secure increased political and economic influence raises the risks of confrontation.

Read the article on Hurriyet

Black Sea intiative need to be rejuvenated, commission says

Georgians try to reach for loaves of bread at a bakery in the flashpoint city of Gori during the August war. AP photo
New economic and security measures are required to resolve political turmoil and out-and-out conflict in the Black Sea region, according to a group of academics and former policymakers, including three one-time foreign ministers.
In a report made public Monday at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, the Commission on the Black Sea called for the rejuvenation of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the establishment of a high-level consultant group to deal with so-called frozen conflicts in the region.
Though the increased geopolitical volatility of the Black Sea region has shown that unresolved issues can ignite into open warfare, the situation could be different if appropriate action is taken, the writers of the report said.
Establishing a high-level consultant group to tackle protracted conflicts was one of the measures suggested by Professor Mustafa Aydın, the rector of Kadir Has University, and one of the commission’s rapporteurs.
“The feasibility of an international gathering on the Black Sea, preferably at the summit level involving regional states and international stakeholders, should be the end point for the work of the high-level group,” Aydın said at Monday’s presentation of the report.
The commission is supported by the Athens-based International Center for Black Sea Studies and the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, or TEPAV.
Aydın and his colleagues also addressed the issue of whether a new group could prove successful when years of work by the Minsk group, comprised of diplomats from the member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has thus far failed to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“The existing formats have failed,” said commission member Tedo Japaridze, the former foreign minister of Georgia. “The conflicts stay the same, so why not try to engage regional actors, countries such as Russia and Turkey?”
“We need to try the regional dimension,” Japaridze said, though he added that he was not that optimistic about the results of this tactic.
New spirit for an old organization
The commission, which also includes former Romanian and Greek foreign ministers Sergiu Celac and Tassos Giannitsis, has suggested a rejuvenation of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, or BSEC. Its 20th anniversary summit in 2012, commission members said, presents an opportunity to renew the commitment of the BSEC’s members to regional cooperation and inaugurate an overhauled organization that is more relevant and has greater clout.
In addition to changing the name and logo of the BSEC, commission members proposed making the organization more political by incorporating a security dimension to its work, an idea that would contradict its initial organizing principles.
The BSEC, spearheaded by Turkey in the early 1990s, was essentially designed as an economic initiative, based on the principle that improvement in economic relations would make it easier to solve the region’s political problems. As such, the organization has largely avoided any political discussion that could overshadow economic cooperation. It seems, however, that the commission believes this principle has not paid off.
Its report does not elaborate on the issue, limiting itself to saying that “commitments undertaken by BSEC member states could include adding a specific security dimension to BSEC activities, relying mainly on confidence-building measures and increased transparency.”
“Interestingly, economic issues are being dealt with by foreign ministers,” Aydın said, noting that these officials generally participate in the BSEC’s high-level meetings. “Yet the security side of it is not being dealt with sufficiently.” According to Aydın, member states resist including security issues in BSEC discussions, but without addressing ongoing political problems, economic cooperation cannot reach its full potential.
“When we raise this issue with officials, they say, ‘If you start dealing with political conflicts, everything will go up in the air.’ There is a sort of catch-22 situation. But a way forward needs to be found,” he said.
Daniel Daianu, a former finance minister of Romania, said the report was only a beginning and cautioned that “a lot is beyond our ability to achieve in a short while.” Noting that other parts of the world have a higher global profile, he said the commission needed to be humble in its expectations.
Importance of the Black Sea region
The Black Sea region is in a “unique position” thanks to “its strategic location, between the hydrocarbon reserves of the Caspian basin and energy-hungry Europe,” according to a report made public Monday in Istanbul.
From 2000 until the onset of the global economic crisis, the region had one of the world’s fastest rates of growth and trade between countries was on the rise.
But while the opportunity to transfer Caspian oil and gas to European markets raises hopes about regional economic development, the report said, competition to control pipelines, shipping lanes and transport routes in order to secure increased political and economic influence raises the risks of confrontation.

Read the article on Hurriyet

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