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International organisations

BLACK SEA ECONOMIC COOPERATION

ORGANIZATION OF BSEC

 

The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) was established on 25 June 1992, in Istanbul, when the Summit Declaration was signed by the Heads of State and Government of eleven countries – Republic of Albania, Republic of Armenia, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Bulgaria, Georgia, Hellenic Republic, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Republic of Turkey and Ukraine. Republic of Serbia joined the Organization as a Member State in 2004. On 26 June 2012, the Summit Declaration was adopted to mark the 20th Anniversary of BSEC.

 

BSEC structure

 

The highest decision-making body of BSEC is the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the BSEC Member States. The Council’s regular meetings convene twice a year: in May/June and in November/December. In case of need special or informal meetings of the Council are convened. The regular meetings of the Council are being held in the Member States according to the principle of rotation and are regulated by the BSEC Chairmanship-in-Office. The Chairmanship itself is regulated by the same principle. The term of the Chairmanship is six months, starting from January 1 and July 1.

The Committee of Senior Officials of BSEC is accountable to the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and operates on behalf of the latter. The Committee is endowed with the appropriate functions and responsibility to implement the activities of the Organization.

On 10 March 1994, the BSEC Permanent International Secretariat (PERMIS) was established in Istanbul by the decision of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Michael Christides (Hellenic Republic) assumed the post of the Secretary General of the BSEC PERMIS on 1 July 2015.

Since 1995, the mechanism of "Troika", a consulting type of a structure within BSEC, has been functioning, which includes the former, present and future chairmen-in-office.

The following countries have the observer status with the Organization: Arab Republic of Egypt, Republic of Austria, Republic of Belarus, Republic of Croatia, Czech Republic, French Republic, Federal Republic of Germany, State of Israel, Republic of Italy, Republic of Poland, Slovak Republic, Republic of Tunisia, United States of America. The Commission of the European Union is among a number of international organizations enjoying the same status. Republic of Hungary, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Republic of Korea, Montenegro, Republic of Slovenia and some international organizations, including the UN World Tourism Organization, have the status of the BSEC sectoral dialogue partner.

The Parliamentary Assembly of BSEC (PABSEC), the BSEC Business Council (BC), the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) and the International Center for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS) are the organizations related to BSEC. They are independent bodies with their own statutes (which provisions are harmonized with the Charter of BSEC), separate budgets, headquarters and the agenda of activities.

Representation of Armenia to BSEC

 

The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Armenia to BSEC was established in Istanbul in August 2001. Mr. A. Avagyan is the Head of the Mission.

 

Representation of BSEC in Armenia

 

The Organization of BSEC is not represented in Armenia.

 

The priorities of BSEC

 

BSEC is called to maintain the Black Sea region a stable and prosperous area through the multilateral economic cooperation among its Member States. The Organization covers the geography with an area of nearly 20 million square kilometers, including the Black Sea, the Balkan and Caucasian countries, situated on the two continents and representing a region of some 350 million people. The area of BSEC, which is rich in oil and gas, as well as other natural resources, has been one of the major transport and energy transit corridors. The foreign trade capacity among the Member States is over USD 300 billion annually.

The priorities of BSEC as indicated in its Charter formulate the cooperation areas as trade and economic development, banking and finance, communications, energy, transport, agriculture and agricultural industry, health and pharmaceutics, environment protection, tourism, science and technology, exchange of statistic data and economic information, cooperation between customs and border authorities, fighting organized crime, drugs, illegal import of weapons and radioactive materials, terrorism and illegal emigration, extermination of emergency consequences, small and middle business, education, institutional renewal and good governance.

The improvement of the BSEC efficiency and implementation of the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” with new priorities for regional cooperation are among the major tasks of the Organization with the aim to contribute to the development and well-being of the peoples of its Member States.

A new concept of public communication strategy and a mechanism for its implementation have been set forth to improve visibility and communication activities of BSEC.

 

Signed treaties and agreements within the framework of BSEC

 

The BSEC Charter was adopted by the Heads of the BSEC Member States on 5 June 1998, at the Yalta Summit. On 30 April 1999, the Additional Protocol to the Charter on the privileges and immunities of BSEC was adopted. The Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of PABSEC was adopted on 31 October 2003. On 25 June 2004, a new Article 24 of the Charter was adopted, by which the International Center for Black Sea Studies was established as a related “think-tank” body of BSEC.

The Headquarters Agreement between the Organization of BSEC and the Government of the Republic of Turkey was signed on 27 April 2000. It was amended on 12 December 2014.

On 15 April 1998, in Sochi, the “Agreement among the Governments of the Participating States of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) on Collaboration in Emergency Assistance and Emergency Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters” was adopted. The Additional Protocol to the Agreement was adopted in Kyiv, on 20 October 2005.

On 2 October 1998, in Kerkyra the “Agreement among the Governments of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Participating States on Cooperation in Combating Crime, in Particular in its Organized Forms” was adopted. The Additional Protocol to the Agreement was adopted in Kyiv, on 15 March 2002. The Additional Protocol on Combating Terrorism to the Agreement was adopted in Athens, on 3 December 2004.

The Agreements on “Simplification of Visa Procedures for Professional Lorry Drivers Nationals of the BSEC Member States” and on “Simplification of Visa Procedures for Businesspeople Nationals of the BSEC Member States” were sighed in Tirana, on 23 October 2008.

 

Areas of Cooperation

 

         Trade and Economic development

 

Coordinating Body: BSEC PERMIS

 

The activity of the relevant Working Group has been focusing on a number of concept papers agreed upon by the Member States. The “Working Paper on the Priorities for the future activities of the Working Group on Trade and Economic Development” (March 2012) is among them. It consists of four clusters: Ways and means of development and facilitation of intra-regional trade and investment, Capacity building and human resources, Mechanism building and Involvement of the private sector and Cooperation with EU and other organizations, associations, programmes and initiatives. The Group is discussing the clusters and, in particular, the proposal to launch a BSEC project, aimed at implementation of one of the specific recommendations contained in the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”, namely: “Recommending to create BSEC networks in the interested BSEC Member States aimed at promoting intra-regional trade and investments.” The Working Group welcomed, in this regard, the involvement of the UNDP Black Sea Trade and Investment Promotion Program (BSTIP) and the Memorandum for the Group, presented by the Program (April 2013).

In April 2013 the Group considered the themes approved by the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the document on “The Way Forward on the Implementation of the BSEC Economic Agenda”, on which it focused during 2013-2015, and enhanced cooperation within the following priority areas: Identifying constraints affecting intra-regional trade expansion, particularly policy barriers that enterprises have to overcome, and other barriers that hamper the trade of goods and services among the Member States, Facilitating visa procedures for business people of the BSEC Member States, in accordance with the national legislation of each Member State and Recommending to create BSEC networks in the interested BSEC Member States aimed at promoting intra-regional trade and investments. The Working Paper with proposals on projects, to be undertaken in the mentioned priority action areas, was elaborated by the BSEC PERMIS and includes the following project proposals: Creation of the BSEC Networks in the interested Member States aimed at promoting intraregional trade and investments, Establishment of the BSEC Networks of Chambers of Commerce and other business organizations/associations of the BSEC Member States, Elaboration of mechanisms for lowering non-tariff trade barriers in the BSEC Region and Establishing a Trade and Investment Facilitation Mechanism in the BSEC Region.

In December 2015 the Member States agreed on the following priorities for the new medium-term (2016-2018):

- Cooperation in trade facilitation;

- Cooperation in the sphere of E-commerce;

- Cooperation in the implementation of the national single window projects;

- SME’s trade and economic cooperation, including the development of women and youth entrepreneurship.

With a view to facilitating the discussion on enhancement of cooperation in the field, the BSEC PERMIS has elaborated a background Working Paper on “The List of the BSEC Council Resolutions, Decisions and Recommendations 1993-2012, relevant to the WGTED activities“.

The agenda of the Group’s activities covers the issue on trade facilitation among the BSEC Member States. The UNDP-BSTIP and the Republic of Turkey presented, respectively, the “Memorandum for the BSEC Working Group on Trade and Economic Development” and the “Concept Paper on Enhancing Cooperation Regarding Trade Facilitation in the BSEC Region”. The latter envisages establishment of a network of experts for trade facilitation and consideration of organizing Joint Meetings of the Working Groups on Trade and Economic Development, on Agriculture and Agro-Industry and on Customs Matters, as well as the BSEC Business Council for a comprehensive exchange of views on trade regimes, customs issues, information exchange mechanism and to adopt concrete recommendations.

On 25 September 2014 the UNECE-BSEC Joint Regional Seminar on Trade Facilitation and Single Window was organized at the BSEC Headquarters. Two important events were organized in Moscow on 24-25 May 2016 – Seminars on E-commerce and on Single Window for Trade Facilitation.

Member States attach importance to the issue on exchanging the relevant information on trade and economic development, which is stipulated also by one of the goals of the “BSEC Economic Agenda Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”, entitled “Harmonization and Exchange of Economic and Social Statistical Data and Information”. In this regard, upon the proposal by the Group in October 2013, the BSEC Coordination Center for the Exchange of Statistical Data and Economic Information elaborated a questionnaire regarding the type of statistical data that might be exchanged through the Center. The study on the relevant data, as well as the discussion on the draft concept on information exchange mechanism are undergoing presently.

Discussions are going on on the ways of enhancement of cooperation with international organizations, in particular, with UNECE, UNIDO and UNDP and to address the regional effects of the economic crisis and regional responses. The draft MOU between BSEC and the International Congress of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (ICIE) was signed in December 2015.

The Working Group adopted the following priorities for the BSEC Project Development Fund´s funding in the area of Trade and Economic Development: Mechanism building for the development of intra-regional trade and improvement of intra-regional investment climate among the BSEC Member States; Capacity building of human resources and infrastructure aiming at facilitating trade and investment cooperation among the BSEC Member States and Regional effects of the economic crisis and regional responses.

The Meetings of the Ministers in charge of Economy of the BSEC Member States held in Bucharest on 17 May 2011 and in Yalta on 23 May 2013, adopted two Joint Declarations of the Ministers in Charge of Economy of the BSEC Member States. It was further agreed that Declarations of the Ministers in charge of Economy of the BSEC Member States will acknowledge bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements that the Member States have concluded since the previous Ministerial Meeting.

The Joint Declaration on “Facilitating Intraregional Trade and Investments” was adopted by the Ministers in charge at the Meeting in Chisinau on 29 May 2015.

The establishment of cooperation in electronic commerce with the aim to create conditions and develop a barrier-free e-commerce in the BSEC Region, is among the recent proposals to enhance cooperation in the field.

 

Customs

 

Country-Coordinator: Republic of Azerbaijan (1 July 2014 - 30 June 2016)

 

The relevant Working Group is continuing discussions on the on-going process of promoting harmonization and simplification of customs and border crossing procedures, in particular, for the transport business community, and introducing common standards of simplified and efficient customs procedures in conformity with the national legislations, with the aim of facilitating and securing the movement of goods and peoples across national boundaries, also through the updating the consolidated table regarding participation of the Member States in the international conventions on customs matters.

The issues on benchmarking for improvement of border crossing procedures, application of ICT for customs operations and exchange of experience on implementation of the Single Window concept in the BSEC Member States have been discussed over the meetings of the Group as practical instruments in the process of harmonization and simplification of customs procedures.

With this regard, the UNECE Working Party on Customs Questions affecting Transport (WP.30) is considering how to incorporate benchmarking and performance indicators in the text of the Harmonization Convention of 1982. The draft project on Conducting Benchmarking Exercises among the BSEC Member States is being currently discussed within the Group. There was proposed establishing a BSEC ad hoc Working Group of Experts for studying the international experience on benchmarking of customs processes and procedures.

The issue on establishing a mechanism of exchange of preliminary information among the customs administrations of the interested Member States has been for a long time on the agenda of the Group. The discussion on this issue was initiated by the Heads of Customs Administrations of the BSEC Member States at the meeting in Kyiv in March 2008. It was noted that the idea of establishing cooperation in the field of exchange of preliminary information on goods and vehicles, moving through the borders of the BSEC Member States, would be an effective instrument to combat customs fraud and ensure proper implementation of customs legislation. The BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs at its meeting in Bucharest in June 2011 instructed the Group to continue consideration of the issue of possibility of establishing a mechanism of exchange of preliminary information among the customs administrations of the interested Member States on the basis of the Model Draft Protocol on the Exchange of Information on the Movement of Goods and Conveyance as elaborated by the Russian Federation. It was recommended using the Draft Protocol in their bilateral negotiations. Some interested Member States supported the proposition by the Russian Federation to use it as a multilateral framework for a future BSEC Agreement on the exchange of preliminary information among the interested customs administrations of the BSEC Member States.

The BSEC document on “The Way Forward on the Implementation of the BSEC Economic Agenda” comprises the following priority themes on which the Working Group focused in 2013-2015 and within the framework of which the Member States should have presented draft project proposals: Continuing the on-going process of harmonization of customs and border crossing procedures in conformity with the national legislations, with the aim of facilitating the movement of goods and people across national boundaries, Promoting cooperation among the customs authorities of the BSEC Member States in line with the World Customs Organization requirements, including application of innovative technologies in this regard, Exchanging, where and when possible, preliminary information on vehicles and goods crossing the borders of the BSEC Member States.

These priorities remain on agenda also for the period of 2016-2018.

Among the international organizations, presently cooperating with BSEC in the field, are OSCE (on best practices at border crossings on the basis of the OSCE - UNECE Handbook on Best Practices at Border Crossings) and the European Commission (a proposal to explore the possibility of adopting a Multilateral MOU between customs administrations of the BSEC Member States on the one hand and the EC on the other).

A special decision of the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (May 2010) referred to the interest of the European Commission to participate in the activities of the Working Group. Furthermore, it was made relevant for the representatives of the European Commission to participate in the future meetings of the Group on a permanent basis, in order to provide their know-how and expertise.

The Union of Road Transport Associations (URTA) has been practically involved in the activities of the Group as BSEC sectoral dialogue partner. During the meetings of the Group the representatives of the BSEC-URTA have been making presentations on the extensive use of non-invasive inspection (X-ray) technology in borders and ports on commercial vehicles, expressing concerns of the BSEC-URTA Member Associations over the long-term negative health consequences on professional drivers. The BSEC-URTA proposed in this regard the necessity of harmonization of inspection procedures, exchange of best practices among the inspection authorities, provision of transparent information to drivers and companies, introduction of a certificate of recognition of a control already performed on route etc. There have been more presentations on “Scientific Study on External Ionizing Radiation Exposure during Vehicle Radiographic Inspections”, “Contribution of the IRU TIR-IT tools to secure and facilitate trade in the BSEC region”, “TIR EPD Green Lanes concept”, “Pilot Project on Implementation of the UNECE International Vehicle Weight Certificate in the BSEC Region” and others.

The First Workshop on “Encouraging Cooperation among the Customs Laboratories of the BSEC Member States on Unification Methods for Analysis of Goods and their Classification” was held in Ankara, in February 2012.

The Joint “OSCE-BSEC Workshop on Best Practices at Border Crossings – a Trade and Transport Facilitation Perspective”, based on the OSCE-UNECE Handbook, was held in Istanbul on 3 April 2013, as a sub-event of the BSEC Working Group on Customs Matters. The Workshop has been organized in conformity with the priority theme on the on-going process of harmonization of customs and border crossing procedures, defined by the BSEC Economic Agenda.

UNECE will carry out studies on readiness of the BSEC Member States to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the World Trade Organization in the BSEC Region following the UN methodology.

On 28 November 2014 the Heads of Customs Administrations of the BSEC Member States, in the Declaration on “Initiatives of Customs Administrations in Trade Facilitation”, committed themselves to further enhance interaction in this important field.

The BSEC-WHO Seminar on Tobacco Tax and Illicit Trade: Evidence by the BSEC Member States was held at the BSEC Headquarters on 29 September 2015.

Presently discussions are also going on with regard to the issues on coordinated border management concept (promoted by the World Customs Organization), methodology of the Time Release Study (TRS), preparation of a road map for enhancing integrity of customs officials, Expert Dialogue on E-commerce etc.

 

Transport

 

Country-Coordinator: Romania (1 July 2015 – 30 June 2017)

 

The major activities, having been exercised by the relevant Working Group and its subordinate bodies, are aimed at implementation of the three Memoranda of Understanding on “Facilitation of Road Transport of Goods in the BSEC Region” (2002), “Coordinated Development of the Black Sea Ring Highway (BSRH)” (2007) and “Development of the Motorways of the Sea at the BSEC Region (MoS)” (2007), as well as the “Agreement on Simplification of Visa Procedures for Professional Lorry Drivers Nationals of the BSEC Member States” (2008).

In the BSEC document on “The Way Forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the Economic Agenda towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” the following priority themes have been set up, which the Group focused on in 2013-2015: Accelerating the efforts at the national level and within the BSEC framework in order to further proceed with the implementation of the BSEC projects in the field of transport, especially the Black Sea Ring Highway and the Development of the Motorways of the Sea in the BSEC Region, Sharing experiences among the Member States in applying the legal mechanism in the sphere of passenger and freight carriages in the BSEC Region, Considering the development of co-operation in the civil aviation sector.

In September 2015 the Group completed elaboration of the following new priority cooperation for the Second Action Plan of the 2012 BSEC Economic Agenda (2016-2018): 

  • Promoting sustainable transport systems, which meet the economic, social and environmental needs of the people of the Black Sea Region, in order to reduce regional disparities and to link the BSEC Region’s transport infrastructure to European and Asian Networks,
  • Accelerating the efforts at the national level and within the BSEC framework in order to further proceed with the implementation of the BSEC projects in the field of transport, especially the Black Sea Ring Highway and the Development of the Motorways of the Sea in the BSEC Region,
  • Elaborating joint transport projects of regional impact within the framework of BSEC mechanisms, public-private partnerships, and with the participation of other regional and international organizations, including the EU and International Financial Institutions,
  • Considering the possibility of elaborating a regional integrated maritime policy in the field of Maritime Transport, Ports, Shipbuilding and Ship Repairing in the BSEC Region as an important factor for sustainable economic growth,
  • Developing modern competitive Ro-Ro, ferry and cruise lines in the Black Sea Region benefitting from international experiences, best practices, and the newest equipment and technologies on shipping safety,
  • Improving the road safety in the BSEC Region in the framework of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020).

The “Project of the BSEC Transit Permit for Trucks”, which is envisaged in Article 3 on “Progressive liberalization of international road transport of goods” of the MOU on “Facilitation of Road Transport of Goods in the BSEC Region” and being implemented in cooperation with URTA (Union Road Transport Association), BSEC Sectoral Dialogue Partner, has become permanent. The proposals on increasing the number of permits, extending their validity also to the third countries and on possibility of establishing a mechanism for redistributing the unused permits are being considered presently.

In conformity with Article 4 on “Accession to international agreements” of the MOU on “Facilitation of Road Transport of Goods in the BSEC Region”, the pilot project on implementation of the “International Vehicle Weight Certificate” in the BSEC Region has been set forth by BSEC-URTA in cooperation with UNDP and International Road Transport Union (IRU). The respective Task Force is engaged in activities aimed at elaboration of the relevant road map on introduction of the UNECE International Vehicle Weight Certificate.

In 2014 the Republic of Moldova issued the first certificate, which was recognized by Georgia and Ukraine. The participating Member States were invited to recognize the certificate, as well as start taking action to launch the project in their respective countries.

Following the proposal by Ukraine (November 2012), the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the BSEC Member States established on 21 June 2013 a Task Force on studying possibilities regarding cooperation on intermodal transportation in the BSEC Region, within the framework of the Working Group on Transport (Task Force on intermodal transportation in the BSEC Region). A relevant concept of activities of the newly established BSEC Task Force on Intermodal Transportation in the Black Sea region has been elaborated.

The Task Force is focusing mainly on development of intermodal/combined transport strategy, promotion of combined transport operations and development of multilateral and bilateral cooperation in intermodal combined transport. There have been proposals on exercising the concept on Single Window and Dry Ports, the ICT platforms for intermodal transport, as well as on the establishment of international terminals as important logistics hubs. 

The long-standing discussions have been going on among the parties concerned on the alignment of the main route of the Black Sea Ring Highway within the project, envisaged in the MOU on “Coordinated Development of the Black Sea Ring Highway”. The Joint Permanent Technical Secretariat of BSRH has been in contact with the relevant EU bodies concerning the possible funding of general studies (feasibility, safety, etc) of the entire alignment. It was found important to extend the BSRH main route from Yerevan to the borders with Iran and draw a connection to the border with Turkey, as well as to foresee the relevant alignments connecting the main route with the sea ports.

The IRU’s “Model Highway Initiative”, financed by the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, is considered as an integral part of the Black Sea Ring Highway. Upon the relevant proposal, the IRU has been invited to consider the possibility to expand the Model to the territories of all BSEC Member States.

Within the scope of the MOU on “Development of the Motorways of the Sea at the BSEC Region”, the “Terms of Reference of the Experts Correspondence Network” has been adopted and the long-standing issue on the location of the Joint Technical Secretariat of the ad hoc Working Group on the Development of the Motorways of the Sea has been resolved. The Group is making efforts to activate the operation of the Network as an important institutional tool for elaboration of the “Master Plan on the Development of the Motorways of the Sea in the BSEC Region”.

There have been project proposals on the “BSEC Ports”, “BSEC MoS Hotline”, “BSEC Marlink” and others within the MOU on “Development of the Motorways of the Sea at the BSEC Region”. Armenia proposed to foresee usage of “dry ports” in the MoS Concept to be elaborated by the Group, referring to the UNESCAP Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports. The issue could be considered by the Task Force on the Development of Intermodal Transport as the dry ports require multimodal transportation.

The Draft Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation between BSEC and the International Union of Railways was signed on 3 March 2016. The discussions are still going on on the Draft MOU on Development of Multimodal Ferry Lines in the Black Sea Region.

There has been no consensus among the Member States with respect to the prospects of cooperation in field of civil aviation.

The Action Plans, the Working Programs and other operational mechanisms within the Working Group comprise also the issue on enhanced cooperation with international, including those of transport related organizations. The issue on elaborating an Integrated Maritime Policy in the Field of Maritime Transport, Ports, Shipbuilding and Ship repairing in the Region has been brought to the consultations with the European Commission since such a policy had already been elaborated within EU. BSEC is cooperating with UNECE within the framework of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) and, particularly, within the “UNECE-BSEC Pilot Project on Readiness Assessment for the Implementation of the Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) in the BSEC Region”. There is an understanding between BSEC and TRACECA on enhancing cooperation within the scope of the signed MOU. The BSEC PERMIS has been in consultations with the Secretariat of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the development of cooperation between BSEC and IMO, in particular, undertaking joint projects.

The Group is making efforts to cooperate with UNECE on the implementation of the Annex 8 to the UN International Convention on the Harmonization of Frontier Controls of Goods (1982) and to encourage the BSEC participation in the UNECE activities.

BSEC is coordinating closely with the Organization’s transport Sectoral Dialogue Partners – BRASS, BINSA, BASPA, BSEC-URTA and IRU.

Joint Meetings of the Working Groups on Transport, Trade and Customs Affairs are being organized.

Since 2001, a number of joint statements and declarations have been adopted on prospective of cooperation in the field of transport. The Declaration titled “Towards secure, coherent and efficient transport system in the Black Sea Region”, adopted in October 2011 by the BSEC Transport Ministers, stated commitment by the Ministers to undertake steps towards securing safe and efficient transport links and facilitating the border crossing procedures. The Ministerial meetings held in November 2012 and in May 2013, where the joint declarations were adopted, addressed the issue on further enhancement of cooperation in the field on the basis of priorities defined in the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”.

On 16 April 2014 in Sofia and on 25 November 2014 in Thessaloniki the Joint Ministerial Declarations on Greening Transport in the BSEC Region titled “Through enhanced BSEC regional co-operation towards a safe and sustainable transport” and on “Integrated intermodal and logistics solutions in the BSEC Region”, respectively, were adopted.

The Joint Declaration on “Transport Facilitation: Paving the Way to Trade and Development in the BSEC Region” was adopted by Ministers in Chisinau on 14 May 2015.

On 21 October 2015, in Bucharest and on 1 June 2016, in Sochi the Declaration of the Chairmanship-in-Office on Prospects of Cooperation in the Field of Transport in the BSEC Region titled “New opportunities for better transport connectivity” and the Declaration of the BSEC Ministers of Transport, respectively, were adopted.

 

Energy

 

Country-Coordinator: Russian Federation (1 July 2015 – 30 June 2017)

 

The BSEC Working Group on Energy has been elaborating on the possibility of establishing an integrated energy market in the BSEC Region. The “Draft Outline of the BSEC Strategy on Energy till 2020” and the “Regional Energy Study”, elaborated by the BSEC International Center for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS), as well as the issues on development of electrical interconnection among the Member States and exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons resources of the Black Sea also remain on the agenda.

In implementation of the “Sofia Declaration on the Establishment of an Integrated Black Sea Energy Market” (January 2010), a draft Memorandum of Intent has been developed in cooperation with the BSEC Related Bodies and international organizations, defining in particular: the general and specific goals of establishing a BSEC regional energy market; the concept of a BSEC regional energy market; a mechanism for implementation and monitoring, with the aim to advance towards the goals defined in the MOI.

This long-term process is still going on to identify concrete projects, which could attract the active involvement of the private sector, particularly in the fields of electrical interconnection and exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons resources, and to explore possibilities of adequate financing schemes by national and international institutions.

The delegation of the Republic of Armenia informed the participants of the Meeting of the Working Group held on 25-26 May 2016 on the interest of the Energy Research Institute of Armenia to be involved in the process of developing electrical interconnection in the Black Sea region.

One of the initiatives, provided for by the 2010 Declaration, has been embedded in the Green Energy Development Task Force, which was operating within the framework of the Group. The Task Force was focused on the creation of a Network of cooperation between national administrative bodies mandated to promote renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures and policies, which is essential for exchanging information and for sharing know-how and good practices among the Member States.

In December 2014 the mission of the Task Force was transmitted to the Working Group. It is considering the possibility to stimulate investments in the development of environmentally friendly energy technologies, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency projects. The Green Energy Strategy Paper is being developed. A number of projects on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency have been implemented with the support from the BSEC Hellenic Development Fund.

The delegation of the Republic of Armenia made a presentation on renewable energy resources of Armenia at the above-mentioned Meeting of the Working Group (May 2016) and provided the basic document on “Renewable Energy Roadmap for Armenia” elaborated by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of the Republic of Armenia.

The issue on improvement of investment opportunities in the BSEC energy sector for upgrading infrastructure and promoting energy efficiency has been included on the agenda of the Group as a follow-up of the Declaration of the Ministers in charge of Energy of the BSEC Member States adopted in April 2011. With this regard, the Member States are discussing the possibility of establishing a Regional Energy Infrastructure Fund (Sofia Declaration, 2010).

A number of Ministerial declarations have been adopted in the field with firm commitments by the Member States to develop the regional energy cooperation in the most comprehensive way. In implementation of the Declaration of the Ministers in charge of Energy of the BSEC Member States (April 2012) on the Enhancement of the Gas Infrastructure Development, the policies and the projects the interested Member States undertook or envisage for exploring their shale gas potential, the issues on development of shale gas industry, the use of shale gas for electricity production and possibilities for improvement of investment opportunities in the energy sector of the BSEC Member States for upgrading infrastructure and promoting energy efficiency in the BSEC Region have been put on the agenda.

Since 2008, when the BSEC Ministers of Energy adopted the road map Declaration on the BSEC-EU interaction, cooperation with international organizations and specialized agencies has been enhancing, embracing, inter alia, the OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities office (approaching to energy security and cooperation, emphasizing the added value OSCE can bring in fostering regional cooperation), the Energy Charter Secretariat (know-how and expertise acquired, in particular in developing legal instruments governing international cooperation in energy sector and the potential to further develop the cooperation relationships between the Energy Charter Secretariat and the BSEC Organization by joint activities beneficial to all BSEC Member States), the Energy Policy and Development Centre of Athens (KEPA) (proposals for cooperation activities), etc.

Activities are going on within the Japanese initiative on “How to Implement Energy Management Standards in the BSEC Countries”.

In June 2013, the Working Group subscribed to the themes approved in the document on “The Way Forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the Economic Agenda; Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”, on which the Group focused on in 2013-2015, in order to implement the goals set by the Economic Agenda, namely: Enhancing cooperation among the BSEC Member States in the energy sector, including through the elaboration of common approaches (i.e. Green Energy Strategy) and projects, where possible; Developing a competitive regional energy market through supporting investments in energy infrastructure, with the view to increase energy security, interconnectivity and further diversify energy sources and routes; Further promoting the development of the projects on interconnection of electric power systems of the BSEC Member States.

In December 2015 the Group decided on the following three main priorities for the 2nd Action Plan of the BSEC 2012 Economic Agenda (2016-2018):

- Enhancing cooperation among the BSEC Member States in the energy sector, including through the elaboration of common approaches and projects, where possible.

- Developing a competitive regional energy market through supporting investments in energy infrastructure, with the view to increase energy security, interconnectivity and further diversify energy sources and routes.

- Encouraging cooperation among the Member States to define a Green Energy Strategy with the view to promoting renewable energy sources, clean technologies and energy efficiency.

In April 2014, the following project proposals templates were introduced by the BSEC Secretariat: Elaboration of a draft MOI for implementation of the Sofia Declaration on the establishment of an Integrated Black Sea Energy Market; Undertaking a study on increasing energy interconnectivity in the BSEC Region and Launching a BSEC Energy Conservation Campaign.

The Group is advancing in implementation of the BSEC PDF projects in energy sector.

 

Agriculture and Agro-Industry

 

Coordinating Body: BSEC PERMIS

 

Over the previous years, the cooperation in the field had been focused mainly on the priority issues on further development of the BSEC agriculture trade market, improvement of the export-import procedures, food safety, development and harmonization of the mechanisms for revealing and preventing non-secure products at the border, etc.

Presently, the major topics of cooperation and exchange of information and experience in the field of food safety among central competent authorities and national reference laboratories of the Member States (in particular, practical mechanism of control at the borders, including the mutual recognition of certification issued in the BSEC Member States has been presented in this regard) and on harmonizing the labeling standards for food production have been on the agenda of the relevant Working Group.

In order to facilitate the coherent and effective implementation of the new BSEC Economic Agenda, the document on “The Way forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the Economic Agenda towards an enhanced BSEC Partnership” has been adopted. The Working Group on Agriculture and Agro-Industry considered and confirmed the three priorities in the field of Food Security and Safety, as follows: Improving sustainable rural productivity and enhancing the international competitiveness of the Member States in food and agricultural products, in particular through: facilitating the access to new technologies and know-how, scaling up managerial innovations and harmonization and adoption of quality standards for products; Promoting exchange of information, experience and best practices among the competent authorities, national reference laboratories, agrarian research and education institutions and the private sector enterprises in the fields of agriculture, agro-industry and food safety in the Member States; Promoting regional cooperation for the sustainable management of fishery resources.

The Group is elaborating on new priorities of cooperation within the 2nd Action Plan of the BSEC 2012 Economic Agenda for 2016-2018. 

The progress within these topics will largely depend on the relevant project proposals, including those from the BSEC Observers and the Sectoral Dialogue Partners, as well as the prospects of cooperation between BSEC and EU, FAO and other specialized international organizations. In this context, the launching of the EU project on “Integrated Maritime Policy for the Black Sea” and the BSEC-FAO pilot project on “Promoting Risk Assessment of Food Hazards at a Country Level and Strengthening the Analytical Capacity of National Laboratories in the BSEC Member States” could bring an added value to the possibility of elaborating and implementing further projects in the field. Discussions on enhancing the regional cooperation in the field of fisheries and aquaculture are going on following up the BSEC-EU cooperation and with FAO and other international organizations active in the field of fisheries.

The issue on radiation control and GMO has been on the agenda upon the initiative of the BSEC PERMIS.

The Group is examining the possibility of the establishment of subsidiary organs in order to promote cooperation in the specific areas.

The Declaration on securing the supply of the safe food, adopted by the BSEC Ministers of Agriculture in October 2011, has been the BSEC first ever document on enhancing cooperation of this kind. The activities of the Group, which are in line with the major provisions of the Declaration and the proposals and recommendations by the BSEC Related Bodies, including one on a joint pilot project supported by the financial mechanism of the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, are aimed to serve the same purpose.

According to the decision by the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Republic of Turkey will coordinate the activities of the Group since January 2017.

 

Small and Medium Entrepreneurship

 

Country-Coordinator: Republic of Turkey (1 January 2014 – 31 December 2015)

 

A number of initiatives and programs have been for a long time discussed within the framework of cooperation in the field. The “Visiting Incubator/Technology Parks and Exchange of Best Practices, Knowledge and Experience among the BSEC Member States”, the establishment of the BSEC Quality Award for SMEs from the BSEC Region, “Women and Entrepreneurship”, “SMEs in the Time of Global Crisis”, “Green Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development” and others are among them.

In 2013-2015 the relevant Working Group was focusing its activities on the following three priorities within the framework of the document on “The Way Forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the Economic Agenda Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”: Increasing the competitiveness of the SMEs by creating fair conditions at both national and regional levels and undertaking regular surveys on SMEs’ needs, priorities and problems in the BSEC Region; Focusing on high technology, innovation, clusters, industrial-technology and software parks and business incubators as concrete instruments to facilitate SME start-ups in the Member States and to encourage entrepreneurship, competitiveness and cooperation with large companies in the BSEC Region; Developing a support system for innovation and technology at BSEC region, with the view to promoting cooperation among SMEs and the university environment, or research and development institutions.

Under the mentioned priorities the following project proposal has been set forth: “Project on Promoting Innovation and Entrepreneurial Culture in the BSEC Member States and Exchanging Experience on Energy Efficiency Policies and Practices for SMEs”. It will be implemented through soft activities and joint events.

In November 2015 the following three priorities were identified by the Working Group for the next medium-term (2016-2018) for the implementation of the Economic Agenda:

  • Developing BSEC programs aimed at promoting favorable conditions for local businesses and foreign investments; facilitating networking, exchange of experiences and know-how; organizing training for young entrepreneurs.
  • Promoting and supporting access to finance to SMEs which produce green products and services.
  • Finalizing the establishment of the BSEC Quality Award for SMEs.

Research on a BSEC model for establishing a Business Incubator for SME Start-ups was conducted by the BSEC PERMIS in order to contribute to the priority on “Focusing on high technology, innovation, clusters, industrial-technology and software parks and business incubators as concrete instruments to facilitate SME start-ups in the Member States and to encourage entrepreneurship, competitiveness and cooperation with large companies in the BSEC Region”.

The Group is descending majorly on promotion of energy efficiency in SMEs, in particular: Sharing information and experiences on “Energy Efficiency in the SME Sector; Financial Instruments and Credit Mechanisms for Green Transformation in SMEs; Eco-Innovation and Eco-Design, Low Carbon Technologies”; Energy Efficiency Electronic Best Practice Booklet; B2B Sessions (joint projects, joint ventures, trade), technology park and incubator visits and awareness seminars among the Member States under the coordination of the BSEC Business Council; Energy efficiency audits; BSEC Innovation Data Bank; Creation and promotion of instruments regarding the SME; Exchange and support of the Venture Capital Trust.

A draft template of the electronic “Best Practices Booklet” has already been proposed, which would collect best practices of the BSEC Member States in promoting energy efficiency on SMEs. There was a proposal on exchange of experience and best practices in promoting youth entrepreneurship:

The cooperation with international organizations is continuing mainly with the International Network for Small and Medium Enterprises (sectoral dialogue partner of BSEC), UNDP (in particular, within the Black Sea Trade and Investment Promotion Programme on possibilities of strengthening the collaboration between BSTIP Climate and Business Initiative and the BSEC Working Group on SMEs), the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation (KAS, joint undertakings in energy, green economy, agriculture etc), Union for the Mediterranean and some other agencies.

On 14-15 April 2016, the BSEC-KAS Joint Workshop on “SMEs and Green Economy” was organized in Kiev, where the Armenian delegation took constructive part.

At the Meeting of the Working Group held in Moscow on 27 May 2016 the BSEC Secretariat informed that the next BSEC-KAS Joint Workshop is envisaged to take place during the second half of 2016 in the Republic of Armenia, on a topic to be identified later.

 

Information and Communication Technologies

 

Coordinating Body: BSEC PERMIS

 

The Joint Declarations, adopted by the Ministers in charge in 2006 and 2009, and the “Joint Declarations of the Forum of the Black Sea Broadcasting Regulatory Authorities” (since 2008) have been the road map for cooperation in the field of ICT. Since 2009 a number of projects, such as the “Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway” and the “Mediterranean - Black Sea Interconnection”, have been initiated by the Member States.

Currently, the main pillars of the activities of the respective Working Group comprise promotion of the ICT cooperation among the Member States with the enhanced review of the recent developments in the field, improvement and growth of ICT sector, bridging digital divide, which will directly influence the socio-economic development in the region.

The Group is elaborating on its future actions in line with the Istanbul Summit Declaration on the Occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of BSEC (June 2012), documents on the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” and “The Way Forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the “Economic Agenda towards: an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” (Sustainable information society with advanced Information and Communication Technology infrastructure) (2013-2015 and 2016-2018).

The successful implementation of the project on “Technology Transfer Network for the BSEC Region”, initiated by the Republic of Armenia in 2011 within the BSEC Project Development Fund (PDF), as well as the active involvement of the Republic of Korea, Japan and France in cooperation in the field resulted in a number of new initiatives, among which the Armenian proposal on the BSEC ICT Incubators Association concept (2012), have been a follow-up undertaking to the mentioned PDF project.

Following the relevant decision, the Government of the Republic of Korea engaged in thematic workshops on e-government in a number of Member States (Korea-BSEC ICT Cooperation Program). The Government of France initiated undertakings on new audiovisual broadcasting technologies (BSEC-France-BRAF Seminar on “New Audiovisual Broadcasting Technologies and the New Economic Models Arising from Them“).

The High-Level Conference on ICT of the BSEC Member States was held in Yerevan on 5 October 2013 under the Armenian Chairmanship-in-Office of BSEC, where the initiative on the establishment of the BSEC ICT Incubators Association was adopted. The ICT incubators and similar entities of the BSEC Member States were invited to elaborate on their proposals to be considered as practical steps towards this end.

The concept and the project proposal were undergone a number of revisions by the experts on the ground and within the BSEC Project Management Unit (PMU), and the final draft project on the “Establishment of a BSEC ICT Incubators Association” was officially circulated on 21 November 2014 with the positive assessment by PMU. The project is to be labeled accordingly with the aim to be presented to the relevant financial institutions.

 

Science and Technology

 

Country-Coordinator: Republic of Azerbaijan (1 July 2014 – 30 June 2016)

 

The Joint Statement, adopted by the Ministers in charge of Science and Technology in 2007, had been the road map for cooperation in the field, which was being exercised within the framework of the respective Working Group’s 2-nd General Action Plan for 2010-2014. The Group is now engaged in implementing the new Action Plan for 2014-2018.

Since the meeting of the Ministers in charge held in April 2010 progress has been achieved in implementation of the 2010-2014 Plan, which envisaged main areas of cooperation such as human resources, capacity building, research infrastructure, innovation, synergies, multilateral, including those of the BSEC Project Development Fund projects, etc. In 2010 The Ministers adopted the Declaration, in which they declared commitment to further strengthen regional cooperation in the fields of scientific research and technological development as a major driving force of dynamic and sustainable economic growth and prosperity for the peoples in the region.

This resulted in enhancement of cooperation within the framework of the BSEC-USA Memorandum of Intents (November 2010) with introduction of the list of research project proposals, and of the BSEC-EU cooperation, where the new concrete proposals have been introduced.

Cooperation between BSEC and UN, EU, as well as other international organizations (the Group’s permanent agenda item) is being exercised within the framework of the so-called “Framework Program – 7 (FP-7)”, under which several initiatives have been introduced (“EU International Strategy for Research and Innovation”, “S&T International Cooperation Network for Eastern European and Central Asian Countries”, etc). The so-called FP – 8 program on “Horizon 2020” (science and technology, research and innovation) has been also presented, within the framework of which the Armenian project proposal on “CANDLE Light Source in the Republic of Armenia” was set forward.

The SEAS-ERA project and the Black Sea Strategic Agenda Document put forward the priorities for the Black Sea in marine research. Developments are going on with regard to the Black Sea Research Programme (BSRP) being implemented under the Black Sea ERA.NET and the “ERA.NET-RUS” projects. The Training Schools are being provided for the promotion and application of the EU Marine Environmental Policy Frameworks in non-EU Mediterranean and Black Sea Countries.

The 8th International Black Sea Symposium on “Science, Technology and Innovation in the Black Sea: Moving Forward” was organized in Athens on 19-20 November 2015 on the initiative of the International Center for Black Sea Studies.

The Member States are exploring possible ways and means of cooperation on science and technology between BSEC and UNESCO, as well as of practical involvement of young scientists in enhancing cooperation in the field. There was a proposal on possibility of establishment of a special foundation for young scientists.

Within the BSEC Project Development Fund, the project on Experimental Deployment of an Integrated Grid and Cloud Enabled Environment in BSEC Countries on the Base of g-Eclipse”, presented by the Republic of Armenia, has been successfully implemented. Another Armenian project on “Develop and Prepare an Experimental Sample of Data Logger Radon Measuring Device Set with Data Collection Central Controller” is still on-going.

A new Joint Declaration of the Ministers in charge was adopted on 3 December 2014. The Ministers reviewed the progress achieved, the implementation of the General Action Plan of the Group, envisaged by the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”, and approved a new road map for further development of cooperation in the field, which could also have an impact on the intra-regional cooperation.

With this regard, the Group agreed to focus on the following priorities contained in “The Way Forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the Economic Agenda Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” (2013-2015): Focusing on human resources, capacity building, research infrastructure and innovation as areas of action; Developing a registry of national innovation related structures of the BSEC Member States and creating the conditions for their effective interaction; Facilitating cooperation in the fields of science and technology among the BSEC Member States, the BSEC Related Bodies and with other partners and international organizations in order to encourage co-funding schemes for formulating and implementing regional research projects.

The participants of the Meeting of the Working Group held on 10 November 2015 reconfirmed for the next medium-term (2016-2018) the above-mentioned priorities for cooperation in the field.

 

Banking and Finance

 

Country-Coordinator: Republic of Turkey (1 January 2016 – 31 December 2017)

 

The cooperation in the field comprises primarily the activities on reviewing the recent developments in the banking and financial sectors, exchanging information and sharing experience with particular focusing on impact of economic and financial crises.

A number of proposals have been made within the respective Working Group, aimed at revising the existing documents, updating the Modalities for the BSEC-BSTDB (Black Sea Trade and Development Bank) cooperation (adopted back in 2000) and enhancing regional cooperation to address the recent financial crisis, elaborating a common vision on cooperation, making precise ways and practical mechanisms for cooperation.

In May 2014, there was a proposal on the establishment of a union/association of banks of the BSEC Member States. BSTDB was invited to take part in elaborating a relevant concept.

Three priority areas of cooperation had been identified within the document on “The Way Forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” (2013-2015): Seeking cooperation and support from national institutes and other relevant international bodies in order to provide training of personnel on good practices and evolving standards in the field of banking and finance, through thematic workshops and seminars; Expanding, where possible, dialogue on issues related to banking and financial sector regulations, supervision and exchange of information among the BSEC Member States; Making good use by the BSEC Member States, individually as well as on a collective basis, of the existing framework of the BSTDB and other International Financial Institutions active in the BSEC Region.

The Group had been requested to put forth a list of possible projects in the light of the goals set in the Economic Agenda.

In November 2015 the Group decided on the following three priority areas on which it should focus on during the next medium-term (2016-2018):

  • Seeking cooperation and support from national institutes and other relevant international bodies in order to provide training of personnel on good practices and evolving standards in the field of banking and finance, through thematic workshops and seminars;
  • Expanding, where possible, dialogue on issues related to banking and financial sector regulations, supervision and exchange of information among the BSEC Member States;
  • Exploring opportunities for regional cooperation and coordination in combating crime in banking and financial services.

One of the outcomes of the BSEC Tax Forum, organized in November 2012, was a proposal to turn the Forum into a regular event held under the aegis of BSEC for discussing issues related to the tax evasion in the BSEC Member States.

There was also a proposal (December 2012) on establishing a BSEC mechanism to combat fiscal evasion, with the OECD’s commitment to elaborate a legal framework towards that end. The relevant concept was introduced.

The Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes raised an idea of organizing a regional seminar for the BSEC Member States with the possibility of BSEC to become an observer to the Forum.

The Seminar on Tobacco Taxation and Administration, organized in cooperation with the Secretariat of the World Health Organization on 24-25 June 2013, focused mainly on the following issues: The challenges surrounding processes of taxation and administration of tobacco products; International cooperation on global and regional level to reduce healthcare and social costs of tobacco use; Designing new tax policies and administration systems; and Consideration of the suppression of the smuggling of tobacco products as a way to promote public health and increase revenues as well as minimize other harmful economic and social effects of tobacco production and consumption.

There has been an ongoing cooperation among BSEC and the World Health Organization (WHO) in the field of health and finance areas of tobacco control. The Draft MOU on cooperation between WHO and BSEC is in the process of developing and the two organizations are discussing the possibility of holding joint seminars entitled “Tobacco Tax and the Role of Ministries of Health” and “Tobacco Tax and Illicit Trade: Evidence by BSEC Member States”.

 

Budget and Finances

 

Country-Coordinator: Hellenic Republic (1 January 2016 – 31 December 2017)

 

The major activities of the relevant Working Group are being aimed mainly on the specific responsibilities related to formulation of the BSEC budget on the basis of sustainability, transparency and project-orientation, consideration of the mid-year, yearly and auditing reports on implementation of the budget, cooperation with the Secretariat in coordinating the financial transactions and saving relocations, elaboration of amendments to the legal papers on financial responsibilities, regulating within the Financial Regulations and Procedures and the BSEC Regulations for the Staff of the Secretariat’s overall activities (interpretation, labor rights, harmonization of salary scales, computer infrastructure) and others.

The Group is acting in close cooperation with the Chairmanship-in-Office and the Secretariat towards improving the legal and concept frameworks, the existing mechanisms for financial transactions and introducing the updated operational schemes, using the best practices of other international organizations.

The Group has recently embarked on discussion on the issue of reviewing the scale of Mandatory Annual Contributions by the Member States taking into account the ongoing process of reshuffling within the framework of the respective groups of contributors and the inevitable financial consequences resulted in. 

The Audit Reports of 2008, 2009 and 2010 budgets still remain to be adopted depending, inter alia, on the developments regarding the court cases of the former PERMIS accountant.

 

Institutional Renewal and Good Governance

 

Country-Coordinator: Republic of Bulgaria (1 July 2015 - 30 June 2017)

 

Since the “Joint Declaration on Institutional Renewal and Good Governance of the Ministers in Charge of Public Administration of the BSEC Member States” (April 2007), the agenda of the respective Working Group has been incorporating the major subjects of cooperation relative to reviewing and exchanging information on national policies on reforming the public institutions and improving the governance capacities in the BSEC Member States, developing the public administration services and governance, improving the civil servant institute efficiency, as well as projecting new technologies, linked with the electronic circulation of information.

With this regard, the “Mulberry” system, introduced by the Republic of Armenia, was a success and could be utilized by the Member States as a pattern for further cooperation.

The Group is making further efforts to comprehensively update its agenda on the basis of best practices and proposals by the Member States in conformity with the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” (2012).

The recent proposal on consideration of the issue on national systems of technical inspection of motor vehicles in the BSEC Member States and the Draft Modalities on possibility of partnership collaboration between the relevant structures of international organizations and the Group, as well as the concrete project proposals, incorporated in the Group’s Plans of Action, could constitute the initial steps to this end.

The Group has elaborated on the following priority areas of cooperation in the field within the 2nd Action Plan for implementation of the BSEC 2012 Economic Agenda (2016-2018):

- Encouraging the BSEC Member States to promote civil society participation in providing good governance through their involvement in processes of securing integrity, transparency and fight against corruption;

- Supporting the efforts of the BSEC Member States with regard to innovation and e-government;

- Initiating training of civil servants in innovative practices, with a view to improving the quality and delivery of public services and the simplification of administrative procedures.

 

Combating Organized Crime

 

Country-Coordinator: Romania (1 July 2015 – 30 June 2017)

 

Since 1996, a number of joint statements and declarations have been adopted by the BSEC Ministers in charge on strengthening cooperation in combating crime, terrorism, trafficking and illegal migration.

The cooperation stepped in the more practical and concrete phase after the signing of the “Agreement among the Governments of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Participating States on Cooperation in Combating Crime, in Particular in its Organized Forms” in 1998 and its additional protocol (2002), as well as the “Additional Protocol on Combating Terrorism” to the Agreement (2004).

The 2006 Joint Declaration resulted in creating the more project-oriented agenda of cooperation. The Ministers in charge adopted in November 2012 the Joint Declaration on “Strengthening Cooperation in the Field of Fight Against Transnational Crimes, in Particular Smuggling, Trafficking in Human Beings, Trafficking of Light Weapons, Economic, Financial Crimes and Terrorism”.

As is seen, the legal and operational basis of cooperation within the relevant Working Group is solid and comprehensive, which gives an additional impact on renewing the agenda in accordance with international developments. The BSEC-UNODC joint project on “Strengthening the Criminal Justice Response to Trafficking in Persons in the Black Sea Region” is being implemented through the “Regional Action Plan on Cooperation in the Field of Criminal Justice Response to Trafficking in Persons in the Black Sea Region” by means of the “Model Guide on Strengthening the National Criminal Justice Response to Trafficking in Persons in the Black Sea Region”.

The Group has been for years elaborating the draft of “Annual Review with an Assessment of the Trends of Trans-National Crime in the BSEC Region”.

Among the other projects on cooperation in the field are “Preventing Terrorist Travel – Sharing Best Practices”, ”Migration Policy in the Black Sea Region”, etc.

New developments have been registered recently in the Group’s activities: the involvement, along with the Network of Liaison Officers on combating crime, of statistical experts in elaboration of the mentioned Annual Review and the UNODC’s revised project proposal, aiming to provide further technical assistance in implementing the mentioned Action Plan.

The Group has accomplished implementing the provisions of the “Way Forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the Economic Agenda towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership for 2013-2015”.

At the Meeting of the Group held on 26-27 November 2015 the following priorities were agreed upon for the second Medium-Term (2016-2018) of implementation of the “BSEC Economic Agenda 2012”:

- strengthening the cooperation among the BSEC Member States in combating organized crime activities, such as the trafficking of human beings, drugs, weapons and radioactive materials, corruption, smuggling of motor vehicles and cyber-crime as well as the money laundering and illicit financial activities,

- enhancing cooperation with other international organizations on combating organized crime, corruption and terrorism and using their expertise and the expertise of the networks of law enforcement agencies involved in these fields,

- supporting the work of the BSEC Network of Liaison Officers on Combating Crime.

The Draft BSEC Action Plan on regional efforts to prevent and combat corruption has been agreed upon and cooperation in the field has been established.

The enlargement of cooperation with other related international institutions would be considered as a next concrete step on the way to enhance cooperation in this important field.

According to the decision by the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, since 1 July 2017 the Group will be coordinated by the Republic of Turkey.

 

Emergency Assistance

 

Coordinating Body: BSEC PERMIS

 

Since 2000 a number of joint statements and declarations have been adopted by the BSEC Ministers in charge of emergency assistance and numerous events (workshops, conferences, trainings) have been arranged as follow-up of the provisions of the “Agreement among the Governments of the Participating States of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation on Collaboration in Emergency Assistance and Emergency Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters”, adopted in 1998 and its Additional Protocol.

The respective Working Group has been running its activities within the legal and operational frameworks of cooperation, envisaged by the mentioned Agreement, through a number of mechanisms including the Network of the liaison officers and the ad hoc groups of experts on seismic risk, massive forest fires and floods and torrents.

The priorities of cooperation on this solid institutional basis have been defined in the Declaration of Ministers in charge (October 2011), the two-year Plan of Action of the Group and in the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”, in particular, in the document on “The Way Forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the Economic Agenda; Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” on which the Working Group on Emergency Assistance focused on in 2013-2015: Strengthening cooperation in implementing the Agreement among the Governments of the BSEC Member States on Collaboration in Emergency Assistance and Emergency Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters and its Additional Protocol; Enhancing coordination among the BSEC Member States in preventing and eliminating the consequences of natural and man-made disasters and on providing humanitarian assistance and help on protection of environment in case of emergency situations or imminent threat thereof; Encouraging the establishment of BSEC expert bodies to deal with massive forest fires and floods.

The Group was highly consistent in implementing the priority tasks by setting forward project proposals (in cooperation with international organizations) and sharing the best practices in activities in prevention and overcoming the consequences of emergencies in the Member States, monitoring the seismic safety of infrastructures, exercising disaster and emergency management, etc.

One of the trainings on the response in emergencies was organized in Gyumri (Republic of Armenia) commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Spitak disaster.

On 9-10 June 2015 the Expert Seminar on “Experience of the BSEC Member States on studies of seismic risk” was organized by the EMERCOM of the Russian Federation in Sochi.

The Fourth International Conference of Seismic Protection Association of the BSEC countries (SEISMO-BSEC-2016) held in Sochi on 13-14 April 2016.

The Group has elaborated on the following new priorities of cooperation within the 2nd Action Plan of the BSEC 2012 Economic Agenda (2016-2018):

  • Strengthening cooperation in implementing the “Agreement among the Governments of the Participating States of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation on Collaboration in Emergency Assistance and Emergency Response to Natural and Man-made Disasters”, and its Additional Protocol,
  • Enhancing coordination among the BSEC Member States in preventing and eliminating consequences of natural and man-made disasters and on providing humanitarian assistance and help on protection of environment in case of emergency situations or imminent threat thereof,
  • Promoting organization of regional trainings, seminars and scientific conferences aimed at the achievement of better application of joint efforts in case of emergency and increase of awareness about the best practices used in emergency situations with a special attention to the Liaison Officers of the relevant BSEC Network.

Ministers in charge committed themselves to smooth implementation of these priorities in the Joint Statement adopted in Sochi on 8 June 2016.

The issue of coordinatorship of the Group and the subordinate bodies is also on the agenda, taking the fact that four Member States (Russia, Turkey, Romania and Greece) has recently applied for it.

Japan as BSEC Sectoral Dialogue Partner is enhancing its activities in cooperation in the field by organizing seminars on emergency assistance with participation of the country’s experts.

A number of initiatives by the Member States were proposed recently on the establishment of an International Association of Seismologists, a Ring of Emergency Warning in the Black Sea Region, the possibility of inclusion of youth and sports issues in the agenda of cooperation, and others.

 

Environment

 

Country-Coordinator: Romania (1 January 2016 – 31 December 2017)

 

The cooperation in the field of nature protection has been exercising within the frameworks of the Joint Declarations adopted by the BSEC Ministers in charge in 2006 and 2011, as well as the BSEC-EU Declaration adopted in 2008. In 2011 the Platform for Cooperation within the “Eastern Partnership” framework, as well as the “Joint Declaration on Regional Cooperation in the Field of Environment Protection” and the “Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of the Black Sea Environment Partnership” were adopted.

The international organizations are actively involved in cooperation in the field. The UN Environment Program has initiated the “Black Sea Region: The Future We Want” project within the “Rio 20” forum. Among the numerous projects, which have been introduced, there were priority project initiatives on “Introducing Climate Change in the Environmental Strategy for the Protection of the Black Sea” (UNDP), “Legal Framework for a Green Economy within BSEC Member States – Regional Review and Dialogue on Systems and Perspectives” (German International Cooperation Agency, GIZ), “Black Sea Turns Green” and others.

The relevant Working Group is currently performing concrete activities towards enhancing the cooperation in the field, undertaking debates on latest developments in environment legislation of the Member States and in different spheres of cooperation, including those with international organizations, to address the climate change and its negative consequences.

The “Working Paper on the Possible Means of Strengthening the Cooperation of the BSEC with International Organizations Dealing with Issues of the Protection and Rehabilitation of the Black Sea Marine Environment” was also on the agenda of the Group.

The following project proposals have been introduced for further consideration: Strengthening the competent authorities’ capacity and the cooperation for the control of the transboundary waste transport in order to face illegal traffic; Improving the transboundary management of water resources; Developing the management of environmental risk and management of protected areas.

The Group is elaborating new priorities of cooperation in the field within the framework of the 2nd Action plan of implementation of the BSEC 2012 Economic Agenda (2016-2018).

Two Ministerial Declarations on combating climate change and on climate change and green economy (November 2010 and April 2012), the proposals on establishing a BSEC information exchange mechanism for environmental protection, reviewing the 2006 General Action Plan of the Group in conformity with the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”, drafting a BSEC-EU Memorandum of Understanding and others, the project-resulted activities within the framework of the BSEC Project Development Fund could bring an additional value as a basis for further undertakings within the Group.

In June 2013 the decision of the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs was adopted encouraging the Group to proceed with elaboration of the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in the BSEC Region in view of its earliest adoption.

 

Healthcare and Pharmaceutics

 

Country-Coordinator: Hellenic Republic (1 July 2016 – 30 June 2018)

 

The Plan of Action of the relevant Working Group envisages the implementation of the priority tasks of cooperation in the field, such as the enhancement of cooperation in preventing and combating infectious diseases, the permanent exchange of information on epidemiological situation in the Member States, practical experience and training on prevention measures and measures of diagnostics and treatment of contagious diseases.

There have been undertaking several concrete steps towards the implementation of the Plan of Action, such as the establishment of priorities for the project proposals within the BSEC Project Development Fund, the proposal on establishment of a network for the epidemiological surveillance and response to public health threats within the BSEC Region, etc.

In October 2013 the Draft Terms of Reference of the Ad Hoc Expert Group was introduced with the aim to establish the epidemiological surveillance and response to health threats within the BSEC Region.

The first Meeting of the Group on Establishment of a Network for the Emergency Preparedness and Response within the BSEC Region was held in Athens on 7 July 2014, where the relevant project and the Modalities of operation were presented.

The Network was endorsed by the Declaration of the Ministers in Charge of Healthcare of the BSEC Member States at the first ever Ministerial Meeting held in Athens on 29 September 2014.

The Group has been making efforts to proceed with the internal procedures in the Member States to sign the draft “Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Sanitary Protection of the Territories of the BSEC Member States”, endorsed in December 2011.

The BSEC PERMIS has been in informal discussions with representatives of WHO to formalize cooperation between the two organizations, in particular, in the sphere of tobacco taxation.

The respective Declaration of the Ministers in Charge of Healthcare of the BSEC Member States on Enhanced Tobacco Control Measures for Better Social and Economic Development was adopted in Chisinau on 5 June 2015.

On 28 June 2016 in Moscow the BSEC Ministers in Charge signed the “Memorandum of Understanding on Information Exchange and Coordination in the Sphere of Quality Assurance of Medicines” and adopted a Joint Declaration, which will have additional value in furthering the cooperation in the field.

 

Tourism

 

Coordinating Body: BSEC PERMIS

 

In 2005 and 2010, the “Joint Declaration on Cooperation in Tourism” and the “Declaration of the Ministers in Charge of Tourism of the Member States of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation” were adopted by the BSEC Ministers in Charge. Since ever, a number of joint statements, proposals, protocols and project initiatives have been introduced by the Member States for enhancing cooperation in the field, including those on institutional structure frameworks (establishing a common BSEC tourism marketing council, creating a branding of the BSEC Region) and on areas of cooperation (cultural tourism, developing a maritime, nautical and cruise tourism, balneology, wellness and spa tourism, creative tourism, etc). They have been discussed for several years within the respective Working Group, but with no practical outcomes for some of them.

On 10 October 2013 the Ministers in Charge of Tourism adopted a new Joint Declaration on enhancing cooperation in the field on the basis of recent developments in international area.

Concrete developments have been registered with respect to the initiative on University Environment Integration for Specialist Training in Tourism: the draft Agreement on International Research and Education Consortium of Universities in the Member States of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Tourism was elaborated and the Coordination Board to run the project was established, a number of relevant events have been and are being scheduled to be organized.

The proposals were made on “Multicultural Character of the Black Sea Region as a Tourism Resource” and on announcing the “Year of Tourism”, which could be developed as new concept of tourism cooperation among the BSEC Member States.

The priority tasks, defined in the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” and its 2nd Action Plan for 2016-2018, as well as the thorough implementation of the provisions of the above-mentioned documents, including also through elaboration of the projects, should have impact on increasing the synergy in the Group’s activities. Furthermore, the acceleration of exchange of views on national policies and best practices, the result-oriented events in the Member States and constructive participation in them, the elaboration of the BSEC Project Development Fund projects on the basis of agreed priorities, the publication of an annual report for tourism activities in the Member States and other undertakings will highly contribute also to the implementation of the tasks, stipulated by the “BSEC Public Communication Strategy”.

In this context, there was a proposal to establish a Black Sea Media Forum on the web-portal “Black Sea News”.

The "Black Sea Tourism Summit" was held in January 2013, which was followed by the annual tourism exhibition.

In June 2014 the Draft MOU between the UN World Tourism Organization and the Organization of BSEC was adopted by the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The draft was signed in Athens on 23 October 2014 at the Meeting of the BSEC Ministers in Charge of Tourism, where a new Joint Declaration was adopted. Two more areas of cooperation on wine and gastronomy tourism and on film-induced tourism were introduced by the Declaration.

The Draft Action Plan on implementation of the Athens Declaration (October 2014) has been elaborated, to be adopted by the BSEC Ministers in Charge of Tourism.

In the meanwhile, the Member States presented new proposals for cooperation, including those of joint project on wine routes, alternative and “green” tourism, inclusion of youth and sports issues in tourism, etc. All these issues were among others embodied in the Joint Declaration of the Ministers in Charge of Culture and Tourism of the BSEC Member States adopted at the Ministerial Conference held on 23 June 2016 in Sochi.

 

Culture

 

Country-Coordinator: Republic of Moldova (1 January 2016 – 31 December 2017)

 

In 2007 the Ministers in charge of Culture of the BSEC Member States adopted a Statement on enhancing cooperation in the field. As a follow-up, a number of project proposals, such as the “Networks of Cooperation in the Field of Contemporary Culture”, “Cultural Itinerary”, “Intercultural Dialogue”, “Cultural News of the Black Sea Region”, “Black Sea Cultural Project (Cilicia)” were initiated by the Member States.

The recent proposals in the field envisage publication of pieces of the Member States classical literature and thematic calendars, elaboration of the projects on BSEC hospitality and cultural capitals, ways and means of youth and sports issues inclusion in the process of cooperation, etc.

The priority has been given, inter alia, to the strengthening and bolstering the cultural cooperation and the contacts among the Member States, exchanging views on inventory data, conservation and overall monitoring of the cultural assets, thus encouraging creativity and stimulating innovation and economic development, as well as with international organizations (UNDP, Council of Ministers of Culture of South-East Eurօpe) through participation in the cultural events, online platform, virtual library, newsletter, etc.

The following priorities had been agreed upon within the framework of the “BSEC Economic Agenda” in conformity with the Action Plan on “The way forward on the implementation of the Economic Agenda” (2013-2015): Promoting the restoration of major architectural monuments which are symbols of national and regional culture and care projects of the architectural heritage on the territory of the BSEC Member States and Developing cooperation in combating illicit trafficking of cultural property belonging to the archaeological, historical, ethnographical heritage and the arts, inter alia through exchange of information to facilitate the return of lost or illegally exported cultural values within the existing legislation. The Group cooperated on the basis of these priorities considering new proposals on priority issues of cooperation.

There has been a proposal on “Multicultural Character of the Black Sea Region as a Tourism Resource” as a new concept of tourism cooperation among the BSEC Member States.

The proposals on the interactive online platform and newsletter (web-site) for the BSEC Working Group on Culture and on “Creativity Industries in Culture”, as well as the drafts MOU on “Developing cooperation in combating illicit trafficking of cultural property” and on the Protection of Cultural Heritage among the BSEC Member States  are being revised presently.

The draft MOU on Cooperation between BSEC and the UN Alliance of Civilizations was signed in Baku on 26 April 2016.

The Group has elaborated on new priorities of cooperation within the 2nd Action Plan of implementation of the BSEC 2012 Economic Agenda (2016-2018), which are as follows:

-Encouraging Cultural tourism/Cultural routes projects in the Black Sea Region and their implementation;

-Developing cooperation in combating illicit trafficking of cultural property belonging to the archaeological, historical, ethnographical heritage and the arts, inter alia through exchange of information to facilitate the return of lost or illegally exported cultural values within the existing legislation.

The cooperation within the respective Working Group is going on also through the intensification of exchange of views on cultural heritage, thus promoting the BSEC cultural tourism projects, which have been on the agenda of the Group for several years, and ones within the frameworks of the BSEC Project Development Fund. The projects on “The Routes of Rose”, “The Routes of Coinage”, “Cultural Tourism Routes of the Roman Emperors”, “The Silk Road”, “Legend of Argonauts”, “Vine and Wine Routes: Armenia”, “Wine Routes of Azerbaijan”, proposed by the Member States, the UNIDO’s “Alliances for Cultural Tourism in the Black Sea Region” and the “Wine Cultural Tourism Exchange Project” (WCTE), initiated by the Council of Europe, are on the priority agenda of the Group, within some of which there have been concrete developments, such as the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation within the project on “The Cultural Tourism Route of the Roman Emperors” by the Republic of Bulgaria, Romania, Republic of Serbia and Republic of Croatia in February 2012.

Among the activities within the project on “Vine and Wine Routes: Armenia” there have been wine festivals organized yearly in the village of Areni and Akhtala.

The Republic of Moldova made a project proposal on the “BSEC Wine Museum Map”.

The Republic of Armenia has joined a number of the BSEC cultural tourism projects and is a proponent for several cultural heritage initiatives, including the project proposal on preservation and restoration of the historical-cultural monuments in the Black Sea Region.

The information is being periodically shared within the Group on participation of the Member States at the “Golden Apricot” Yerevan Annual International Film Festival.

The first ever PDF project in the field on “Literary Ark: Ten Years Later” had been elaborated by Armenia as a lead partner and successfully implemented in 2012. This project has been a part of the Program “Yerevan – World Book Capital 2012 – 500th Anniversary of Armenian Printing.

In September 2013 the BSEC PERMIS was instructed to ask the World Tourism Organization and the Council of Europe to share their experience in implementing cultural tourism/cultural routes projects.

The Ministerial Conference held on 23 June 2016, in Sochi, where the Joint Declaration of the Ministers in Charge of Culture and Tourism of the BSEC Member States was adopted.

 

Education

 

Country-Coordinator: Hellenic Republic (1 January 2016 – 31 December 2017)

 

The Joint Declarations, adopted by the Ministers of Education of the Member States in 2004 and 2005, as well as the Joint Statement by the BSEC high-ranking authorities made in 2007, have been a road map for enhancing cooperation in the field, improving technical and professional efficiency of the educational system. In April 2007 the “Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation among Diplomatic Academies and Institutes of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation” was adopted. 

The development of national frameworks of qualifications to secure compatibility of the educational systems in the BSEC Region, elaboration of joint programs on post-graduate studies and University research and a life-long learning among the relevant institutions of the Member States, conducting a survey on Modality of academic staff and students, introduction of quality assurance in higher education, running a portal, introduction of ICT in education and others are currently among the issues on the agenda for cooperation in education.

The cooperation in the field is going on with the UN Alliance of Civilization, within the projects jointly implemented with other international organizations. The EU Black Sea University project and the UNDP regional project on “Every Drop Matters” and the educational kit entitled “Black Sea Box” and the project on “Entrepreneurial Education for SMEs” (Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation, KAS) are among them.

The Member States are exploring the possible ways and means of cooperation between BSEC and UNESCO.

On 17-18 October 2013 the Regional Meeting of Ministers of Education on the Implementation of the European Higher Education Area for Eastern Partnership and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Countries was held in Yerevan under the Armenian Chairmanship-in-Office of BSEC.

A new impetus to the work of the respective Working Group had been given by implementation of provisions of the “BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” within the framework of priorities defined by the Action Plan for 2013-2015 and the “BSEC Public Communication Strategy”, which contributed to the process of updating the agenda of cooperation within the Group.

The document on “Way Forward for an Action Plan on the Implementation of the “Economic Agenda Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership” had identified the following priority areas of cooperation the Working Group should be focusing its activities on: Encouraging the mobility of academic staff and students among the BSEC Member States, including through bilateral and multilateral agreements and scholarships among higher education institutions (a relevant Questionnaire has been elaborated); Supporting the exchange of information and experiences with regard to the modernization of the educational systems in the BSEC Member States aimed at increasing sustainable growth and the establishment of knowledge based societies; Promoting the scientific research for Sustainable Development of the BSEC Region. 

The Group has elaborated on the following priorities of cooperation within the 2nd Action Plan of implementation of the BSEC 2012 Economic Agenda (2016-2018):

- Supporting the exchange of information and experiences with regard to the modernization of the educational systems in the BSEC Member States aimed at increasing sustainable growth and the establishment of knowledge based societies;

- Encouraging the mobility of academic staff and students among the BSEC Member States, including through bilateral and multilateral agreements and scholarships among higher education institutions.

- Developing the partnership with initiatives by the United Nations and other international organizations devoted to university cooperation on sustainability.

The Group adopted the following priorities also for the PDF financing in the field of Education: Academic mobility between the BSEC Member States; Development of joint university programs; Promoting the scientific research for sustainable development of the BSEC Region.

In May 2013 the Republic of Armenia submitted the draft project on “Implementing the Revised Core Curriculum Based on the Modern Languages Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) in the Republic of Armenia”, to be implemented within the PDF framework.

Within the BSEC Hellenic Development Fund three projects for production of solar energy (Energy Efficiency for a Smart School) have been implemented in the respective schools of the BSEC Member States with educational component, aiming at making pupils more responsible on environmental matters and more conscious of energy uses. It was agreed that the similar projects will be elaborated in the educational institutions in other BSEC Member States.

The project-proposal on integrated virtual environment of higher education in the BSEC Member States on the basis of the portal of education has been recently introduced and the possibility of inclusion of youth and sports issues in cooperation in the field has been proposed for further discussion.

The International Conference on “Professional Education and Economic Needs of the BSEC Region” was held in Chisinau in 24 April 2015 within the framework of the Moldovan Chairmanship-in-Office.

In conformity with one of the priorities within scientific and technical cooperation the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia encouraged the development of the network of scientific and educational organizations. The relevant proposals, which were made during the Meeting of the Working Group held in Moscow on 18-19 May 2016, comprise, inter alia, the academic mobility, internationalization and joint study programs, cooperation among universities for university management efficiency, interaction in research and technology, and others.

 

 

Exchange of Statistics

 

Coordinating Body: BSEC PERMIS

 

Since the last meeting, held in April 1997, the Working Group has not met and no Member State has expressed willingness to coordinate the Group. In the meanwhile, the BSEC new “Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”, adopted in 2012, has prioritized the issue on harmonization and exchange of economic and social statistical data and information.

Presently, the issue is being discussed with the Working Group on Trade and Economic Development.

For the first time in the history of BSEC the high-level Meeting of the Heads of the BSEC National Statistical Offices was organized on 22-23 June 2016 in Moscow. The outcomes of the Meeting, embedded in the adopted Declaration, will bring new breath into cooperation in this important field.

 

Youth and Sports

 

No coordinating body as of today

 

There have been a number of undertakings within this field of cooperation since the establishment of BSEC, in particular, in sports. However, the Working Group has not been formulated.

Following the initiative by the Bulgarian Chairmanship-in-Office of BSEC the Joint Declaration of the Ministers in Charge of Youth and Sports of the BSEC Member States on “Promotion of Youth Cooperation in the Region and Contribution of Sports to Economic Growth and Employment” was adopted in Varna on 25 April 2014.

Currently, the issue on establishment of the relevant Working Group or, as an option, consideration of the youth and sports affairs by other Working Groups, is being discussed within the framework of the BSEC Working Groups, including the Working Group on Organizational Matters.

 

Organizational Matters

 

Accountable to the Committee of Senior Officials

 

Among the major items of cooperation within this Working Group are the issues on way and means for implementation of the provisions of the BSEC new economic agenda (“BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership”) and its Action Plans, as well as the steps towards implementation of the “BSEC Public Communication Strategy”.

The issue on improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of BSEC and the performance of the BSEC PERMIS has been for a long time on the agenda of the Group, which is elaborating on the relevant policy (concept, guidelines, decisions, proposals etc) for further consideration within the BSEC Committee of Senior Officials, following up the implementation of the provisions of Agreements, MՕUs and Declarations, as well as the Resolutions, Decisions and Recommendations of the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

Comprehensive discussions are going on on reforming BSEC and on such practical issues as institutional capacity and practices in the BSEC PERMIS, representation in the Secretariat, appointments in the BSEC PERMIS, staff performance evaluation, communication between the BSEC PERMIS and the Member States, improvement of work programs, organizational issues and renovating the activities of the Working Groups, institute of Country-Coordinatorship of Working Groups, implementation of the Project Management Unit and others.

Financial and legal issues have always been in the limelight of discussions within the Group. Amendments to the Financial Regulations and Procedures of the BSEC PERMIS, to the Regulations for the Staff of the Secretariat, issues related to the review of the scale of mandatory annual contributions and implementation of the HQ Agreement (including with Parliamentary Assembly of BSEC) or granting and extending the Observer and the Sectortal Dialogue Partner status and a number of other important items have been among them. The issue on upgrading the status of the Group is also on the agenda.

There have been discussions on a number of papers and practical proposals on how to enhance cooperation among the Member States, with the BSEC Related Bodies, Observers and Sectoral Dialogue Partners, EU other international organizations, having in mind the recent concrete actions by some of them, as well as within the framework of the BSEC Project Management Union, Project Development and Hellenic Development Funds.

In April and June of 2015 the Modalities of Interaction with the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank and the Action Plan with the Parliamentary Assembly of BSEC, correspondingly, were adopted.

The website of BSEC is: www.bsec-organization.org

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