Is the Black Sea a region?
It certainly is and, perhaps, one of the most geostrategic regions between central Europe and Asia, with a common history that goes back to thousands of years. The connecting factor, the Black Sea itself, makes the region attractive and interesting for various economic and geopolitical reasons. Just consider its importance in what today concerns Energy, in general, or even the “revival” of the Silk Route uniting Europe to Asia and vice versa.
Can such organizations as BSEC construct a regional identity?
Indeed, they can, if this is one of the aims of its Member States. The idea and initiative for the establishment of this Organization in the far away 1992 was, admittedly, a stroke of genius: it represented an earnest effort to promote and consolidate in a systematic manner a pattern of cooperation and coordination among its Member States, in a region gaining every day in geostrategic importance. For the last twenty five years, BSEC is establishing not only a dense network for dialogue and cooperation among public and private entities of its Member States, but it also consolidates a valuable precedence of synergy and coordination in almost all sectors of economic life, thus contributing to the formation of a collective identity of the Black Sea region.
How protracted conflicts in the region influence the work of the BSEC and regional cooperation?
As we all know, our wider region faces today unique issues, like political and economic uncertainty, terrorism, tension among States, rising xenophobia, even conflicts! According to the latest data by the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, the region of the Black Sea faces the greatest problems, has the lowest index of development and is negatively rated by international economic agencies.
No doubt, the above problems cast their shadow on the quality and effectiveness of the BSEC Organization. Yet we enjoy a long tradition of avoiding the Organization’s involvement in political issues (solutions to which are sought in other fora), by concentrating in the promotion of the economic cooperation among BSEC Member States and beyond. The fact that despite the existence of bilateral issues or conflicts, representatives of all Member States meet several times a year around a table, in order to promote concrete projects of economic nature, clearly indicates the added value of BSEC’s existence and activity, in a sense as a first, initial mechanism for confidence building, dialogue and understanding.
What are the most perspective spheres of cooperation in the Black Sea region for 2017-2020?
We wish to be able to concentrate our efforts in promoting, in a coordinated way, concrete projects and the implementation of good practices in what concerns cooperation in crucial sectors like Transport, Trade, Tourism, Energy sources, preserving the Black Sea environment, among other by promoting Fisheries and Aquaculture in a sustainable way, and on so many other issues in which our Organization is involved. We will be trying very hard, with the help of the relevant authorities of our Member States, to fulfil if not all, most of the above objectives.
Should the regional cooperation have the single leading country as a locomotive or is regional cooperation possible only among equals?
Regional cooperation should be possible – and desirable – among neighbouring States of a certain geographic area, irrespective if these neighbours are economically equal or not. Regional cooperation, in essence, means that you wish to address common issues influencing and affecting more than one State in a coordinated way, with a sense of balance among all those interested and committed to the principle of good neighbourliness. The existence of a single leading country as the locomotive of regional cooperation can be useful only if this leading country avoids to gradually adopting autocratic or domineering attitudes.

Amb. Michael B. Christides, citizen of the Hellenic Republic, assumed his duties as Secretary General of the BSEC PERMIS on 1 July 2015. In 1976, he joined the Hellenic Ministry for Foreign Affairs, from where retired in 2014. A career diplomat, Ambassador CHRISTIDES held various key positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic and served in a number of Greek diplomatic and consular missions abroad, including in Tripoli, Naples, Milan, Sofia and Ankara. He served as the Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to Bulgaria, Turkey, Argentina and Bolivia.

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