4th AER Black Sea Regional Summit 4th October 2013 Rize, TURKEY.

Speech by Nataliya Romanova, President of the Chamber of Regions of the Congress of the Council of Europe

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to thank Mrs Bozatli, for inviting me to this event. It is a great pleasure for me to be here today, to represent the Congress of the Council of Europe.

As body of local and regional authorities standing for more than 200,000 communities from 47 member states, the Congress attaches a great importance to fostering co-operation between regions across Europe. The co-operation transcends national borders and brings communities into direct contact with each other, allowing dialogue and interaction to take place between them. Europe is united under the common roof of the Council of Europe, which gives in particular the Congress the opportunity to advance in its mission of reinforcing local and regional democracy across the continent.

The Congress' Chamber of Regions that I chair, acts in particular to promote transfrontier dialogue and co-operation between regional authorities, the sharing of experience, and any initiatives to encourage interregional co-operation.

This applies to the Black Sea are too, which is one of the most sensitive in Europe from a political, socio-economic and environmental point of view. It is a crossroads of cultural, commercial and energy routes along the East-West and North-South axes.

We all know that the Black Sea is an area shared by many different cultures, religions and ethnicities. It is a juncture where Europe's political East meets the West.

How to conclude now and summarize this summit ?

What I would like to stress is that the Black Sea has a great potential for co-operation: through the Danube and the Mediterranean basins, the area is closely linked to central and eastern Europe in economic, social and environmental terms.

The high economic, social, environmental, and geo-strategic stakes represented by the Black Sea basin, remind us that it is imperative to build much closer co-operation between cities and regions; to counterbalance tensions by dialogue and joint projects between local and regional authorities thus improving stability, security and the prosperity of its populations.

As our first Working Session underlined, I am convinced that it is transfrontier and inter-territorial co-operation can provide opportunities for boosting territorial development, achieving greater territorial cohesion and helping to reduce regional disparities.

I share the preoccupations stressed during our second session on the environmental challenges. The ecosystems of the European seas are becoming increasingly fragile.

We need to join forces in addressing environmental issues with all the countries of the Black Sea basin. The environmental the challenges go beyond the countries bordering the Sea, in a strictly geographical sense. We must not forget that the Danube river and the Dniestr flow into the Black Sea. All countries of South Caucasus have an important role to play in managing the basin’s water resources. Finally the destiny of the Mediterranean Sea is directly linked to the one of the Black Sea too.

What to do in concrete terms ?

We have to develop competences and management skills of local and regional authorities - notably via an exchange of experiences and good practices - and to engage them in specific co-operation projects, using European and international financial support for their implementation.

In Europe we are witnessing an accelerating shift in the national and local balance. The borders are disappearing, and the economic competition is devolving to inter-territorial level.  This is why we are putting so much emphasis on the support of the different levels of government: there are many intergovernmental organisations already existing in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea areas, but they ensure cooperation at the national level. What we need is an increased economic and social cohesion at the level closest to the citizen: a better development of local economies.

The creation of Euro-regions around the European seas and macro-regional strategies are good tools to achieve this.

From 10 July 2013 we also dispose of an additional instrument: the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe approved an Appendix to Protocol No. 3 to the Council of Europe Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities concerning Euroregional Co-operation Groupings. This appendix that contains detailed options for facilitating the implementation of euro-regional groupings. The countries wishing to develop interregional cooperation may also take inspiration from this new Appendix. 

In 2006, the Congress decided to launch the Black Sea Euroregion initiative. The Black Sea Euroregion was conceived as an innovative platforms of co‑operation for bringing together and promote cross-border co-operation between communities from both European Union and non-EU member countries and involving representatives of national regional and local authorities which do not necessarily share common borders - not only territorial, but also maritime borders -.The objective was to reinforce local and regional co-operation in specific areas of common interest, in particular: problems of coastal management, environmental protection, migration, promotion of tourism, transport development and the use of energy sources.

The crises has partially jeopardised the efforts made to build up this Euroregion and I wold like to call on the partners of this initiative asking them to revitalise it.

What the Congress, from its side, can do?

The Congress may involve the regional authorities of the Black Sea are in its initiatives, in particular in Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and Russia. The major areas of action of our programs will be the strengthening of decentralisation and participation of the population in democratic and administrative processes, the strengthening of the leadership capacity of local and regional elected representatives, the increase in efficiency of local government (including the improvement of citizens' access to services) the promotion of sustainable policies.

Finally, the Congress is ready to expand the co-operation with the Assembly of European Regions. I consider this Summit as an additional step towards our increased co-operation and look forward to our continued dialogue and many more initiatives for the benefit of European regions and regional communities.

We should build bridges between the regions located on the shores of this sea, in the political, economic, social and cultural spheres, in order to bring stability and cohesion in the region.

Let us join our forces. Let us tackle the challenges of the Black Sea, which is so important  for the future of Europe.