“The global environment of the European Union (EU) is moving very fast. To keep up with its role as a global player, the EU must be able to react rapidly, whilst adopting a longer term attractive strategy to reinforce its partnership with Southern and Eastern neighbours. The important region of the Black Sea plays a strategic role in implementing these goals”, stated Hande Özsan Bozatli, at the AER 4th Black Sea Summit in Rize, last 4 October.
For three years AER has undertaken the task of gathering all the regions around the Black Sea. Three summits later, the interest in these conferences continues to grow. Indeed, with 150 elected officials, experts and representatives of the civil society present in Rize (TR), the AER Summit has become the main European platform for an effective interregional cooperation around the Black Sea. “These meetings allow us to monitor the economic, energy and transport policies of our neighbours in order to protect our common wealth which is the Black Sea”, announced Nurullah Cakir, Governor of Rize. As an illustration of this cooperation, the Turkish Minister for Trade and Customs, Hayati Yazici, presented the new Silk Road project that will crisscross through the Black Sea and which is aimed at increasing trade between the regions of Europe and Asia.
The discussions were particularly focused on the Cross Border Cooperation (CBC) program and the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
“The Black Sea Basin’s Operational Program 2007-2013 success has been demonstrated by the additional 11 million euros inscribed in the dedicated budget of the European Commission since 2008”, says Laura Bobarnac, representative of the Ministry of Development and regional public administration of Romania.
However, Liliana Pavlova, former Minister of Regional Development of Bulgaria expressed however her concern on the planned reductions of the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI) for the next programming period 2014-2020 : “a lowered budget would jeopardize the crucial role of the Black Sea, a natural bridge between Europe and the Middle East”.
This concern was echoed in the final declaration adopted by the Summit’s participants. AER therefore urges the EU institutions to rapidly reach an agreement on the MFF and the regulatory framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in order to enable the quick start of the program.
Finally, the participants unanimously agreed that AER should become a key actor of the Eastern Partnership and, like the Black Sea, grow into a platform for exchange. As a bridge builder on political, economical, social and human levels, AER requests to become a regional ENP partner so as to ensure better visibility of the regional authorities of the Black Sea to the EU. This will allow them to benefit from a one-stop-shop exchange of good practices.
“It is only by ensuring an adequate budget and a more inclusive governance that we can support the prosperity of the Black Sea Region and ensure a fruitful dialogue”, concluded the AER President.