UN Development Program signs agreement with Black Sea EconomicCooperation
Dec 02, 2006


ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News

Turkey and Greece contribute the bulk of funds in the 1.2 million euro program aimed at matchmaking between small and medium-sized enterprises in a huge region. The project will focus on young and women entrepreneurs and also will be open to expanding the programs to other countries in Central Asia

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed a historic agreement on Friday with the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) in Istanbul to implement a project aimed at fostering trade in the region, especially among the 12 member states of the BSEC.

Marta Ruedas, deputy assistant administrator and deputy regional director for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, signed for the UNDP, and BSEC Secretary General Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos signed on behalf of his organization.

The signing took place at the organization's headquarters on the Bosporus.

“This is an historic moment for BSEC, the first time the organization has signed an international agreement to participate in such a project,” said Chrysanthopoulos. “This time it's with the UNDP. Both Greece and Turkey are very happy with the program and we hope it gets good, practical results in bringing more investment to the region and increasing intra-BSEC trade.”

Turkey and Greece each are contributing 500,000 euros to the project, while the BSEC is contributing in kind by providing office space and facilities for the two people who will work on the project from Istanbul. The UNDP is contributing 200,000 euros to the three-year program.

“It's an historic event for the UNDP as well,” said Ruedas. “It is the first time in the history of the U.N. that Greece and Turkey are co-financing a project, and both countries feel comfortable with the UNDP. It's the first launch of a project under our new emphasis on sub-regional development, and we're very happy to do so with the BSEC, whose mandate so closely coincides with ours.”

Since 1992, the BSEC has united the littoral states of the Black Sea and other interested countries in common efforts to improve trade, communication and transport links among member states. Members include Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. The number of member states was increased to 12 upon the accession of Serbia and Montenegro in April 2004, though the latter is Serbia's sole responsibility now following Montenegro's independence in June of this year.

Private focus:

The framework of the program is multilateral, promoting investment in the region but with a special emphasis on using untapped resources in the private sector.

“We recently had a conference in Central Asia to extend such a program to Afghanistan, and there the dynamism is entirely in the private sector,” said Ruedas. “The officials are saying the same old statements of goodwill, but in the private sector, money talks, and people are eager to get moving.”

The project will be based in Bratislava, Slovakia, and have its program management office in Athens, in addition to the unit in Istanbul, according to BSEC project coordinator Konstantinos Zaimis.

“The idea is to develop trade among the BSEC member countries, commerce now represents only 16 percent of the average trade volume in the region,” said Zaimis. “We aim to boost intra-BSEC trade, particularly in non-oil sectors, through closer economic integration and the expansion of existing trade. The program will identify untapped resources by doing trade flow analysis and promoting networking.”

In the program's focus on the private sector, it will especially identify small and medium-sized enterprises run by young entrepreneurs and women, and it will work to develop relations with women's business associations in the region.

Russia's support of a stronger international role for the BSEC should help the development program succeed, as Russia, together with Turkey, is a key Central Asia investor and market.

A museum exhibit in Edinburgh last month of items from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg showed the long history of trade relations in the region. The show, “Beyond the Palace Walls,” included an elaborate Ottoman tent, a 17th century miniature table from Mughal India and a spectacular gift from the Shah of Persia, a jewel piece consisting of over two thousand precious stones, all diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

The gifts for the Russian court testify to the historical, political, diplomatic and economic interactions in the region, interactions which the new UNDP alliance with the BSEC aims to revive, enhance and increase.

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