Priorities of the Chairmanship-in-Office of the Republic of Azerbaijan
in the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC)
(July 1– December 31, 2018)
Chairmanship-in-Office of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation will last from 1 July until 31 December of 2018.
At the core of its Chairmanship-in-Office, Azerbaijan will put the objective of further strengthening BSEC through streamlining the ongoing work aimed at implementing the provisions of the Organisation based on its Charter, BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership as the document that defines strategic objectives of the Organization, the targets set by the Istanbul Summit Declaration, which was adopted on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary Summit, and the resolutions, decisions and recommendations adopted by the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs.
Reforms within BSEC and improving efficiency of the Organization
During its Chairmanship in the Organization, Azerbaijan will pay a particular attention to the following important issues which have a considerable impact on the BSEC activities:
- Continuation of the reform process launched within the framework of the Organization, acceleration and completion of the process concerning the outstanding issues with regard to the finalisation of discussion on the contents of Statutory Documents, and, where required and feasible, taking up additional endeavours towards streamlining and increasing the efficiency of the activities of working groups, steering committees and Permanent International Secretariat (BSEC PERMIS);
- Endorsement of a relevant provision in the Statutory Documents reflecting on the need to ensure a representation of all Member States in the BSEC PERMIS;
- Further promoting the transformation of BSEC into a project and result-oriented Organization. With this objective and in order to improving the implementation mechanism of projects, additional methodology of improving a selection, approval, and funding criteria and procedures on projects;
- Ensuring a solidified, inclusive, and pragmatic approach towards improving and, if proven necessary, re-designing mechanisms of and interaction between project financing, development, and management facilities;
- Strengthening efforts towards facilitation of trade, improvement of border-crossing procedures, and acceleration of trade operations and multiplying trade flows within BSEC. For that purpose, finalising and endorsing a draft Regional Trade Facilitation Strategy for the BSEC Region and a draft Framework for Single Window Cooperation by the Council of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (a sectoral part of this paper will highlight the need for that in some details);
- Managing the BSEC budget more effectively and ensuring its use in accordance with the objectives defined by the resolutions of the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in order to ensure a financial sustainability of the Organization;
- Promoting stronger coordination between BSEC and its Related Bodies, Observers and Sectoral Dialogue Partners, as well as raising the efficiency of its cooperation with regional and international organizations and initiatives strictly in line with the core objectives of BSEC and its priority areas of cooperation;
- Strengthening practical and result-oriented cooperation between BSEC and the UN institutions, specialized agencies, foundations and programs in the fields of mutual interest provided they constitute core objectives of BSEC and its priority areas of cooperation;
- Ensuring a co-sponsorship with the Member-States of the Organization of the particular Resolution on cooperation between the BSEC and the UN, which will be submitted for adoption at the forthcoming UN General Assembly;
- Supporting efforts to attract international financial organizations and institutions, as well as investors from private sector to the implementation of investment or trade related projects within BSEC.
Boosting Trade through Connectivity will be the motto of this Chairmanship. Transport, including transportation, being a cornerstone of a trade-creating policy measure across the BSEC region, Chairmanship will to a great extent address the issue of a regional connectivity.
The development and promotion of feasible, efficient, reliable, and safe transit and transportation services in the BSEC region, including the use of new technologies and online trade and infrastructure related systems, will constitute a key priority during the Chairmanship.
The Chairmanship will support the endeavours within the Organisation towards improving the competitiveness of transport routes passing through the BSEC region, increasing the volume of transportation by different modes of transport and a synergy of multi-modality between them, reducing the time spent on import, export, and transit operations, and simplifying border-crossing procedures will be at the heart of the Chairmanship sectoral agenda. Besides, it is Chairmanship’s belief that in support of fostering stronger trade flows, attracting Black Sea Trade and Development Bank’s regional financial or infrastructure project financing expertise, including but not limited to its engagement with a private sector, will also provide a necessary institutional and financial complementarity, as well as a reinforced feeling about a regional ownership over transport or trade related projects.
To achieve these goals, the activities of the BSEC Working Groups on Transport and on Customs Matters, the Steering Committee on the Development of the Black Sea Ring Highway, the Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Development of the Motorways of the Sea, and the Steering Committee on Facilitation of Road Transport of Goods in the BSEC region will be on focus. In the meantime, to ensure a consistent and rules-based coverage of sectoral activities, the Chairmanship will also support the implementation of joint declarations, resolutions, decisions and recommendations adopted during by the BSEC Council of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and at the meetings of the BSEC Ministers of Transport.
Particular attention will be paid to the development of international transport routes across the region. In so doing and in order to stimulate bigger trade flows within the BSEC region and with the markets of other neighbouring regions, the Chairmanship will address the issue of stepping up the efforts for the implementation of such projects as “Motorways of the Sea” and “Black Sea Ring Highway”, whose delivery will help to achieve a full usage of load-bearing capacity of rail-ways, sea ports and highways. At the same time, considering the importance of launching Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway into full operations on October 30, 2017 and its subsequent linking with Bulgaria and Greece through the Marmaray tunnel infrastructure in Turkey will enable a new direct, fast, and reliable railway connection across the BSEC region. In this respect, Chairmanship-in-Office intends to pay a significant attention to the issue of trade corridors within the Organization.
The Chairmanship-in-Office will promote the idea of holding a joint meeting of the Working Group on Trade and Economic Development and the Working Group on Customs Matters for the discussions on practical ways to simplify trade and multimodal transportation, harmonization and standardization of trade and shipping documents, as well as exchange of documents electronically, harmonization of indicators, and increasing efficiency of trade portals and single-window mechanisms.
The meeting of the ministers of transport of the BSEC Member States will be held in Baku together with the meetings of the subsidiary bodies to discuss the above-mentioned issues set by the Chairmanship and to adopt the relevant decisions and recommendations.
Bearing in mind that over the past few years, Azerbaijan and some other BSEC Member States have made significant progress in the field of agriculture and there is a considerable potential of enhancing export capacity of agricultural goods, the Chairmanship believes this sector represents another real opportunity and one of underestimated priority areas of regional cooperation.
Chairmanship-in-Office will support the efforts towards strengthening cooperation between the BSEC Member States in the field of agriculture, as well as activities within the framework of the Working Group on Agriculture and Agro-Industry, towards intensifying the use of new technologies and sustainable food systems, whose application will help to significantly improve food security and reduce negative impacts on environment, preventing soil degradation and ensuring a consistent harmonization of supply and demand for agricultural and food production.
In order to promote achievement of these goals, Chairmanship-in-Office will provide support to ongoing discussions on the implementation of the priorities on agricultural cooperation stated in "BSEC Economic Agenda: Towards an Enhanced BSEC Partnership", which also account for strategic objectives of the Organization.
Chairmanship will support the work done so far in the Organization in this area of cooperation and will be guided by the principle of creating a consistent result-oriented working environment in line with the provisions of declarations of the meetings of the Ministers of Agriculture of the BSEC Member States.
As one example, in support of the provisions of the Declaration adopted at the Meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture of the BSEC Member States held on May 17, 2017 in Istanbul and taking into account the importance of sustainable water resources management necessary for healthy food production, Chairmanship-in-Office considers it vital to advance the issue of cooperation in the field of efficient use and management of water resources in order to ensure a comprehensive and coherent approach in the matters relating to agricultural and agro-industrial sector.
Chairmanship-in-Office also intends to present the Memorandum of Understanding between the BSEC and Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN to the next meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers for final approval. In this regard, the Chairmanship believes that strengthening cooperation between the BSEC and FAO also through implementation of mutually interesting projects is one of the priority areas of activities of the BSEC Secretariat. It is our strong belief that by tapping into opportunities presented by such inter-institutional cooperation with FAO, there should be a result-oriented approach to starting a project, which could potentially contribute to a growth in intra-regional trade in agricultural goods.
In addition to that, emphasizing the importance of addressing the issue of food security across the region, Chairmanship proposes that a relevant Working Group holds an exchange of views on matters pertaining to this area of cooperation (policy-making, exchange of practices and best standards, facilitation of import and export procedures of agricultural goods, etc).
Building on the confidence that regional tourist flows represent an increasing opportunity for income, rural development, and improvement of the services sector, the role of tourism has been identified by the Chairmanship of Azerbaijan as one of the key areas of cooperation.
Chairmanship will highly welcome and promote a focused approach on tourism and its economic impact – namely, activities which aim at increasing the potential for sustainable development of tourism sector and improving business-to-business, business-to-people, and people-to-people contacts.
Chairmanship will consider and help to streamline the initiatives and ongoing projects existing between BSEC and UNWTO. Therefore, putting into life the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two organizations in 2014 will be a driving force of attention.
Chairmanship will take a stock of the work done so far in the Organization in this area of cooperation and will be guided by the principle of advancing and ensuring the implementation of the provisions of the declarations adopted in the recent meetings of the Ministers of Tourism of the BSEC Member States.